Serra: ‘They Want Me Dead’
It’s been one of the best UFC bouts you have yet to see -- or if nothing else -- the longest hyped grudge match to come around in a while. Following two previous cancellations, rival welterweights Matt Serra and Matt Hughes are gearing up to face off at UFC 98 on May 23 in Las Vegas.
After coaching opposing teams on “The Ultimate Fighter 6” in late 2007, the oil-and-vinegar pair were on a collision course for UFC 79 that December, until Serra withdrew from a back injury. It’s been a long road ever since.
“Then I ended up fighting in April up in Canada with Georges [St. Pierre at UFC 83],” said Serra. “Then I was going to fight Matt Hughes, but Matt Hughes got injured. I thought it was going to be in the fall, then they pushed it back and I thought it was going to be in January before my kid gets here. Then they wanted it right around a week around when my firstborn was going to be here in March and I said that wasn’t happening. So next thing you know we’re fighting now man and that’s just the way things work out.”
Though it will be nearly 17 months this May since the bickering fighters have graced the small screen with their venom, Serra believes the animosity between former UFC champions has lost none of its fire.
“I can only speak for me and I do,” said Serra. “And according to him what he’s saying and his wife and everybody, they want me dead. So it’s really exciting.”
“The thing is this, this sport you deal with a lot of guys in this sport and most of them are cool,” said Serra. “It’s a rarity you find an a--hole and I found one. I’m going to get paid to punch him in the mouth. I’m going to do to him what you should do to every bully and that’s not only in America but everywhere in the world. What should you do to a bully? You should punch him square in the mouth. I’m getting paid for it. So who’s got it better than me? I want to know.”
But that doesn’t mean Serra (9-5) isn’t aware of what Hughes (42-7) can bring to the party either.
“I’ve said this before and I’ve been misquoted,” said Serra. “Someone quoted me as saying that he’s a one-trick pony and not good at that one trick. That’s ridiculous. I said that he’s a one-trick pony and he’s very good at that one trick. I’m not stupid. I know that he’s a dangerous guy and people are thinking he’s not what he used to be. He got Thiago [Alves] down. Koscheck didn’t get that guy down. So he did still get that guy down at least one and if he gets on top of you he’s a legit problem. I think his passing is real good and his submission defense and his ground-and-pound is real dangerous, especially from side mount.”
It’s this fragile dichotomy of dislike and practicality the ever-patient Renzo Gracie black belt will carry into his long-awaited tussle with Hughes.
“I’m not an idiot. I’ll tell you I don’t like the guy because I don’t like the guy,” said Serra. “But as a fighter I know the problems he brings to the table and I know what I got to watch out for. I know where he’s really dangerous. What do you want me to say? He’s a swell guy and I can’t wait to fight him? F--- him.”