UFC Hall of Famer Matt Serra said he felt “disrespected” that Aljamain Sterling didn’t want to have him in his corner at UFC 259.
Sterling fought Petr Yan for the UFC bantamweight title this past weekend and won it via fourth-round DQ when Yan made the bonehead mistake of illegally kneeing a downed opponent. In Sterling’s corner for that fight was his longtime coach Ray Longo and Xtreme Couture’s Eric Nicksick. Sterling grew up training with Team Serra – Longo on Long Island, but he recently started doing more training in Las Vegas. So when it came time to picking his cornerman for his title fight with Yan, Sterling had to make a choice, and he chose to leave Serra out of his corner instead of taking his longtime coach on the title journey.
Speaking to “UFC Unfiltered,” Serra was candid in speaking about Sterling. Although he would not criticize Sterling for his decision to stay on the ground and win the fight via DQ, Serra did criticize Sterling for the way that he handled his corner. According to Serra, when he found out the news that he wouldn’t be cornering Sterling, it deeply hurt him.
“When I found out I wasn’t in it, I gave Aljo a call. I felt stupid because I made a call before that and left a nice message. Then I got the call from Longo and he said, ‘How are you out of the corner? It’s your team.’ I said you f*cking tell me. But at the same time, I didn’t want his head f*cked up before the fight so I didn’t attack him. I called him and left a message and said, ‘I love you and I’m here for you either way if you need me.’ I told Aljo a few weeks before he left (for Las Vegas) that the COVID sh*t is crazy so if you need to use bodies (for corners) I understand. But when you’ve been with a guy for that long — first of all, Aljo texted me and said he would call me back, but I didn’t hear from the kid for three days. I don’t want to be over-sensitive, but how do you think those nights were sleeping? I’m just hurt. I know you’re busy and things are going on but I gotta know what the f*ck I’m doing,” Matt Serra said.
“So when I talked to him, we talked a little bit about sparring partners and this and that. So I understand if it’s about that, I understand. But then I’m watching (UFC 259) and I have nothing against Eric Nicksick, he’s a nice guy and it’s not his fault Aljo went there, but it’s like, hey man, you’re gonna have some guy you been working with for three months and I’ve been with you for seven years? If that’s what you want then I understand. But this is the thing. Now, this is no longer this thing of ours with mine or Longo. And that’s all, we did this (Team Serra – Longo) with the intention of guys reaching their goals. But you can’t help but feel disrespected. From the time this guy got into the UFC, you can point to one time I missed a sparing session in seven years. I got a family, but you train, you go, and you do it proudly because you’re backing up your guy. It’s our guy vs. another savage that’s what it is. I’m not going to lie to you, I was a little hurt. And I love everyone involved, but you gotta know when people make choices there are consequences. So I can understand nobody wanted to say anything because they didn’t want to f*ck up this kid’s head before the fight. But at the same time, I would have handled things differently if the shoe was on the other foot,” Serra continued.
The former UFC welterweight champion then announced that, following this situation with Sterling that left him feeling so upset, he is retiring from MMA cornering for good.
“My thing is, going forward, it’s better now to make an exit on a high note. I loved cornering, but what is it for the next fight, is it me and Nicksick with rock paper scissors to see who gets to corner? I have a family. I will always be in this kid’s corner, just not physically anymore. And not by my choice, but by the choices that are made here. So I’m retiring from the whole cornering thing,” Serra said.
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