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Serra braces for barrage of boos

Any UFC opponent who steps into the Octagon with fan favorite Georges St. Pierre knows he will have the crowd against him.

But that dislike will be taken to a new level for welterweight champion Matt Serra on Saturday night.

Serra will take on St. Pierre, the interim champion, in the main event of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s first-ever card in Canada, a show to be held in St. Pierre’s hometown of Montreal.

“I have my trainers and my sparring partners boo me on a regular basis, so I’m getting ready mentally for it,” Serra joked during a recent teleconference.

Serra was an 11-to-1 underdog when he knocked out St. Pierre in April 2007 to win the title. He then suffered a serious back injury that didn’t allow him to defend the crown.

St. Pierre, meanwhile, scored a unanimous decision victory over Josh Koscheck, then dominated Matt Hughes in December to win the interim crown.

Now, St. Pierre and Serra will meet to unify the title.

Serra is excited to be a part of the UFC’s first foray into Canada.

“I think it’s going to be a historic event,” he said. “This is the first time ever in Canada and I’m in the main event, so how could I not be excited for that? This is history.”

While Serra will face the wrath of the hostile crowd, St. Pierre will have the added pressure of not wanting to let down his supporters.

“I’m at my best when I’m fighting under pressure, and I think (the crowd reaction) is going to give me a good, positive vibe to perform well.”

Rich Franklin will take on Travis Lutter in a middleweight contender match. Michael Bisping will compete for the first time as a middleweight, taking on Charles McCarthy.

MAYNARD INJURED IN WIN — Las Vegan Gray Maynard continued his impressive rise up the lightweight division with a unanimous decision victory over previously unbeaten Frank Edgar on the Ultimate Fight Night card in Denver on April 2, but he injured his right hand in the process.

Maynard is expected to be out about six weeks.

Also on the card, Kenny Florian put himself in prime position to fight for the lightweight title with a second-round technical knockout of Joe Lauzon.

Florian very well could fight the winner of the May 24 lightweight title match between champion B.J. Penn and former champ Sean Sherk, which will take place at the MGM Grand.

EMELIANENKO FIGHT CLOSE — A deal reportedly is close for Fedor Emelianenko to battle a former UFC heavyweight champion, a fight that has been anticipated and discussed for some time.

It just won’t be against Randy Couture.

Emelianenko still is widely considered the best heavyweight in the world, although he has not fought an elite-level heavyweight since defeating Mirko Cro Cop in 2005.

Couture is currently in litigation with the UFC, trying to get out of his contract. Among his reasons for doing so is his desire to fight Emelianenko.

But the fight currently in the works would have Emelianenko taking on Tim Sylvia in Dallas on July 19.

Sylvia lost his UFC title to Couture in March 2007, and recently opted out of his contract with the organization to sign with startup promotion Affliction.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or (702) 224-5509.

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