On June 16 2017 UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes was involved in a near-fatal train accident. Hughes sustained a severe head injury after a train smashed into his truck at a rail crossing near his home in Montgomery, Illinois. The former welterweight champion later sued Norfolk Southern Railway company, claiming “severe, progressive and permanent brain and bodily injuries” as a result of the accident.

Three years on and Hughes has taken time out to reflect on how far he’s come on his road to recovery. He posted two pictures to social media showing him in 2017 and 2020, accompanied by the following statement.

“6-16-17. My accident was 3 years ago today,” Matt Hughes wrote in the caption for his post. “In some ways it doesn’t feel like that long ago, but in other ways, my old life feels like a lifetime ago. My life has changed so much in these past 3 years. Some for the better, some for the worse. According to my MRI, I should have never woke up from my coma. I should be dead or have what is referred to as locked-in syndrome.

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“About a year after my accident, I got complacent,” Hughes continued. “I wasn’t noticing any big improvements. I was depressed, I felt like a burden, I felt worthless, and I would pray for God to take me. This past year has been an awakening for me. I have a new mindset and goals. I am beyond grateful for every physician, doctor, nurse, therapist, coach, first responder, family member, friend, etc. who worked with me over the past 3 years. I thank God for guiding their hands and their decisions. I am extremely thankful for all the many prayers from each and every one of you. To my friends and family who stuck it out with me during all the ups and downs, I wouldn’t be here if not for you.

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“As an athlete, I thought I knew the body well,” Hughes wrote. “I realized, I know nothing when it comes to the brain. I still have a long way to go and I still have days where I get extremely sad and down, but I refuse to accept “this is as good as it’s going to get”. If you are caring for someone with a brain injury, please be patient with them. Please don’t pick arguments or be overly critical. Educate yourself about the injury before you assume we are just being difficult for no reason.

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“If you have a brain injury, get help immediately,” Hughes concluded. “Stick to your therapy. Try and surround yourself with supportive people. See a counselor to help you through the tough times. Remove negative people and as much stress as possible from your life. This injury will not fix itself over time. You have to challenge yourself daily. Push your body further than what you think is possible.

“Finally, thank you all for the support and encouragement you have given me these past 3 years. It definitely helps. Thank you for sharing your stories with me. Please keep the prayers coming, I sure do appreciate them.”

Follow Matt Hughes and his recovery @matthughes9x on Instagram

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A lifelong fight fan from Liverpool, England who has been covering mixed martial arts (MMA) and boxing for several years. Follow @JordanEllisUK on Twitter for all the latest fight news, views, interviews and live event coverage.