Tuesday, April 3, 2007


By Brian Knapp

Matt Serra understands the odds are astronomical. Reminders are everywhere, from message boards and blogs to newspapers and magazines. When the 32-year-old Long Island native challenges UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 69 “Shootout” this Saturday in Houston, Texas, the deck – and perhaps everything else – will be stacked against him. Serra would not have it any other way.

“I feel like Rocky in Rocky IV,” Serra says. “Except I’m not fighting a big Russian; I’m fighting a big Canadian.”

Few give Serra hope against the bigger, younger champion, even in a sport where one punch or mistake can change the entire landscape in a given weight division.

“That just adds fire to me,” Serra says. “I’m well aware of the popular opinion on this fight. I know I’m a huge underdog, and I love it. If anything, it’s rougher on him. Every round I’m in there with him is a round I shouldn’t be in there.”

Nowhere was public opinion regarding Serra’s chances better illustrated than at a December press conference for UFC Fight Night 7. There, UFC president Dana White began promoting a rematch between St. Pierre and Matt Hughes, the man he dethroned for the welterweight crown, before the popular Montreal native had successfully defended the championship against Serra.

“Dana and I talked about it,” Serra says. “I asked him, ‘So, you think I’m going to get murdered?’ He said, ‘No, but you have to admit it’s a tough fight for you.’ I know he respects me. He’s not saying anything behind my back that he’s not saying to my face. On paper, I can see why people look at it that way.”

Serra will have experience on his side when he steps into the Octagon against St. Pierre. The first American Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Renzo Gracie, Serra started training as a mixed martial artist in 1993, when St. Pierre was just 12 years old. He debuted as a lightweight in 1999 and enjoyed moderate success, posting wins over Yves Edwards (UFC 33), Kelly Dullanty (UFC 36), Jeff Curran (UFC 46) and Ivan Menjivar (UFC 48), even competing in the first round of an ill-fated four-man tournament in 2002 directed at filling the then vacant lightweight throne.

“I have a lot of experience,” Serra says. “I have to be comfortable in every area, especially on my feet. I’m going to take it moment to moment. I have to be ready for a number of different scenarios.”

Following consecutive wins over B.J. Penn and Hughes – the latter the result of a spectacular second-round TKO at UFC 65 in November – St. Pierre is widely recognized as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. At 13-1, he has reeled off six consecutive victories, four of which have come either by submission or knockout. The combined record of his last six victims is a staggering 138-30-6.

Even so, St. Pierre views Serra as a legitimate threat.

“Matt Serra is not the same fighter he used to be,” St. Pierre said. “He’s a very well-rounded athlete. I’m the favorite in this fight, but I need to take it seriously or it will be a very bad night for me.”

Does Serra believe he is being overlooked?

(Continue Reading)

No comments: