Serra on Tuesday said he is going to “retire” as a cornerman and will no longer be working with Sterling as an official corner person, though he’ll support the new champion on his journey forward.
“My thing is, going forward, I think it’s better to make an exit on a high note,” Serra said on “UFC Unfiltered.” “I will always be in this kid’s corner – just not physically, and not by my choice, by the choices that were made here. So I’m just going to retire altogether from the corner thing.”
Serra said he found out secondhand he would not be working Sterling’s corner for a title fight with Petr Yan at UFC 259. The decision came after a scattered training camp in which the two worked together only briefly before Sterling went to Las Vegas, where he took up with Xtreme Couture coach Eric Nicksick.
Although the ex-champ told Sterling beforehand that he would understand the need to recruit others to finish up training in light of pandemic travel, he said Sterling left him hanging on whether he was needed for the event this past Saturday.
“I’m just more hurt,” Serra said. “I know you’re busy, but I’ve got to know what the f*ck I’m doing.”
Serra’s longtime partner, Ray Longo, was designated the head coach of Sterling’s corner. The two commiserated over the choice to leave him out of the corner, Serra said. Sterling was one of several New York talents the coaches had shepherded into the UFC. That history made the decision tough to stomach for the ex-champ.
“Nothing against Eric Nicksick,” Serra said. “It’s not his fault. You’re going to have this guy that’s been with you for 3 months over a guy that’s been with you 7 years?
“Now, this is no longer this thing of ours with mine and Longo. And that’s cool, we did this thing of helping these guys reaching their goals, but at the same time, you can’t help but feel a little disrespected.”
Serra clarified his stance didn’t stem from vanity.
“I’m not trying to get my head in the fight,” he said. “What am I, Pauly from Rocky 1? ‘The meat guy’s trying to stick his face in!’ I’m not that guy. Listen, I don’t need any more popularity. I’m good. I thought this was something we were all in together.”
But now, the retired fighter and coach said his role will be behind the scenes.
“When people make choices, there’s consequences,” Serra said. “So it’s like, I can understand, maybe, nobody wanting to say anything on my behalf because they don’t want to f*ck this kid’s head up for the fight. I can understand that, but at the same time, I would have handled things differently if the shoe’s on the other foot.”
Sterling became the first UFC fighter to win a title via disqualification when Yan connected with an illegal knee that rendered him unable to continue. Nicksick spoke about the controversial ending and the fight’s aftermath in an interview with MMA Fighting. A rematch between Sterling and Yan is planned for the near future.