By August 20, 2007

Ultimate Gentleman

I’ve been watching the Ultimate Fighting Championship since the very first event, when I witnessed my Kenpo karate brothers-in-art get hugged into submission by a little guy named Royce Gracie. I have been enamored with mixed martial arts ever since, and while I no longer practice a martial art nor have I never competed, I like to think I know a fair amount about the sport to appreciate its finer points.

As such, it was a great honor to meet current UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra last Saturday at Richmond’s “Total Cage Combat” event. Matt Serra has been competing in mixed martial arts for a very long time; I remember seeing him fight a decisive battle against Shonie Carter, only to be knocked out in the last nine seconds by Carter’s spinning backfist.

What happened next for Serra is why I respect him so much. Instead of quitting, of being frustrated that he was defeated in the last seconds few seconds of an otherwise dominant performance, Serra picked up the pieces and trained even harder for his next fight. Less than five months later, Serra fought outstanding MMA fighter Yves Edwards and won a unanimous decision. Serra went on to have more professional ups and downs, losing to the ever-potent loudmouth BJ Penn and gentleman dynamo Din Thomas. Again, Serra went back to work, and never gave up. He eventually defeated Georges St. Pierre to become the UFC welterweight champion in April of this year.

Anyway, Matt was very kind in person. He patiently and happily signed ticket stubs, magazines, even a pair of shoes. He greeted everyone, shook hands, and listened to what people actually had to say. I was impressed that Serra was willing to let people hold his title belt. More than one little kid (and yours truly) was surprised and happy to hoist the heavy belt onto their shoulder. There was a fair amount of, “you trained with XXX, who is my trainer now,” and whatnot, and Matt was very generous in his praise for everyone. I asked him to sign my ticket with “Fuck Shonie Carter”, but Serra responded with a laugh: “Awwww man, I can’t do that, Shonie’s my friend!!” Imagine that — a guy who knocked you out is now one of your best friends. Awesome.

Serra was about the size and shape I imagined him: short, extremely muscular. I patted him on the back while I had my picture taken with him, and it was like touching solid stone. And Serra isn’t at optimal fighting shape for his title defense against Matt Hughes. I wouldn’t expect anything less from someone who has been part of the sport for so long, with plenty of wins and losses. You don’t persevere in MMA without a mountain of determination and will.
Yes, I do blink. Yes, Matt Serra is letting me hold his championship belt.

Total Cage Combat was a hoot — many of the fighters were amateurs, and this was their first bout. We saw a lot of rear naked chokes, which normally become available as an opponent panics and tries to avoid strikes to the head. I was please to see two victories via arm bar, and it was satisfying to see one guy try for a double-leg takedown only to be knocked out by a shin to the face.

I really enjoyed going, and am glad Lady Jaye got us cageside seats for my birthday. They are going to have a second event a few days into 2008, and I hope to be in attendance.

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3 Comments on "Ultimate Gentleman"

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  1. Ed says:

    Now I would find that a fascinating event to see at some time. I will have to keep my eyes out.

  2. IRS says:

    You look very…. INTENSE… in that picture. But good story! 🙂

  3. drfaulken says:

    That’s actually one of my “happy faces.” 🙂 I wish I had shown more teeth in that smile, but whatever — I had already taken one picture with Matt, but the guy who took it for me forgot to save it on my phone!! Lady Jaye was kind enough to stand with me to take the one I posted.