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Jeff Hughes taking a major financial hit due to COVID-19 outbreak, but ‘I don’t do this for a paycheck’

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Jeff Hughes has never depended on his fighting career to provide his only income, but the recent coronavirus pandemic has hit his bank account from all sides.

The heavyweight prospect was originally scheduled to compete at UFC on ESPN 8 in Columbus, Ohio, but the entire card was postponed due the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition to his fight being cancelled, Hughes’ day job at a local school was put on hold when Ohio Governor Mike DeWine dismissed classes until at least May 1.

Despite mew financial constraints, Hughes isn’t throwing himself a pity party. He just holds out hope he’ll get back to work sooner rather than later.

“It’s something to worry about,” Hughes told MMA Fighting. “When you’re on this level, the tier that I’m on, I’m pretty much at the bottom of the barrel for the UFC. I’m not main event. I’m not on the main card. I’m on the prelims, which is awesome, but I’m not getting paid like these main event guys. So it really sucks when you’re counting on that paycheck and it’s not coming.

“It’s a bit scary, but everybody’s going through it. It’s not like it’s just me. I’m trying to stay positive, and we’re doing everything we can as a society to move on and go back to normal.”

Truth be told, Hughes says missing out on the paycheck he was set to receive at UFC on ESPN 8 is the least of his concerns.

After earning his UFC contract via Dana White’s Contender Series, Hughes has gone 0-2 with one no-contest in three Octagon fights. He knew getting another opportunity like the one he had in Columbus was a chance to prove he truly belonged in the UFC.

Now, he’s stuck in limbo, waiting on word of when he’ll fight again.

“I got to admit, this was my best training camp I’ve ever had,” Hughes said. “I feel like this was going to be my best performance yet. I had a game opponent. Everything was making sense.

“Then when they cancelled it, it’s hard to think about it, because I just put my body through hell for eight or nine weeks to get ready for this fight. It sucks. It really does.”

The UFC has promised all of the fighters who were competing on those postponed cards will get rescheduled to a later date. Hughes hasn’t heard yet when he might fight again, but after putting together a strong training camp for the better part of two months, he’s just itching for the chance to compete, even if the fight happens during the current pandemic.

“The people still want to watch it, and I feel like we’re a little lost without sports right now as a whole,” Hughes said. “I know a lot of people are watching replays of games and stuff. We’ve never experienced anything quite like this. I give all the respect to the UFC for trying to do this the right way and to keep moving forward.

“Of course, I would [fight]. I was just thinking, the only fun part about my sport is the fight. The training’s terrible; all of that is hard. We deal with a lot of adversity, and I take pride in it. I like going through the grind everyday, and the big payoff is the fight. I’d definitely be ready to do it.”

Hughes makes it clear that fighting has always been a passion project for him and getting the chance to compete right now means more to him than any paycheck.

“I don’t do this for a paycheck,” Hughes said. “There’s a lot safer jobs to earn a paycheck than waking up and can’t get out of bed. I don’t do this for paycheck. I do this because I love it and because I’m good at it.”