Serra's second chance
At first, Matt "The Terror" Serra didn't quite think he belonged on the fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter. But he was willing to be pragmatic about it.
"I never thought I should have been dropped from the main roster," says Serra, a Gracie jiu-jitsu disciple from New York. "But you have to jump on opportunities in life when they present themselves, so when they gave me the call I had no problem with it. I was ready to go."
Now Serra stands one win away from his ticket back to the big time: The 32-year old will square off against Chris Lytle in the welterweight TUF final live from the Hard Rock in Las Vegas on Nov. 11. The winner gets $100,000 and a future shot at the UFC welterweight championship.
"Make no mistake about it, that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is a real motivator," said Serra. "That's something any fighter would grab at the chance for. But it's about more than that for me. My full-time living is running two jiu-jitsu schools on Long Island. Getting myself on television and looking good is the best advertisement for my schools I could have possibly had. I knew if I performed my best and make a good showing for myself I'd get more interest in the schools. Now I'm one win away from a title shot to boot."
Serra's history in the UFC demonstrates just how razor-thin the difference between main-event glory and a ticket out of the promotion can sometimes be.
Serra is 5-4 in his MMA career, 4-4 in the UFC. Six of his UFC fights went to a decision. His victories include Yves Edwards and Ivan Menjivar. Among his losses were a surprise l finish against Shonie Carter at UFC 31, in which Serra had the match in hand before Carter hit a memorable spin punch to score the win in the waning seconds; decision losses to top-flight fighters B.J. Penn and Karo Parisyan; and a bizarre split decision against Din Thomas in which he was announced as the winner in the octagon but was later told the wrong scores were announced.
"That's just the breaks," said Serra. "You go in and you compete and you give it your best and it can be frustrating, but I've always been able to bounce back."
Which he's done in grand style on TUF. In the semifinals, Serra avenged his loss to Carter with a unanimous decision, and knows what he faces in Lytle, a 32-year-old Indianapolis resident.