LAS VEGAS -- At a time when many fighters switch trainers about as often as they change underwear, the long-standing relationship between former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra and New York-based striking guru Ray Longo has become an exception to the rule.
Their union, which has lasted nearly 20 years, paid dividends once again on Saturday, as Serra knocked out former Icon Sport titleholder Frank Trigg in a featured bout at UFC 109 “Relentless” at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Their match, marked by pre-fight trash talk from both sides, ended decisively 2:23 into the first round, with a dazed and confused Trigg flat on his back.
“I worked a lot with the big guy, Ray Longo,” Serra said. “We worked a lot of combos standing up. It actually worked out perfectly.”
Most, including Longo and Serra, expected Trigg to initiate a battle on the mat, where his considerable wrestling chops and punishing ground-and-pound figured to give him his best chance at victory. Instead, the 37-year-old elected to stand, and once Trigg’s strategy became clear, Longo knew it was only a matter of time.
“I knew [Serra] was going to knock him out,” Longo said. “We brought in some 200-pound southpaws, and he was doing great in sparring.”
The 35-year-old Serra attacked the legs and body in the opening moments, then dropped Trigg with a ringing overhand right in the center of the Octagon. He followed his fallen foe to the canvas, where three powerful punches from the top sealed the deal and left Trigg incapacitated beneath him.
Success seemed to mean as much to Longo as it did to his star pupil.
“He’s a friend,” Longo said. “We have a lot of laughs. He’s probably my best friend at this point, but we have to balance that out. It was an awesome feeling. I’ve been with Matt since he was 18, 19 years old. He’s always had a lot of faith in me, and I’ve always had a lot of faith in him.”
Longo beamed as he spoke about their connection and pointed to perhaps the lowest point of Serra’s mixed martial arts career -- his UFC debut in 2001, when he suffered a knockout at the hands of Shonie Carter -- as evidence of its strength.
“His first fight in the UFC, he got knocked out by a spinning backfist,” Longo said. “He could have walked away [from me] then. There’s a lot of loyalty between us.”