(Courtesy of Zuffa, LLC)
Matt “The Terror” Serra is in fight mode. The former UFC Welterweight Champion will battle Frank “Twinkle Toes” Trigg on Feb. 6 at UFC 109 and he’s taken all the necessary precautions to prepare himself physically, and mentally, for the three round affair. That includes training around the clock, depriving himself of Italian food, and temporarily moving his family out of his East Meadow, Long Island residence.
“I had to put my daughter and my wife … like when I got a fight coming up, they stay at my in-laws for like five weeks because my daughter makes me a little soft. She makes me a mush because she’s so cute and everything,” he explains in his thick New York accent. “I can still go visit her and stuff, but I gotta train all the time and get into that mindset. It puts me where I need to be while I’m not around her so much because I’m too much at peace when I’m with her.”
This will be Serra’s first fight in the past nine months. The last time the Renzo Gracie black belt was in the Octagon, he was on the losing end of a close unanimous decision against arch nemesis Matt Hughes at UFC 98 in May 2009 and it left a bad taste in the Long Islander’s mouth. Though he was campaigning for a re-match, the UFC brass gave him Trigg instead and Serra has an idea of what to expect.
“I see him running across the cage, throwing punches and putting me down on my back. I think he’s gonna try to hold on to win, but he shouldn’t. He should maybe try to finish me off down there, but I got so many things I haven’t even shown in my Hughes fight that I planned on showing, both standing and on the floor,” he says. “So the edge he has is the wrestling, but I got the edge on my feet and on the floor. His greatest strength leads to one of mine and I still feel I haven’t shown exactly what I have or shown some tricks I got on my back, or anywhere in the game. I mean, even Matt Hughes thought I wasn’t gonna get him down, and I took him down. I feel confident – very confident – in this fight, that I’m gonna have him outdone.”
Best known for their shared animus of former UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Hugues, Serra and Trigg once came close to partnering up. After Serra won TUF 4: The Comeback and defeated Georges St-Pierre for the 170-pound title at UFC 69: Shootout, he was selected to coach opposite Hughes for the sixth season of The Ultimate Fighter and Trigg offered to be his wrestling coach. “That’s funny, right,” the Long Islander says with a laugh. “You know, that’s why I don’t get too close to some guys that aren’t on my team because you never know when you’re gonna fight ‘em.”
But amidst all of the irony and trash talking, the loser could potentially get dropped from the organization. Serra has lost his last two bouts to St-Pierre and Hughes. Trigg, on the other hand, is coming off a devastating 85-second knockout loss to Josh Koscheck and has told reporters in the past that if the UFC were to cut him, then he’d retire from the sport.
While this fight is shaping up to be a “doe or die” situation, the Long Islander isn’t phased. “I don’t feel threatened and I don’t let that get to me. I fought coming of two losses before, and I don’t sweat it,” Serra says. “Hey, I won the title. This is all gravy for me, man. I enjoy every second of it. But I treat every fight like it could be my last. If you’re so threatened about being cut or stressed out about that, need the win, do or die, [then] that’s not fun. You know, I’m enjoying it, I’m putting all the right work in and I plan on being victorious.”
And while Serra didn’t get the re-match he had originally campaigned for, he’ll be watching UFC 112 to see Hughes face his old BJJ instructor Renzo Gracie in the main event. “I think it’s awesome,” he says. “A lot of times, the student avenges the teacher, like in the old kung-fu movies. [In this case], this is the teacher avenging the student. I feel Renzo will go in there and possibly finish Hughes with a submission. Ya know? Renzo has a world of experience and I’m excited for that fight. I really am.”
But not half as excited as he is to finish up tonight’s sparring session so he can see his wife and baby girl tonight before they go to sleep.