The search for an MMP inhibitor with anticancer efficacy is a nearly three-decade endeavor. This inhibitor is yet to be found. The reasons for this failure include shortcomings in the chemistry of these compounds (including broad MMP sub-type selectivity, metabolic lability, and toxicity) as well as the emerging, and arguably extraordinary, complexity of MMP cell (and cancer) biology. Together these suggest that the successful anticancer inhibitor must possess MMP selectivity against the MMP subtype whose involvement is critical, yet highly temporally (with respect to metastatic progression) and mechanistically (with respect to matrix degradation) regulated. This review summarizes the progression of chemical structure and mechanistic thinking toward these objectives, with emphasis on the disappointment, the perseverance, and the resilient optimism that such an inhibitor is there to be discovered.