Fifteen years after starting his professional MMA career, and six years after becoming the UFC welterweight champion in one of the greatest upsets of all time, veteran fighter Matt Serra has told Newsday that he is “walking away” from the sport after a life-threatening health scare.
“I really think I’m walking away,” Serra said. ”I’m going to be 39, I just had my rib taken out. I’m having my third kid. My schools are doing well. What am I doing, looking for another pay day? It’s not really for that. I mean, it doesn’t stink, but it’s not really for that. Am I still trying to hold on for the glory? Glory is a drug, dude. I’m telling you, that’s the problem. It really is. I know why guys can’t walk away. I absolutely get it.”
Serra developed three blood clots that hospitalized him — two in an arm and one more in a lung. “Then I got freaked out,” the Long Island native said. “You don’t catch that [and] after the lung, that stops your heart or your brain. Then you’re done. I’m very fortunate to, basically, be here. Sounds kind of morbid. If I didn’t catch that — I was about to go to bed. I’m like, man, something’s not feeling right.”
Serra now takes blood thinners and has to receive injections of an anticoagulant per day for the next three months. The blood clots in his arm caused another serious health condition, which required surgery. According to Newsday, Serra’s collarbone and first rib on his left side were compressing a blood vessel and restricting blood flow — a condition known as thoracic outlet syndrome — which forced him to have the rib removed in early May.
Despite not having fought since 2010 and now dealing with these serious health issues, Serra cannot bring himself to shut the door completely on fighting in the future or even to use the word “retirement.”
“It’s hard to say it,” Serra said. “It’s like you can’t say it, even though it probably is true. I would love to put closure on my career with one last fight at [Madison Square] Garden, but at the same time, if that doesn’t happen, I definitely consider myself done. It’s hard to say the ‘R word.’ I might never say the ‘R word.’”
Still, the Terror knows that people won’t want to see him fight forever, though he might want to. “An aging fighter? You know, it’s like an aging stripper, but not as funny,” Serra joked sagely. “Not a lot of people want to see that.”
After taking six to eight weeks to recover from his rib removal surgery, Serra still plans to train Jiu Jitsu. “I need my jiu-jitsu, man,” the third-degree black belt said. “I don’t need to spar. I don’t need to kickbox or box every day. Even if you see me with some pasta, I’m still strangling and arm-locking people at least five days a week and I need that.”
Though Serra admits that walking away from the addictive glory of being a famous and active UFC fighter is difficult, he says he’s found contentment with where his life is now. “I know I can be beat by some of these guys, but I know I can still knock some of these guys out and be a threat on the ground,” Serra assessed.
“But at the same time, it used to be that the thing that made me happiest was the next fight. Now, I whistle to work going to my schools. I love hanging out with my kids, my family. That’s something you never really anticipate or understand it until you have a family. I love spending time with my girls. I’m a very involved dad.”
Serra was the first American to receive a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from Renzo Gracie, won the fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter, and became the welterweight champion of the world when he stopped Georges St. Pierre at UFC 69 in 2007, before losing the title to GSP in a rematch the following year.
Throughout his career, Serra gave voice to good-natured wise asses everywhere and set an example for all those who feel like underdogs. He was a Jiu Jitsu player who slung heat and never backed down from a challenge.
Enjoy retirement, Matt.