Serra, along with brother Nick, currently runs three highly-successful BJJ academies in Long Island. Serra and his wife Ann, have two daughters, Angelina, 4, and Maria, 2, with a third due in June.
Mark La Monica of Long Island's Newsday has the story.
Matt Serra was cornering one of his fighters at Ring of Combat in Atlantic City on April 5, when he felt a pain that would put him in the emergency room for four days, lead to the surgical removal of one of his ribs and now, and cause his exit from mixed martial arts competition.
"It's hard to say it," Serra told Newsday. "It's like you can't say it, even though it probably is true. I would love to put closure on my career with one last fight at (Madison Square) Garden, but at the same time, if that doesn't happen, I definitely consider myself done. It's hard to say the 'R word.' I might never say the 'R word.'"
"I really think I'm walking away," he said. "I'm going to be 39, I just had my rib taken out. I'm having my third kid. My schools are doing well. What am I doing, looking for another pay day? It's not really for that. I mean, it doesn't stink, but it's not really for that. Am I still trying to hold on for the glory? Glory is a drug, dude. I'm telling you, that's the problem. It really is. I know why guys can't walk away. I absolutely get it."
Serra first felt pain in his left arm after a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training session at one of his academies two days before the Ring of Combat event. He figured he had just pulled a muscle.
He came home to Massapequa after the fights. The pain never left. It intensified. Serra couldn't bend his arm. He couldn't lift his hand to touch his neck. He got out of bed around 2 a.m. and drove to the emergency room at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola. Tests revealed two blood clots in his arm and another in his lungs.
"Then I got freaked out," Serra said. "You don't catch that [and] after the lung, that stops your heart or your brain. Then you're done. I'm very fortunate to, basically, be here. Sounds kind of morbid. If I didn't catch that -- I was about to go to bed. I'm like, man, something's not feeling right."
Serra was put on blood thinners to address the clot in his lungs. He must now inject himself in the stomach with Lovenox, an anticoagulant, every day for the next three months.
The clots in his arm created a significant health issue as well. Serra's collarbone and first rib were compressing a blood vessel and restricting blood flow, a condition known as thoracic outlet syndrome. Serra had the first rib on his left side removed in early May, a procedure performed by Dr. George Hines, chief of vascular surgery at Winthrop. Hines estimated that Winthrop does about six of these surgeries a year.
"They had to cut me open through my armpit and cut through whatever they had to cut through and get my rib out," Serra said. "It's definitely strange and I'm feeling it in there."
Doctors told Serra he would need six to eight weeks just to recover from the rib removal. A month or so after that, Serra is expected to no longer need to take blood thinners and can resume active jiu-jitsu teaching and training.
"I need my jiu-jitsu, man," Serra said. "I don't need to spar. I don't need to kickbox or box every day. Even if you see me with some pasta, I'm still strangling and arm-locking people at least five days a week and I need that."
Serra could not bring himself to actually say the word "retire," but his active MMA career is essentially over. Serra last fought Sept. 25, 2010, a unanimous-decision loss to Chris Lytle at UFC 119. He turns 39 next month and doesn't want to be one of those athletes who hangs around too long.
"An aging fighter?" Serra said. "You know, it's like an aging stripper, but not as funny. Not a lot of people want to see that."
"I know I can be beat by some of these guys, but I know I can still knock some of these guys out and be a threat on the ground. But at the same time, it used to be that the thing that made me happiest was the next fight. Now, I whistle to work going to my schools. I love hanging out with my kids, my family. That's something you never really anticipate or understand it until you have a family. I love spending time with my girls. I'm a very involved dad."
"Angelina is already arm-locking me, and I have her teaching Maria. They're doing it on the teddy bears. It's awesome."