Category Archives: Matt Serra

Another Interim Title?

The UFC has done it again. No sooner could I type out my belief that they weren’t desperate enough to invent a match for Matt Hughes to replace the one he was supposed to have with a now-injured Matt Serra, than they proved me wrong. Not only will they have Hughes meet Georges St. Pierre for a third time at UFC 79, they’ve created yet another “interim title” for them to fight over.

Matt Serra said it best on “I can’t believe the position this puts me in.”

Neither can I, Matt. On one hand, the fight itself should be a good one, and I’m looking forward to this rubber match between two top contenders. On the other hand, an interim title? Why?

I understand that Serra, the champion, is injured. It’s unclear when he’ll be able to fight again. It could be six months, or it could be more than a year. But what message is the UFC sending to Serra — who claimed the title back when there was only one in each division — by marginalizing him the instant he has to sit one out?

It’s not that I don’t understand why they came to this decision. They want a main event for UFC 79, and they feel like a title needs to be on the line to make that happen. It’s as if they’re as adamant about having a title fight for this event as they were about trying to convince us that the non-title fight between Bisping and Evans was worth our money last weekend.

Even so, interim titles are not the easy answer to every problem. Just because a champion can’t make the first date you set for him doesn’t mean you can just create a new title out of thin air. If you do, then what’s the point of having one champion in each weight class?

I understand that one of the criticisms people will level at my argument is that Serra has not defended his title since winning it seven months ago. But that’s not Serra’s fault. The UFC kept him from defending it so they could use the reality show to pump up a title fight between he and Hughes. Now he’s been injured in training, but that’s a part of the game. You can’t just nullify his title right off the bat.

I’m also against this move because it may cancel out the planned fight between Hughes and Serra. If St. Pierre beats Hughes for a second straight time (which is possible, to say the least), then St. Pierre would fight Serra to unify the fake title and the real one. There’d be no reason to have Hughes and Serra fight after that.

It’s starting to seem as though what the UFC really needs is a stated policy about champions and inactivity. The fighters need to know what’s going to happen if they’re injured or can’t fight for whatever reason, and the rules should be the same for everyone. You can’t just invent a new title because you want to have two people fight for it on a pay-per-view. That defeats the purpose of a championship.

My suggestion is that they institute a one-year rule. If a champion cannot defend his title due to injury, he gets one year to recover and make that defense or else he gets stripped of the title. A year should be enough time to recover from most injuries, while at the same time giving him the respect that a champion deserves from his organization.

What the UFC can’t continue to do is whip up these interim titles whenever they need to boost their pay-per-view numbers. Given enough time, eventually they’re going to run into a scenario where a true champion and an interim champion are both unable to fight at the same time. This is the hurt business, after all. What will they do then, create an interim interim title? It’s madness, I tell you.

The saddest part about this particular case with Hughes and St. Pierre is that we don’t need an artificial title to make it a worthwhile fight. It’s a good match, and one that makes some sense if Serra is going to be out for a while.

But just because one of those guys will get a belt put around his waist at the end of the night, that doesn’t make him champion. Just like how calling a fight between two reality show stars a main event didn’t make it true in New Jersey.



Filed under Georges St. Pierre, Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, MMA, Sports, UFC

Matt Serra Pulls Out of Title Fight With Hughes

Due to a herniated disk in his back, Matt Serra will not be putting his welterweight title on the line against Matt Hughes on Dec 29, the UFC’s official website reported this week.  Serra suffered the injury in training, thus derailing the rivalry bout that this season of The Ultimate Fighter has spent a significant portion of its screen time hyping.

Since Serra-Hughes was billed as the main event for UFC 79, this does hurt the overall appeal of the card.  Fortunately for the UFC, they already had a second main event on this card in the form of Wanderlei Silva vs. Chuck Liddell.  This long-awaited showdown even allows them to keep the title of the event (“Nemesis”) intact.  Everybody wins.

There has been some talk of the UFC trying to find a replacement for Serra in order to keep Hughes on the card, but I doubt that will actually happen.  Having Matt Hughes fight some up-and-coming welterweight while he waits for Serra to heal is an absurd idea with very little upside for the UFC.

It won’t be a title fight, so it doesn’t carry the same appeal, for one thing.  If Hughes were to lose to a Jon Fitch or Thiago Alves, it would make the fight with Serra seem pointless.  Even if he won it wouldn’t mean much.

The only other officially announced bout for UFC 79 is Sokoudjou vs. Lyoto Machida.  This will be Sokoudjou’s UFC debut, and it should make for an interesting match, but the UFC should really try to put together a few more good undercard fights to get this card back to the ‘event-of-the-year’ status.

So for now, it looks like Hughes and Serra will have to wait.  Maybe the UFC can convince Spike TV to run a marathon of this season of TUF before the fight does actually take place some time in 2008.  Then again, I think this is enough of a legitimate rivalry that they don’t really need to keep reminding us about it.

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Filed under Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, MMA, Sports, UFC

Is Reality TV The Worst Thing To Happen To Matt Hughes?

As I watched Matt Hughes continue to present as unlikable a persona as possible on last night’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter, I was struck by the strangeness of the fact that I used to be a huge fan of his. There was a time when I might have identified Hughes as my favorite MMA fighter, or at least in the top three. I once considered his second triumphant victory over Frank Trigg to be the greatest moment in the history of the UFC. You know, the one where he gets hit in the groin and then nearly knocked out and choked, only to come back and slam Trigg before choking him? That was great…wasn’t it?

But sitting on my couch last night, watching Hughes on TV, I couldn’t see why I might have ever liked him. Who was I then? Who was he? Have we grown so far apart, so fast? Where’s the Matt Hughes I used to know, the hard-working farm boy who never had anything bad to say about anyone, win or lose? Where’s the guy who was like a welterweight Randy Couture, only with slightly less grotesque ears?

In case you haven’t been watching TUF (and I’m guessing you have if you’re reading this blog, unless you’re my parents or Dan Brooks, who is too busy giving those free massages to sailors who come in at the docks on Wednesday nights), Matt Hughes has spent this entire season a) trying and failing to motivate his fighters, b) attempting to use some kind of junior high psychology against Matt Serra and his team, unsuccessfully, and c) making jerk-off facial expressions.

Last night was particularly special in all three regards. When two members of Serra’s team were forced to move to Hughes’ team, they asked if they could have a talk with Hughes and his assistant coaches to clear the air about switching teams. It seemed understandable. The whole thing had the potential to be very awkward, and as Richie Hightower said, if you have someone in your corner you want to make sure they have your best interests at heart.

So how did Hughes react to this situation? Naturally, he completely blew off Hightower and told him he wasn’t interested in getting to know him or be friends with him. Nice. That’s how you build the relationship of trust and respect that is necessary in any coaching dynamic. Well done, Hughes.

This is when I started trying to trace the beginning of my turnaround regarding Hughes. Did I stop liking him when he got beat by Georges St. Pierre? No, it was well before that. Was it when I learned he was such a fervent Christian, quoting Bible verses and handing out copies of the good book like some kind of disappointing Santa Claus? No, plenty of fighters are religious, so that’s not it.

Then it hit me. It began the first time he appeared on TUF, back in season two. My distaste for him grew when he came back seemingly just to needle Georges St. Pierre in season five, and it passed the point of no return this season.

You see, it’s not Hughes’ fault. He’s probably always been this way. I just didn’t realize it because I only saw what he and the UFC wanted me to see: pre and post-fight interviews, training footage, dominating performances in the cage, commercials with him doing vague farm work, etc.

But reality TV is completely different. It gives us the chance to see a situation and then to hear different people give their interpretations of it. It just so happens that the things Hughes does in these situations and the way he interprets them afterward, I find mostly sad and upsetting (as I do this high school yearbook photo of Matt and his twin brother — yikes).

It probably doesn’t help that TUF features Hughes in what may be his worst role: coach. In my experience, the coaching position is best suited for someone with patience, compassion, and the ability to see things from someone else’s perspective. These are not the traits that Hughes is known for. He is an excellent fighter, or at least he was in his prime. Often in sports, excellent athletes don’t make excellent coaches. Babe Ruth’s short tenure as a baseball manager was forgettable, for instance, probably because he couldn’t understand why his players didn’t just go up and hit home runs.

Wow. Did I just compare Matt Hughes to Babe Ruth? I guess I did. Anyway, you see my point. Hughes is stubborn, egotistical, dangerously competitive, and single-minded. Those traits might make him a good fighter, but not a good coach. Reality TV only amplifies these traits — which are considered personality defects in the normal world, but assets in the fighting world — and makes Matt Hughes seem as though he’s become suddenly unlikable.

He hasn’t. He’s probably always been just as unlikable, but we just didn’t know about it. Now we do. Thanks again, TV.

Oh yeah. If you were wondering, Mac Danzig won last night’s fight easily and seems to be on a collision course with George Sotiropoulos in the finals, which ought to be a hell of fight. So there.


Filed under Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, MMA, Sports, The Ultimate Fighter, UFC

It’s Official: Liddell-Silva at UFC 79

The long-awaited match between former UFC champion Chuck Liddell and former Pride champion Wanderlei Silva will finally take place in December, UFC president Dana White announced at last night’s Spike TV Scream 2007 award show.

One can only assume that pressure from Spike, which is the UFC’s cable TV home, led to the announcement (deemed a “HUGE Announcement” in the UFC’s email newsletter) at this particular venue.  If the anticipation of this announcement led one single person to watch the show without having a relative involved in it somehow, I suppose the tactic was a success.  The rest of us were probably busy not caring about contrived genre award shows, so we had to settle for reading it on the internet.

It’s not exactly a surprise announcement since the Direct TV website has been displaying ads for this fight at UFC 79 for the past few days, but it’s exciting nonetheless.  Hardcore fans have been waiting for this match for years.  While some of the luster is gone after a recent string of defeats for both Liddell and Silva, their styles alone should make a for a great match even if it doesn’t have the title ramifications it once did.

When I was writing for a couple of years back, Brad Monahan did an interview with Liddell where he discussed a potential fight with Silva.  His prediction for the fight then — “It’s not that hard, we’ll just hit each other until one of us falls down” — still seems applicable now.

Silva’s ultra-aggressive striking style and Liddell’s powerful counter-striking style seem like a recipe for a great match whether there are belts at stake or not.  In fact, it’s almost better that they’re both coming off losses.  Instead of billing the match as a ‘Champion vs. Champion’ affair, now it becomes a bout to see who still has a future in the sport and who should think a little harder about retirement.

Add this match to the only other officially announced bout — Matt Serra vs. Matt Hughes for the welterweight title — and you have a hell of a fight card.

There’s no official word yet on whether the IFL Grand Prix finals will be a free lead-in on MyNetworkTV before the UFC event gets underway, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it works out that way.

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Filed under Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, MMA, Sports, UFC, Wanderlei Silva

Championship Questions Abound for the UFC

Anderson Silva’s title defense at UFC 77 on Saturday night got me thinking.  The fight was one-sided from the beginning, but it was a satisfying event nonetheless mainly because a championship belt was at stake.  That makes everything more interesting.  Even if it seems like a mismatch (the way Franklin-Quarry was, or the way St. Pierre-Serra looked on paper), a title fight will always be a big deal.

So why, I can’t help but wonder, is the UFC not in more of a hurry to put the other titles up for grabs?  Why are they content to let some belts stay out of circulation while others get defended every couple of months?

I’m referring now, of course, to the welterweight title.  Matt Serra shocked the MMA world when he upset Georges St. Pierre with a first-round TKO to take the 170-pound strap away from the Canadian, but that was back in April.  That’s the last time we saw the welterweight title up for grabs, and why?  Apparently, so the UFC could use the current season of The Ultimate Fighter to pump up a title match between Serra and Matt Hughes.

I can’t say I don’t understand why they’re doing this.  It’s about money.  They saw an existing rivalry between Hughes and Serra and pounced on it.  They figured that if they spent the entire reality show season reinforcing the idea that these two don’t like each other, their title match at UFC 79 (entitled “Nemesis”, by the way) would bring big pay-per-view money.

Understandable though it may be, this is somewhat disturbing.  It seems like the UFC sees Serra as a Buster Douglas in the making.  They don’t believe he’ll successfully defend the title against any top-tier welterweight, so they want to make sure they squeeze all the cash they can out of him before he gives up the belt.

The real loser here is St. Pierre.  He has to sit on the sidelines and wait for this “Nemesis” bout to happen, and then he’ll probably have to sit around some more and wait for a fight with the winner.  And what does he do in the meantime?  He already beat Josh Koscheck, who was climbing toward number one contender status after his win over Diego Sanchez.

Now he has to hang around waiting for his next shot at a paycheck, figuring whether he’ll get to rematch Serra or whether he’ll have to beat Hughes again (and does anyone have any doubt that he will?)

What bothers me about this situation is not just that the title is on the shelf for so long because of a TV show, it’s that the UFC is putting so much emphasis on the need for a rivalry match.  Other than Hughes’ legacy as the longtime-champ, the only reason he’s getting this title shot at Serra is because the two men hate each other and people will pay to see that.

I’m all for a rivalry match from time to time, don’t get me wrong.  But if you already have the title at stake, you don’t need to manufacture a rivalry on a TV show.

For instance, what’s going to become of the lightweight title after Sean Sherk’s appeal at the end of the month?  Unless he becomes the first person to get a steroid suspension overturned in the state of California, he’ll be stripped of the title.  Then what?  Will the UFC look at their lightweight stable to see who they can make a rivalry fight with, then put those two guys in together?

In other words, will they arbitrarily decide which two men get to fight for the vacant title, and if so, who will they be?  Kenny Florian and some guy who hates Kenny Florian, assuming such a person can be found?

It’s no way to decide the future of a championship belt.  It rewards people who manufacture controversy rather than people who put on good fights (paging, Dr. Ortiz).  It’s more pro wrestling than it is pro fighting, and while I understand that a company’s objective is to make money, it seems smarter to look at the big picture rather than just the short term pay-per-view cash on the table.

Maybe I’m the only one bothered by this, I don’t know.  But if the next season of TUF features coaches Tim Sylvia and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, we’re all going to be longing for the good old days when title fights happened without the benefit of a drawn out reality show.  That, and wondering why the UFC didn’t learn from Sylvia’s disastrous appearance on Blind Date.  I know I did.

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Filed under Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre, Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, MMA, Sean Sherk, Sports, UFC