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Matt Serra on Matt Hughes: 'I Want to Put Him Into Retirement'

When I interviewed Matt Hughes last week, he made it very clear that he dislikes the man he'll fight at UFC 98, Matt Serra. So when I interviewed Serra, I gave him the opportunity to respond. Suffice to say, Serra doesn't like Hughes, either. That simple fact is what makes their upcoming fight so intriguing to MMA fans.

I also asked Serra about his experiences as both a participant and a coach on The Ultimate Fighter, what he thinks the future holds for his fighting career, and what he'll do when he's done in the Octagon. The full interview is below.

Michael David Smith: I interviewed Matt Hughes last week and started that interview by asking him how much he dislikes you, so I'd like to ask you: How much do you dislike him?
Matt Serra: I've got to admit, I'm not a big fan. I don't like him. As a fighter he's done good things. He's going to be a Hall of Famer. But you've got to separate the two. As a person, I don't like him. In any field, when people reach a certain level of success they can either stay level-headed and down to earth, or they can let it get to their heads and become stuck-up jerks. And I think he's the latter. As a fighter I think he's dangerous at what he does and I'm really looking forward to fighting him. Just because I think he's a jerk doesn't mean I think he's a bad fighter.

Does disliking him give you more motivation to prepare?
It really does. The dislike for each other, everybody asks me, "Is it for real?" Well, yeah. Do I like the guy? No. People say, "You always talk about him." Well, people ask me about him. If you ask me about him, I'm going to tell you, yeah, the guy is a stuck-up jerk. I don't like him. I think it would be worse if people asked me and I said, "Oh, I think he's a swell guy." I really don't like the guy and I think it's better to be who you really are. And of course, it gives you extra motivation to train for a guy that you have a beef with. I don't want to lose to this guy. I want to put him into retirement. I feel that if it goes the other way and he gets a victory, he'll be an awful winner. He'll go around saying I'm no good, I'm not in the Top 20, and I'm not having that. I'm not losing to this guy.

What do you view as his strengths and how you should approach him as an opponent?
I think he's more of a one-trick pony. What I mean by that is that he's very good at his one trick. He's made his career out of using his wrestling, taking guys down, smushing them against the fence and getting them down and ground and pound. And he's not bad with his jiu jitsu. His jiu jitsu level is what's gone up over the years, his submission level. He's got good ground control, he's good at passing the guard. Basically, he's good at takedowns and he's good on top. That's his main thing, that's his bread and butter. And I feel that I'm a good match-up with him. I really do. I think I'm good off my back if it ends up there. I feel standing up I definitely have an edge. And all-around I think he's a very good match-up for me. I think it makes for an exciting fight.

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    Chuck Liddell, from Santa Barbara, Calif., reacts after being knocked out in the first round by Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, from Brazil, during their light heavyweight fight at UFC 97 in Montreal Saturday, April 18, 2009. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Ryan Remiorz)

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    Anderson Silva, from Brazil, puts on his belt after defeating Thales Leites, from Brazil, to retain the World Middleweight Championship title at UFC 97 in Montreal Saturday, April 18, 2009. Silva won by decision. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

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    ** ALTERNATE CROP OF RYR124 ** Thales Leites, left, from Brazil, tackles Anderson Silva, from Brazil, during their World Middleweight Championship fight at UFC 97 in Montreal Saturday, April 18, 2009. Silva won by decision. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

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    Thales Leites, right, from Brazil, and Anderson Silva, from Brazil, battle during their World Middleweight Championship fight at UFC 97 in Montreal Saturday, April 18, 2009. Silva won by decision. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

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    Thales Leites, left, from Brazil, tackles Anderson Silva, from Brazil, during their World Middleweight Championship fight at UFC 97 in Montreal Saturday, April 18, 2009. Silva won by decision. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

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    Thales Leites, bottom, from Brazil, and Anderson Silva, from Brazil, battle during their World Middleweight Championship fight at UFC 97 in Montreal Saturday, April 18, 2009. Silva won by decision. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Ryan Remiorz)

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    Thales Leites, left, from Brazil, is hit by Anderson Silva, from Brazil, during their World Middleweight Championship fight at UFC 97 in Montreal Saturday, April 18, 2009. Silva won by decision. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

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    Thales Leites, right, from Brazil, and Anderson Silva, from Brazil, battle during their World Middleweight Championship fight at UFC 97 in Montreal Saturday, April 18, 2009. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Ryan Remiorz)

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    Chuck Liddell, from Santa Barbara, CA, is helped off the canvas as Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, from Brazil, celebrates his first round knockout during their light heavyweight fight at UFC 97 in Montreal Saturday, April 18, 2009. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Ryan Remiorz)

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    Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, from Brazil, celebrates after knocking out Chuck Liddell, from Santa Barbara, Calif., during the first round of their light heavyweight fight at UFC 97 in Montreal Saturday, April 18, 2009. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Ryan Remiorz)

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He's certainly more experienced than you. This is going to be his 50th pro fight, whereas your record, depending on where you look, is either 9-5 or 16-5.
I don't know about 9-5, I think it's 16-5. Some places don't have all the fights listed, but that's neither here nor there. That doesn't matter to me at all. If you look at the quality of the fights that we've fought, we've fought similar guys. We've both fought BJ Penn, we've both fought Georges St. Pierre. If you look at who we've fought, maybe he's got me on quantity, but a lot of his wins are in Midwest shows against guys who were never heard from again. If you look at quality, I've fought just as tough guys as him. I've never fought an easy fight. You never get one in the UFC. I don't think it's experience, I think it comes down to skill. I think that's going to be a big difference. He's fought so long being the bully -- being the bigger, stronger guy -- that even though he's probably stronger than me, and he's bigger, it comes down to technique, and I've got a definite edge in technique on him. That's definitely going to come into play.

You've only fought once a year in each of the last four years. Would you prefer to fight more often than that?
Yeah, but that's just the way it worked out. At the end of Season 4 of The Ultimate Fighter I had the fight with Chris Lytle, and then GSP got injured first and our fight got pushed back, and then they wanted me to coach the show I got injured, and then Matt Hughes got injured, and that's just how things worked out. It's not that I wanted to be on the shelf for so long, but things happen the way they happen. It is happening now and I'm in great shape right now and I'll be in better shape by the day of the fight. I'm really looking forward to this fight.

Some people say the guys on The Ultimate Fighter play to the cameras. You were on the show twice, once as a fighter and once as a coach. Were you playing up to the cameras, especially in your rivalry with Hughes?

You know, I always have a good time, whether the cameras are there or not I like to be kind of silly. And I think Matt Hughes takes himself way too seriously. I'd be making the same jokes I made on the show in my own gym. I made a joke about a picture of him looking like he was taking a tinkle. I'll do that if it's on TV or if it's just my friends there. I don't care. The cameras are always on you when you're on the show, and I'm being myself, for better or worse.

Overall, were you happy with your Ultimate Fighter experiences?
You know, it's so funny. When I went off on the reality show, my season it was a comeback show and the winner was getting a title shot, and that's why I went on, because what they were offering was phenomenal. And I looked at it as, I have the Serra Jiu Jitsu martial arts schools. The exposure of being on that show would be great. I didn't put much pressure on myself, I just thought if I did well that'd be great, and worst-case scenario, I get exposure. And then I ended up winning the whole thing and shocking a lot of people in my title fight by winning that. Being on Spike TV was nothing but a blessing. It changed my life financially, gave me great exposure and led to the title. That show gave me a shot and I seized that opportunity. And then coaching was great, too, because I got to bring Ray Longo, my coach back here in Long Island, I brought Pete Sell, and it was great. Even though Mac Danzig ended up winning the whole thing and he was on Team Hughes, I feel like I destroyed Matt Hughes. My guys won six of eight fights against his. It was a lot of fun, on both seasons.

There was also a little bit of an issue with your friend Joe Scarola. You brought him on the show and then he quit during it. Are you still friends with him?
I'll see him at a tournament or something because he's got his own school. I wish him nothing but the best. But no. We don't really talk or anything. I wish him the best, but that just turned into a big debacle. They say things happen for a reason and that show just really highlighted his worst traits. I don't think he's a bad dude, that show just didn't work out for him. Again, I don't wish the guy any ill will. It kind of ruined our friendship, though.

Coaching is obviously something that comes very naturally to you. On Season 4, when you were one of the fighters, you kind of became the de facto coach. Is coaching what you'll do for the rest of your life, long after you're done fighting?
Oh, I'll tell you right now, when I'm done fighting I'll be producing other champions, for sure. Both in MMA and jiu jitsu. Myself and Ray Longo, with the Serra/Longo Fight Team, we've got up and coming guys who you'll be seeing in the big leagues.

How much longer do you think you'll be fighting?
I just go with the flow. I'm just looking at this next fight and we'll take it from there. We'll see how that goes -- I'm sure it will go well -- and I think I'll be doing it as long as it's fun for me and I enjoy it. I don't always enjoy all the hard training, and sometimes that takes away from teaching at my schools and my baby daughter and everything else -- actually that's her right now, hold on, I have to give her her pacifier. ... She's three months old now.

That must have been a big life change.
Oh, yeah, man. It's really, really awesome. Things are going great for me. I enjoy fighting and I'm getting paid to fight and I'm just taking it one fight at a time. I don't have it all planned out or anything, just taking it one fight at a time.

Do you give any thought about getting another title shot by beating Hughes?
All I'm concentrating on now is beating him and then it'll all take care of itself after that. I don't look too far ahead. This game's got too many what-ifs in it. I've got to concentrate on the task at hand and that's beating Matt Hughes.