It's been nearly three years since Matt Serra last fought in the UFC, and everyone was curious if the Renzo Gracie black belt was retired or just taking some serious time off from the sport.
Serra's career zig-zagged over 11 years with most of his fights taking place in the Octagon, but following his last bout against Chris Lytle in 2010, the writing was on the wall, and truth be told, he was okay if his career was at an end.
Like a lot of athletes, however, using the word "retirement" is almost taboo.
"It was like a couple of years ago after my fight with Chris Lytle, I just never felt the need to make it official," Serra told MMA's Great Debate Radio recently. "I've had a great career I feel. If you talk to somebody else, they can say whatever they want about you, but I'm pretty secure with what I've done and my fights. Win or lose, it's all experience, and it shapes the person you are and the instructor you are."
Most recently, it was a health scare that led to Serra's realization that his fighting career was most likely at its end. The Long Islander dealt with some serious blood clots that had formed after a vein was pinched between his collarbone and his ribs that resulted in restricted blood flow.
It sent Serra to the emergency room where he learned just how dangerous blood clots can be if they are not dealt with right away.
I went to the E.R. because your body can just tell you that something isn't right, besides looking like a mutant. So I went to the doctor, and they did an ultrasound and CAT scan, and they found the blood clots. It was really odd because I knew nothing about blood clots. It was kind of scary when I started finding out about it. Long story short, I was in the hospital for about four days. They did a procedure where they dissolved the (blood clots) that were in my arm and my bicep, they dissolved those. I've got to be on blood thinners for at least three months to get the one in my lung to dissolve that.
With two daughters at home and a third on the way, Serra knew that there were more important things to life than hanging on to a fight career that may not come back to life regardless of his current health situation.
So with that, Serra decided to close that door in his life but has no regrets in what he accomplished over the last decade.
"It's probably the last time you saw me in there," Serra revealed. "I'll probably be in there but in the corner somewhere. I have no regrets. What's that scene at the end of American Pie where they're like 'to the next step'? Onto to the next adventure."
The next adventure for Serra is actually the same path he's been on during his entire fighting career, and that's being an instructor to the students at his multiple academies all over New York. Before, during and after he was a UFC fighter, Serra was a dedicated teacher, and that passion never changed.
He's happy to be able to still give back to the next crop of UFC champions or the guy who walks in off the street after work hoping to learn some jiu-jitsu.
While his fighting career appears to be at a close, it is hard to ignore the "what if's" about one last dream match if he ever had the chance to do it. Serra's involves the UFC landing in his home state of New York with thousands of fans in attendance at Madison Square Garden.
In that fantasy, Serra only sees one possible opponent who would be standing across the Octagon from him.
"You know who I'd actually want to fight," Serra said before mentioning the name of his greatest rival in the UFC. "It's funny, too. Good old Matt Hughes. He brought up in an interview, too. Oh he'd love to jump out of retirement and do one more and he mentioned the guys who beat him and then he mentioned me. It's funny with Hughes, I think the guy wanted to go out on a win, and I think the guy actually thinks he could beat me or beat me again. Listen, we had a fun fight the first time, and you don't want to call out guys that are retired. That's awful. That seems like a bully, he was the bully, I wasn't the bully."
Serra and Hughes had one of the biggest rivalries over the years in the UFC and even coached opposite one another during a season of The Ultimate Fighter. They eventually met in the cage with Hughes coming out on top via decision in a Fight of the Night performance from both competitors.
Now both fighters are retired from the sport, although Serra still couldn't help himself to get one last jab in at Hughes before it's all said and done while taking a swipe at the former champion's new job at the UFC acting as an advisor to the current crop of fighters on the roster.
"I'm going to talk to the UFC to make up a job for me," Serra said with a laugh. "That's some bulls—t right there."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Lead image courtesy of sherdog.com.