Hughes, who today gave a wide-ranging interview to MMAjunkie.com Radio (MMA Radio, UFC Radio - MMAjunkie Radio
), said he felt stale in fighting and was disappointed by back-to-back losses in 2000-2001 to Dennis Hallman and Jose "Pele" Landi-Johns.
"I wouldn't say depressed, but I just wasn't very hip on the fighting," he said.
So he made a deal with himself: Win against Newton, and he would continue to fight. Lose, and he would go back to his farm in Hillsboro, Ill.
Fighting at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in the co-main event of the second UFC card sanctioned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Hughes and Newton squared off on Nov. 2, 2001. In the second round, Newton locked in a triangle choke and proceeded to squeeze the air out of Hughes, whose instincts told him to pick up his opponent for a slam.
What happened next is part of MMA lore. The pair collided with the cage, still locked together, and paused briefly before Hughes slammed Newton to the mat. Unbeknownst to everyone at the time, he had lost consciousness on the trip south.
Hughes literally woke up the UFC welterweight champion of the world.
Three years later, he would still hold the title after defending the belt five times. He would lose it in 2004 to B.J. Penn, but win it back the same year for another two-year run that saw him defend the belt twice more.
Hughes' record of six consecutive title defenses still hasn't been beat, although Georges St-Pierre, whom he defeated once and lost to twice, has tied it.
In 2010, Hughes joined the UFC Hall of Fame.
If the 39-year-old has any regrets in his octagon career, it's that he wasn't able to move up to middleweight to fight for a title. He said he would have fought Evan Tanner for the belt if Tanner had beaten his longtime friend Rich Franklin at UFC 53, but Franklin won, and told the UFC he wouldn't face Franklin at the conclusion of "The Ultimate Fighter 2."
"Anderson Silva," Hughes said of the fighter he most wanted to face. "I always wanted to go up to 185 to put the belts together."
Instead, Hughes settled in at welterweight. He said his first rematch with Penn, which saw him earn a third-round TKO, and a first-round TKO of Royce Gracie remain among his favorite memories in the UFC.
Following back-to-back losses to Penn and Josh Koscheck, Hughes fought both UFC President Dana White and his wife to keep fighting. He was unsuccessful, but now has adjusted to the idea he won't be coming back. And unlike other fighters, he said he won't change his mind.
The decision doesn't rest on the outcome of a fight.
"I will not come back and be in the octagon again," he said.