The drive calms him. For years the quiet New York night has countered the intense training Matt Serra (Pictures) found in Renzo Gracie (Pictures)'s Manhattan gym.
Eight days before the New Yorker was scheduled to rematch Georges St. Pierre (Pictures) in a UFC welterweight title fight, Serra was on the road again, speaking with Sherdog.com.
"It's funny," Serra said, "the second you get out of mid-town tunnel getting into Long Island, there's a huge billboard of me saying ‘Can he do it again?' with me pointing to the belt. You know when I give that goofy look. On 45th and Broadway, there's a huge billboard of me and St. Pierre like King Kong and Godzilla. It's amazing how far this sport has come."
Sherdog.com: Coming off your back injury, any hesitancy getting prepared? Were you cautious at first?
Matt Serra: A little less than three months out I kept doing the rehab and I just took it up from there.
Sherdog.com: What was the most difficult part? Rehab? Coming back the first time testing your back? Any sort of trouble along the way?
Serra: The most difficult part is that I got hurt in December, and you know me with Italian food. Shoot man, it's crazy. So I'm all laid up and can't do nothing, so I'm getting a little chubby. But I worked all that off.
Sherdog.com: What's the biggest you got? How much did you weigh?
Serra: Ahh, I never know. I never go near the scale. I just get chubby. It's nothing new for me. It's only worse because I couldn't do anything. I couldn't roll. I couldn't train. But it's not even a problem. A little holiday chunk that I got off. I'm good to go buddy. People say, "Oh, you haven't fought in a year." I've been fighting three, four times a week. That's how I look at it. People might look at it differently, but they're not sparring the way I'm sparring.
Sherdog.com: You talked about sparring before your last fight with St. Pierre. You put a lot of emphasis on that. So, a lot of rounds this time?
Serra: Man, I clocked in easily as much rounds -- probably, I'd say, more intense rounds. I feel [I had] even better sparring partners this time. So, you know and not only that, I had some game plans and some strategies. I went in there last time basically with a strategy that I never really tried to use before. I never had to rely on that area of my game, which would be the striking. [Trainer Ray] Longo told me to believe in it, man. "Look man, look what you're doing with the 16-ounce gloves. You're hurting the guys with that." I've been in there enough, I've got enough experience where I can carry through a game plan. If it's working in sparring, if it's working on the mat, there's no reason if I pull it off in the training hall, I can't do it in the fight. And that's exactly what went down in the fight. That's why I think it's hysterical when people say fluke, or whatever. People who were in my sparring camps saw me land the same punches and combination of punches. So it's funny.
Sherdog.com: Yeah, it's almost like you have to beat St. Pierre twice to get a victory out of it. Doesn't it feel that way?
Serra: Listen, Georges is a likeable guy. He's definitely a very good poster boy. If you look at him, he's got the looks. Whatever man. I don't know. The abs. What are people looking at? They like him. He's like a real life Van Damme. And then they got me in there, who's the real life Joe Pesci or something.
Sherdog.com: Aren't you the "every man" in this fight? You were a huge underdog the last time. You found a way to beat him. Have you seen a shift in the way people look at you since, and if you have, has it been positive or negative?
Serra: It's funny, there's always both. I'm a positive guy, so I could care less about this negativity. But I've got a ton of fan support -- that's not a problem. … I'm not getting caught up in the hype and I'm not getting fooled. I've been this game too long, I've fought too many tough guys. Nobody is going to tell me who I can and cannot beat. I'm the guy in there, so I could care less what anybody else thinks.