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Paul Hughes recounts the night he stepped in as the only cornerman for Ian Machado Garry

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On what was arguably the biggest night of his career up to that point, Ian Machado Garry prepared to walk to the cage to vie for a title without a single coach in his corner.

That fight in Cage Warriors back in 2021 ultimately served as Garry’s graduation before joining the UFC roster, but an ugly split with his now former coaches at Team KF left Garry without anyone to corner him for his five-round matchup against Jack Grant. Thankfully, Paul Hughes was already attending the card to help out one of his teammates also scheduled to compete at Cage Warriors.

Hughes was already friendly with Garry before that weekend, but when the future UFC welterweight contender needed some backup, the prospect who just recently signed with PFL happily accepted the job.

“I think he just needed somebody to actually stand in his corner,” Hughes recounted recently on The MMA Hour. “I think he would have just done it by himself if he could have, fair play to him. I think he needed somebody in his corner for whatever reason that was.

“I was in town, my teammate Joe McColgan was fighting for a world title that night or the night before, so he was just like, ‘Any chance you can step in?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, absolutely. Of course.’ I wouldn’t leave someone hanging like that.”

While they knew each other, Hughes hadn’t spent much time around Garry as a fighter, but he didn’t blink when asked about cornering him that night.

The title fight actually ended up going for 25 minutes, so Hughes didn’t escape any duties as he helped between rounds before Garry ultimately earned a unanimous decision win.

Despite no real prior relationship as coach and fighter or even fighter and teammate, Hughes said there was no way he would’ve let Garry walk out there by himself. In fact, Hughes revealed that’s not the only time he’s stepped in to corner a fighter at the last minute — and that instance included somebody he had never even met before.

“It’s the least I could do,” Hughes said of cornering Garry that night. “It really is the least I could do. When I was in Amsterdam cornering [one of my teammates], some guy showed up with no corner, he was like ‘I need a cornerman.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’

“I had no idea [who he was]. He needed a corner. A fellow fighter needed some help and I’m happy to help. The least I could do.”

As for Garry, Hughes maintains a friendship with him to this day, and it was actually his advice that led Hughes to begin training with his current team at Kill Cliff MMA in Florida.

The gym, which serves as the home base for fighters such as Michael Chandler, Gilbert Burns, Jason Jackson, and Shavkat Rakhmonov, was exactly what Hughes needed — and he always remembers Garry for making the suggestion to train there.

“Ian Garry was training there for a while, obviously I’m friends with him,” Hughes said. “So he was like, ‘This is the spot, you’ve got to get out here.’ That gave me more incentive to go out and try it out.”

Hughes plans on training at Kill Cliff as he prepares for his upcoming debut at Bellator Dublin, which is scheduled for June 22.

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