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Matt Serra's advice to Sage Northcutt on haters: 'You gotta have a thick skin'

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WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. -- If anyone can counsel Sage Northcutt on the highs and lows of the fight game, it's Matt Serra.

The first part of Serra's UFC career was a comedy of errors. There was the infamous spinning back fist knockout loss to Shonie Carter in the closing seconds of a bout he was dominating at UFC 31. At UFC 41, Serra was announced as the split decision winner over Din Thomas, only to find out later in the locker room there was a scorecard error and he had actually lost via split decision.

"I started my career off on the wrong side of a highlight finish I still see to this day," said Serra, who was on a media tour of the Los Angeles area Monday promoting the UFC Fight Pass series "Dana White: Lookin' for a Fight." "They still show that clip. You gotta have a thick skin to be a fighter. You gotta be able to brush it off."

Of course, Serra turned things around in spectacular fashion, winning season four of "The Ultimate Fighter" to earn a shot at then-welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, where he scored one of the biggest upsets in MMA history, winning the title at UFC 69 via first-round TKO.

And as far as Serra is concerned, while Northcutt is experiencing the lowest of the sport's lows in the wake of his loss to Bryan Barberena on Saturday at UFC on FOX 18, he should be well-positioned to shake it off and move forward, similar to how Serra himself moved past his early missteps.

"He's got a bright future and he's going to bounce back," Serra said. "Like I said, I was a highlight reel finish by spinning back fist. You grow, and this is a rough game. If It doesn't happen now, it will happen."

Serra may feel he has a bit of a vested interest in Northcutt's success. He and UFC president Dana White were at now-legendary Legacy Fighting Championship show last year in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in which they discovered Northcutt and signed him to a UFC deal, all as part of the pilot episode of "Lookin' for a Fight."

"Everyone's hating on him," Serra said. "But first of all, if you ever meet the kid, he's, I'm talking, Brady Bunch nice. It's almost ridiculous how nice this kid is, such a good kid, so you want him to do well. But I really think his best fights are ahead of him."

And as Serra himself discovered when he became UFC welterweight champion and suddenly seemed to have the entire nation of Canada hating him after defeating GSP, the backlash only gets more intense the bigger the stakes get.

"The more popular you get, the more it's going to get like that," Serra said. "Look at Ronda [Rousey]. When she's winning, you can do nothing wrong. When you lose, people that you think aren't going to come at you, will come at you, because they're haters. This kid, just from the noise you're hearing now with him losing, I mean, hey, they're still talking about him."

Serra did note Northcutt, as was revealed Monday, had strep throat going into the bout

"If Dana was here, he'd show you a picture that would make you not want to eat your lunch," Serra said. "That kid had an infection in his throat, it looked like something out of ‘Aliens.' He's probably kicking himself thinking ‘I shouldn't even have been fighting.'"

Sick or not, these things happen in the fight business. So Serra believes the best thing the first ‘Lookin' for a Fight' signee can do is get right back at it.

"What I'd tell Sage is, the best thing to do is make an example of the next guy you see in the cage," Serra said. "You can't sit around and go ‘what if.' The kid's 19, By the time he's 23 he could be a different guy. He's surrounded by good people and he still has a bright, bright future."