Brilliant. Genius. Wizard.
Matt Hume has been called all of those things by fighters and reporters over the past two decades even though the average MMA fan has never heard of him. The 47-year-old coach, perfectly content to remain in the shadows, has diabolically designed Demetrious Johnson’s skill set since Day 1 of the fighter’s journey into MMA.
This past Saturday not only featured the UFC flyweight champ at his finest, but his low-key mentor as well. The riveting outcome of the night’s main event is merely the latest evidence that Hume – a former pro fighter who has technically and mentally molded the likes of Rich Franklin, Josh Barnett, Matt Brown and Tim Boetsch – is one of the top strategists in MMA and can draw up X’s and O’s with the best of them.
Hume spoke with me Monday about the gameplan heading into Demetrious Johnson’s title defense against Joseph Benavidez. Whether you’re an MMA fan or a pro MMA coach, trust me, your fight IQ will rise a bit when you hear what Hume had to say about rhythm, timing, angles and distance. Mine did.
Johnson decided to sit on his punches this time around
“He did exactly what we worked on,” Hume said of Johnson. “We spent most of the previous fight just making Joseph miss and mixing up combinations on him, taking him down and playing that game. This time I wanted DJ to really show the power that people haven’t seen from him. Every time out (Johnson) shows something new. People have criticized Demetrious for this or that but we’re bringing out all the tools of Demetrious that people haven’t seen yet. It was time to let him sit on his punches and show people what he’s got.
“We had already gone five rounds with Joseph so we knew we could get in there and beat him to the punch and show DJ’s power. We knew Joseph would throw that short hook first and then the right hook behind it. So DJ just came off (Benavidez’s) first hook with his overhand and got their first.
“DJ is a very explosive athletic individual. So how can you not, at some point in his career, take those attributes and make a knockout artist out of him?”
Expected an improved Joseph Benavidez under Duane “Bang” Ludwig but not a reinvented one
“We watched (Benavidez’s) fights since he’s been working with Duane Ludwig; I didn’t see a whole lot of differences,” Hume said. “(Benavidez) definitely had better footwork, and I know Duane was working on his footwork, but there’s still a big speed difference between the two (Johnson and Benavidez). And I’ve said it all along: Look, if someone is trying to do new things they will be worse off for it. You can’t start learning new things a couple months away and then go into a world championship fight and try to do them. You’re going to look like a beginner. Duane is a smart guy and Joe is a smart guy and a great fighter. So I knew they wouldn’t change too many things.”
Johnson had no knockouts in five previous flyweight bouts. Did Benavidez simply “sleep” on the champ’s power?
“I don’t think it was the result of Benavidez sleeping on his power,” Hume said. “It’s just that DJ went in with different timing when he connected. He used his speed, used a different distance and shorter angles so Benavidez wasn’t ready for the timing of that connection. Usually Joe gets it done with his combination and then DJ comes back. But this time (Benavidez) got hit in the middle of his combination.”
Celebrating the biggest win of Johnson’s career
“We took a bus ride back to the hotel,” Hume said. “We went up, showered and changed, went across the street to a restaurant and had dinner, then went back to the hotel and said goodnight.”
So no “bottles in the club” afterward?
“No, none of that stuff,” Hume said. “We have our wives and babies. We just had a nice dinner, hung out, chatted, got some sleep and headed home.”
Frank “Da Tank” Forza, a world-class Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt with over 230 grappling wins in live competition, lives in Las Vegas and has been covering UFC for the past 11 years. He has worked for UFC and as a news journalist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Salt Lake Tribune and a FOX news affiliate in Las Vegas.