For Ray Longo and Matt Serra, flying from Las Vegas back home to New York was smooth and fast. Flying on Cloud 9 does that for a person. After their successful weekend, it was both time, and good to get back home. Back to where it is all centered. Plus, for all the excitement, there were also moments “like riding an emotional roller coaster” according to Longo.
Two of their guys, guys from The Island, had shaken up the UFC again. Nothing new. Ray trained Matt, who pulled off what still might be the biggest upset in MMA history, a TKO of Georges St. Pierre for the belt in 2007. If that wasn’t the biggest shocker, another Longo trainee, Chris Weidman did it when he knocked out the greatest fighter ever Anderson Silva for the title, then beat him in the rematch. Serra was there for both working with Ray and Chris, ’cause they are friends, and they are neighbors, and in the area jutting out east from New York City that means a lot, everything practically.
Garden City, Long Island is that picturesque place, that except for the accents, could fit in some Southern setting or Midwestern location. A place where family and friendship matters most. People look out for one another and celebrate the good fortunes of a neighbor, while busting his chops at the same time occasionally. It is not immediately thought of along the lines of New Mexico, Southern California, South Florida or Vegas as a hot bed for MMA stars relatively speaking.
It’s been on the map, 1 Commerical Avenue in Garden City, but the dot keeps growing, ironically, in the only state that bans MMA. Expansion is underway next door. More fighters are lining up to go along with private sessions, Longo enjoys working with people wanting to train, to stay in shape.
“We’re still a Mom and Pop operation and I don’t want to lose that feel. But we are expanding. I’ m concentrating on getting ready for the big shows coming up, that’s the priority. At the same time we simply needed more room”
It’s here at Longo’s gym, the unassuming Weidman has trained for countless hours since turning pro after an All American wrestling career at Hofstra, which was preceded by an All American turn at Nassau Community College. He is Mister Long Island. And it was here a few years back, that Eddie Gordon, the former Fordham football player who incredulously, at the time, quit a job on Wall Street to come train here at the urging of Weidman.
Weidman’s impressive control of former champ Lyoto Machida silenced any who still wondered, perhaps unable to comprehend the once incomprehensible that Silva would ever lose much less twice, how deserving a champ he is, earning Fight of The Night honors. Twenty-four hours later, Gordon was pummeling Dhiego Lima for a first round TKO and The Ultimate Fighter middleweight title, generating appropriate talk for all who saw of him becoming the next big thing in the sport.
“It was the first time I’ve had back-to-back dramatic, important fights. Chris solidified he is one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world. He handled Lyoto like I don’t think anyone but us expected. And then Eddie was a beast he just crushed it, knocked it out of the park.”
Longo is happy for those performances and just as happy to be home, with his family and friends. At his “Mom and Pop” gym that has more talented young fighters showing up with dreams of being the next local hero who has made good. It’s the perfect place and getting bigger.
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