Saturday, March 10, 2007

Reign of Terror: Exclusive interview with Matt Serra

By Jesse Holland

At UFC 69, Matt “The Terror” Serra will try and do what only one man has done before him: Defeat uber-champ Georges “Rush” St. Pierre.

I caught up with Matt in the early morning as he prepared for another day of training. “I’m in the gym seven days a week,” he casually informs me, as I ruefully struggle to digest a second helping of corned beef hash.

Matt greets me like an old friend he’s just run into at the local pub. Soft-spoken and polite, he speaks with a conviction that is both genuine and humbling.

This is not some thug trying to prove how tough he is, but a hard working and dedicated professional who’s grateful for everything he has and everyone who’s helped him get to where he is today.

Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Matt, thank you for taking the time to check in with us at UFCmania. Tell me, how does a kid from Long Island grow up to be fighting for the world title in the UFC?

Matt Serra: Oh man it’s really exciting, I’m enjoying every second of it. I feel like Rocky Balboa. My dad was a lifelong martial artist and when I was 17 I enrolled into the delayed entry program in the Marines. Well I ended up getting into a streetfight and the guy got really hurt. They charged me with a felony but I ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor. After that the Marines didn’t accept me, I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what the hell I was gonna do with myself. Then my dad showed me a tape of the Gracies. It was incredible and I was just like man that is it, that’s what I want to do.

Jesse Holland (UFCmania): You’re the first American Black Belt under Renzo Gracie. What does that mean to you in terms of your achievements?

Matt Serra: It’s phenomenal. It was a dream come true, it will always be number one. I worked hard for it too man, I was busting my ass as a security guard at night and then during the day I would train under Renzo.

Jesse Holland (UFCmania): I guess that training paid off since you have a pretty impressive list of amateur accomplishments.

Matt Serra: Yeah man it just clicked. I won first place at the Pan Am games as a purple belt under Renzo and won a gold medal at the World Games as a brown belt.

Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Let’s pick up shortly after that. It’s 2001 and you’ve just gotten your MMA career off the ground. Two weeks before you’re set to face Yves Edwards-who’s already an established fighter-the nation gets hit with 9/11. As a New York guy, how did that affect your training and mental preparation for the fight? Was there a point where you considered not continuing?

Matt Serra: You know what? It had the opposite effect. It took all the pressure off me. There was so much pressure. I needed the win against Edwards. I needed it because my debut was a knockout loss to Shonie with that friggin’ backfist. I lose that fight (Edwards) and I’m out of the UFC. I was also counting on that fight because I needed the purse to open my school. 9/11 helped me put all that stuff in perspective. I remember telling myself all these people just died…who gives a shit if I lose? There are real problems out there that are far more important. It made me appreciate what I had. Randy Couture once said that if a loss is the worst thing that happens to a guy he’s in pretty good shape.

Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Your fight at UFC 69 will be your tenth with the UFC. Was there ever a consideration to try your luck in PRIDE or other promotions?

Matt Serra: I love the UFC. This is my home. Plus I have my schools here. When I’m not fighting I’m teaching and when I’m teaching I also corner my guys for their fights. This is where I want to be. I’ve always had a great relationship with Dana and the Fertitta brothers. They take good care of me so why should I go anywhere else? I’m happy here.

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