by Mick Hammond, MMAWeekly.com
There are few entertaining fighters out there like Matt “The Terror” Serra. The first American black belt under Renzo Gracie, Serra’s relentless fighting style and engaging personality make him one of the most popular fighters in the sport with the fans.
Most recently Serra was seen cornering Luke Cummo at The Ultimate Fighter season 2 finale last month. During some downtime recovering from injury, Serra spoke to MMA Weekly to discuss what he’s been doing since his tough loss to Karo Parisyan in June, his team, and the rumors of his impending return to action.
MMA Weekly: First off Matt, can you tell us what you’ve been up to since your last fight at UFC 53.
Matt Serra: Since my fight with Karo, I’ve had a lot of guys fighting, like Pete “Drago” Sell was going to be fighting Joe Riggs and then hurt his knee. Right after that we had Luke fighting in the finale of the (Ultimate Fighter 2) TV show and my brother Nick won a title at Reality Fighting this past weekend on a card I had three of my guys fighting on. So I’ve kind of had to sit back, coach, and be a team player and work with those guys to get them ready for their fights. Plus I thought I had to have surgery on my knee, I had a torn meniscus in two places, it was a mess, I had that problem for a while, so I had to work around it. I’ve been doing therapy, working on it and getting better.
MMA Weekly: How is the injury doing now?
Matt Serra: I had the injury for a while, so I had to work around it, thankfully I was able to hold gloves for people to spar, but I’ve just now started rolling again. It feels pretty good; I’m not doing anything heavy, but just getting the ball rolling so to speak. I’ll know more in a month or so, but for now I’ve been just rolling lightly with some of the guys.
MMA Weekly: You mentioned getting members of your team ready to fight, how does that compare to fighting?
Matt Serra: You know what it is, it’s just I get a little more nervous, especially when my brother fights, than when I fight. The nerves don’t hit me so bad when I’m out there, I’m pretty cool because it’s me out there and I know what I have to do and it’s my ass on the line. But when it comes down to my guys, especially my brother, I’m definitely a little more on edge, you want them to do well and not get injured. From the outside I basically use my experiences, I’ve fought wars against a lot of tough guys, even in my wins in the UFC I made a lot of mistakes, they learn from my experiences and where I messed up. So I help them with my experiences, groundwork, and of course Ray Longo is great. All the guys that compete under me work with Ray on their stand up and conditioning, the guys that carry my flag also carry Longo’s flag, so it’s the Serra/Longo fight team.
MMA Weekly: Does it have the rush that fighting has for you?
Matt Serra: Oh yeah, I mean, even what Luke went through, back when Drago choked out Phil Baroni, and Nick just went through a war with this tough guy named Carlos Nieves, I get a rush. That was for a belt in Reality Fighting in Atlantic City last weekend, he got a choke in the second round, but not before he went through an absolute war. The fight was a sprint, this guy was throwing sledgehammers on his feet, on the ground, my brother had to endure to get the choke in the second round. It was a tremendous fight, you ask anyone that was there and they’d tell you it was the fight of the night. It’s a different kind of rush, you’re just really proud and happy, but it’s different than when you’re fighting, there’s no other rush like that, but they’re both great feelings. One day when I’m done fighting I’m just going to be doing this, it’s about being a team player and being happy for everybody, I was ecstatic for my brother when he won and it’s the same for all my students.
MMA Weekly: Speaking of you fighting, there have been some rumors going around regarding your next fight. One has you fighting in the Rumble on the Rock 175lb tournament and another has you facing off against Diego Sanchez. Can you shed any light onto those rumors?
Matt Serra: You know what, I’m getting healthy now so I’m just training. The Rumble on the Rock is totally false, I heard about it myself from friends in Hawaii, but I never agreed to fight there or talked to anybody about it. I’m friendly with the Penns; I haven’t talked to JD about it or anybody or was approached about it. As far as fighting Diego Sanchez, I’d take that fight in a heartbeat, but as of right now nothing has been brought up to me, but I’d take that fight in a minute.
MMA Weekly: So when do you feel you could possibly make your return to fighting?
Matt Serra: I’ve been working around my injury and I don’t want to go in anything less than 100%. It’s almost like a blessing in disguise, I had to work my stand up so much and I think I jumped a level standing up. I floored Karo in the opening of that fight and that’s only because I’d been training so much. I feel I was beating him standing that whole first round, unfortunately I fatigued, part of that was because I wasn’t able to do my wrestling or Jiu-Jitsu so much. It’s unfortunate as a professional, if you take the fight, you fight, but it’s hard do things when you’re not 100%. I’d fought injured before, but you’ve just got to take a chance sometimes and it’s your job as a professional fighter to make that decision and not make any excuses afterwards. I want to be 100%, I want to be able to do hard Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, work my takedowns and test my knee out and if it goes good I’m looking to fight before early-late spring. Sometimes you work around stuff and it hinders you, I’m going to get healthy and be back in there and fight. I want to take a fight that excites me, I like the feeling that I could lose, that excites me, I’m not going to go to an event and fight Joe Schmo, I want to feel if I don’t bring my A-game than a guy could beat me. When I fought Karo I was excited to fight him and regardless of the outcome I think it was exciting for the fans.
MMA Weekly: Right now the welterweight division is extremely full of talent, is there any possible fights out there that excite you?
Matt Serra: It’s insane, there’s definitely a lot of good fights out there. I’d think me and Joe Stevenson would be a fantastic fight. We are similar in a lot of ways, I don’t see that fight being boring, I just can’t see it. What it is, guys like Karo, they bring the fight, that’s the kind of guy I’d like to fight. I’m not interested in fighting like Din Thomas whose just going to run away, I like the guys who’ll meet me and fight. Right now the two distinctive losses I had in the UFC, one to Shonie Carter and Karo, don’t get me wrong I have other losses but those are the fights straight out that I know I lost. I’d like to fight the guys like them who’d try to take me out and whoever wins, wins. That’s exciting for everybody, me, the fans, like my last fight, we made for an exciting fight.
MMA Weekly: When you finally get healthy and can make a run, how many fights do you see yourself taking next year with all shows the UFC is going to be putting on?
Matt Serra: I’m not really like a Jeremy Horn type that fights every two months, if it wasn’t for my knee I would have gotten in more fights this year, because I was averaging about a couple fights a year. I keep busy though; training other guys and working with two schools which have been very successful. They’re booming right now which is great, I have a great bunch of students, and that’s a full-time thing. I’m at my school seven days a week and busting my ass. I’ve got a bunch of people training, not everyone wants to be an ultimate fighter, it’s a good bunch of people I enjoy teaching and being around my students. Fighting, I get that itch every few months or so, if I’m healthy I’d like to get in three fights a year, that’s fine, I don’t need anymore than that.
MMA Weekly: Let’s talk about your team now, first off give us an update on how Pete “Drago” Sell is doing.
Matt Serra: Drago’s doing good man, he’s hanging out with a lot of chicks, doing his thing. He’s getting healthy now because he was another one of us who was dealing with injuries. He had a knee injury, in sparring he hurt his wrist, he didn’t break it but it was pretty badly tweaked, he’s getting that better and once he heals up we’re looking to get him back in there too. The kid’s an animal, his last fight with Quarry was stopped a little prematurely, he got knocked down and a little stunned, and I think (referee) Cecil Peoples is a great guy, he just a little too early to stop that one. I’ll put it this way, if I had Cecil when I was fighting Karo it would have been a quick night. I felt bad for that one because Drago trained his ass off for that fight.
MMA Weekly: Is there any other members of the team that might not be known to the fans right now but could be making a big run in 2006?
Matt Serra: There’s definitely a bunch of guys coming up, Gabriel Toribio, we call him “Monstar,” he’s definitely a tough guy, he had a draw over the weekend, which we feel is BS, everyone thinks he won the fight. We’ve got Franky Shauer, Anthony Ladonna whose just getting his feet wet right now, of course Joey Sarcola my black belt whose looking to get back into MMA, we’ve got a lot tough, technical guys that are really starting to move forward right now. The guys who fight for me like them, Luke, Drago, they’re really well-rounded, on top, on bottom, everything you can think of on the ground, then they work with Ray Longo on their stand up. We’re making sure we cover everything, we don’t want people thinking we’re just Jiu-Jitsu guys, we want people to know we’re really solid on our feet just like everyone else.
MMA Weekly: Earlier you mentioned that your schools are doing well, give our readers a bit of info on your schools and what they can expect if they come down to train.
Matt Serra: We have beginning, intermediate, advanced classes, gi, no gi, and takedown classes, classes run seven days a week and most importantly they’ve got really great, positive atmospheres. Coming from Long Island, NY, you can get some tough guys and they don’t last long there because they come in with a bad attitude and we put a couple chokes on and they’re gone. I don’t want people using Jiu-Jitsu the wrong way. Guys train hard but everybody’s cool, it’s a good time and like family at my schools. It’s an extension of Renzo’s academy, that’s the way it was coming up training with Renzo, and I’d like to do the same thing with my students. Create a family atmosphere, train hard, and have a good time. Another thing I want to mention is with Ray and the Serra/Longo Competition Team is just a division of Renzo’s army, that’s my little division. I know there’s little rumors going on wondering if I’m still with Renzo and I’m telling you I’ll be with Renzo until I die. I’m always with the team; I’m Team Renzo forever, so when people see me with Ray and our fighters in there it’s just an extension of Renzo. I know where I came from, I’m the first American black belt under Renzo and I don’t just consider him my teacher, he’s family. Me, my brother, all my students are carrying Renzo’s flag. If people want info on my school go to www.SerraJitsu.com and I get my email through there too if anyone wants to email me.
MMA Weekly: Thanks as always for taking time out Matt for the interview. Is there anything you’d like to say as we head out?
Matt Serra: The fans have been great, I’ve gotten letters, emails, people wondering when I’m fighting again, what I’ve been up to, and I really appreciate it, the fans have been fantastic. I’ll tell you, I may not have the prettiest record in the UFC, but when the fans tell me that I’m their favorite fighter or they like the way I fight, that inspires me and it motivates me to get out there and make more exciting memories for them. I’m far from done, I’m resting up, again I just started getting the ball rolling again, so look for me around spring and I’ll be talking with the UFC and see what comes up. Stay tuned and I’ll be back in there doing some crazy Jiu-Jitsu again.