Matt Hughes is a quintessential sportsman and UFC Hall of Famer, having been the UFC welterweight champion. Personally, for his period in the evolution of modern Mixed Martial Arts (“MMA”), I place him among the greatest fighters ever.
Pound for pound, Hughes was a whirlwind with his wrestling background and brave demeanor. Hughes is one of my heroes in MMA. And I love that he is a farm boy and even settled a lawsuit against his brother over a tractor. However, it was devastating to learn; he almost died a few years back in a train versus auto accident.
Angelenos are no stranger to train wrecks. But when an MMA champ known by many fans as the “the Gracie Killer” gets in a wreck, it highlights the risks to fans and the sport. Former MMA champ Matt Hughes is a changed man. In most ways, much for the worse. Hughes was involved in a near-fatal train crash on June 16, 2017. It severely injured both his body and brain. As a result, his career is over, and his life is turned upside down.
MMA Fighting had a good write-up of the situation. Hughes alleges that the Norfolk Southern Railway (“NS”) was negligent by not warning motorists of dangerous conditions at the railway crossing. The facts relate that the train struck the passenger side of Hughes’ Chevy Z71 truck at a rail crossing close to his residence in Montgomery County, Illinois.
Hughes was knocked out and did not readily revive. But there are no allegations of broken bones or other internal injuries other than the TBI and related disorders.
According to the lawsuit’s allegations, NS did not place appropriate warning signs at the site. Even worse, Hughes alleges NS knew of the potential danger beforehand and did not act. Furthermore, Hughes stated that he was driving lawfully before the crash. The collision resulted in severe physical damage and a traumatic brain injury.
On the other hand, the railway believes it is not at fault. NS stated that the crash was Hughes’ fault. The company noted that Hughes failed to stop before the crossing. Furthermore, NS says that Hughes did not see the train oncoming and could not yield the right way. The company goes so far in its rebuttal to state that Hughes “knowingly drove his vehicle onto a railroad grade crossing” and used his cell phone.
This also isn’t the first major lawsuit NS faced recently. The company was sued in a wrongful death case in Virginia. Although I’ve been following this one closely, all of the facts are not yet in. Mr. Hughes has a strong case. In many ways, even if NS’s assertions are partially factual, it is likely, it did not create a safe railway crossing.
It would be a significant and avoidable error if the company knew there was a potential danger and did not place adequate signage at the site. In this way, it likely meets the definition of strict liability.
Even though Matt never served in my beloved Corps., I have a special place in my heart for him. First, Alexander’s father, Phillip II of Macedon, was in battle, busy building a fortress for his true progeny, his son, Alexander the Great. Alexander likely learned more about his father from his father’s servant, Aristotle, than from his dad. But he also realized that his dad was the one who paid for his private education.
And I am not saying that is the case with Matt Hughes. But I can’t imagine being in combat for years on end would be conducive to child-rearing for Matt; I mean, King Alexander of UFC. But as a Marine, I think I can see all Phillip II wanted was for his son to have a better life than him.
And I know how to read success like a book and see through people better than most. Kings’ typical formula did not include hanging out at home with their mom. At least most kings don’t retire until they pass, and their progeny succeeds them after they die in battle. The most important for a real man is that their blood kingdom remains secured. Unfortunately, moms become fickle when their king is away. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. But I digress.
Educated as to what a man should be, the child who became King Alexander understood what others thought of his father as a testosterone-filled male. I can see in my mind’s eye what it took for such a driven Alpha male like Phillip II to go on campaigns to secure a future for his offspring, the future king. But in his mind, Alexander mensuredthat he [Alexander] would become what his father never was to him. If you are so inept as not to know what Alexander became and his legacy, you will never make a connection between Phillip and Matt Hughes.
But I sure do. I see Matt as a guy who had an example from a driven man (dad, coaches, etc.) guiding him into victory as a man. And whether it was his coach or his father, martial arts led to Alexander’s success, as with the great king.
Sounds silly, right? But hear me out. What sucks is similar to George S. Patton, Matt Hughes was taken away from warfare, at least as a participant, by another’s negligence. Matt was hit by a train that failed to warn pedestrians and motorists at railroad crossings adequately. General Patton was killed by what was characterized as a “fender bender.“
Patton ended up becoming paralyzed and died soon after. So they both were hurt in motoring accidents. And they both suffered nerve impulse injuries. But probably the most significant difference between Hughes and Patton is that Patton was a lot older and more of a coach than a “trigger puller.” Another difference between the MMA GOAT is that Hughes is undergoing brain injury healing, and the old general passed away in a questionable death. Patton advocated attacking communist Russia during the allied occupation of Western Europe, which was an inside job. (Others disagree, stating: “The theory is he either died naturally or from a blood clot“)
The good news is that it appears Hughes was inspired to become a board member of the Triumph Over Tragedy Foundation. This non-profit helps care for families with brain and spinal cord injury problems.
I’m not sure if Matt Hughes will win his suit. But I appreciate the significance of his TBI and am happy he is alive and helping others with neurological conditions. However, we will be reporting newer train or Amtrak accidents and any developments in the GOAT case here.
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.