Fun fact: back in the mid-90s or so, I trained at Craig Kukuk’s in Manhattan with a soon-to-be purple belt named Matt Serra. Matt, and his brother Nicky, were far and away the best guys there – really, the best guys in the Northeast, not counting Renzo Gracie and whatever other black- and brown belts would visit from Brazil.

Fast forward a few years and Matt was fighting in the UFC. Then he was on TUF, making a comeback from the edge of ignominy. Then he was knocking out Georges St-Pierre.

Man, what a ride Serra’s career has been. And now he’s going to be inducted into the UFC’s Hall of Fame.

Here’s the UFC’s official statement:

UFC® today announced that former UFC welterweight champion and winner of season four of The Ultimate Fighter®, Matt Serra, has been named to the UFC Hall of Fame class of 2018 as a Pioneer. The 2018 UFC Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place on Thursday, July 5, at Pearl Theatre inside the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. The event will be streamed live and exclusively on UFC FIGHT PASS®.

“Matt Serra is one of the most underrated mixed martial artists in UFC history,” UFC President Dana White said. “From winning the Ultimate Fighter, to becoming UFC welterweight champion with one of the biggest upsets in UFC history, and now coaching some of the sports top athletes, Matt’s lifelong dedication to combat sports is legendary. Matt fought on the second UFC event under Zuffa ownership in 2001, and today, he helps us find new and exciting talent, while also co-hosting UFC Unfiltered. Serra is a true pioneer, and we look forward to celebrating his career at the UFC Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in July.”

Serra, the first UFC athlete to win a The Ultimate Fighter and later become a UFC champion, will enter the UFC Hall of Fame as the 15th member of the Pioneer Era wing. The Pioneers Era category includes athletes who turned professional before November 17, 2000 (when the unified rules of mixed martial arts were adopted), are a minimum age of 35, or have been retired for one year or more.

“This is an honor to say the least,” said Serra. “I turned professional in 1999, during the dark ages when MMA was almost finished in the US. I didn’t become a mixed martial artist because there was a ton of money and fame to be had – there was none back then. I began competing in MMA because I love the sport, and that took me all the way to the UFC championship, and, now the UFC Hall of Fame. I love the sport as much as I ever did, and I couldn’t be happier or more honored right now.”