Martial Arts Master Ray Longo Still Going Strong

Despite unfolding nearly 17 years ago, Matt Serra’s knockout win over Georges St-Pierre to capture the UFC Welterweight Championship is still regarded by most mixed martial arts fans as the biggest upset in the sport’s history.

Six years later, Chris Weidman broke Anderson Silva’s 17-fight winning streak — also by knockout fashion — to win the UFC Middleweight title.

Serra and Weidman’s triumphs share many similarities. The pair were heavy underdogs entering their respective bouts, both are Long Island natives, and both were coached by a pioneer of mixed martial arts and one of the greatest coaches the sport has ever seen: Ray Longo.

Longo, 65, a Queens native who now lives in Syosset, could have been an accountant his whole life. He graduated from St. John’s University in 1980 with an accounting degree before beginning his adult life working as an accountant.

But that didn’t last long. Longo balanced his work as an accountant with training fighters in boxing, kickboxing and mixed martial arts by night before retiring his calculator to devote all his time to martial arts.

If not for that decision, the sport would have been robbed of two of the most spectacular finishes in its history and three overall world champions, with possibly more to come.

“My theory in life was always find something that you would do for free and figure out a way to get paid for it,” Longo said. “I could’ve stayed with accounting and probably made more money, but I wouldn’t be happy.”

Longo is one of the owners and trainers of the Serra-Longo Fight Team, which operates between two gyms: Longo-Weidman MMA in Garden City and Serra BJJ Academy in Huntington. He and Serra formed the team decades ago, which has now developed into one of the more sought-after training spots for mixed martial artists. Once featuring predominantly Long Island natives, Longo is now responsible for fighters of all backgrounds.

“Build it and they will come,” Longo said. “We have every different nationality there is in here. With all the problems in the world, music [and] fighting brings the world together. Every person here, Russian, Georgian, they’re all great people. You give people a chance and they all get along.”

As a result of having a great mind for the sport and consequent success, Longo often appears in front of the public eye through podcasts and interviews. However, he is not and has never been an attention-seeker. Instead, he prefers that his accomplishments and name uplift the people around him.
“I got a call from an old friend of mine that said his daughter saw a picture of mine at Serra’s academy,” Longo said. “He told his daughter, ‘I know that guy really well, from like 40 years ago.’ She said, ‘do you think I can get a picture with him?’ Those are the things that make me happy.”

Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to his family.

“My kids [will] be out and someone will say, ‘wait, that’s not your father, is it?’” Longo said. “That I love. One of the greatest things, when my mother was alive, the electrician would come over and [say], ‘do you know Ray Longo?’ And she [would] say, ‘that’s my son’.”

Photos Courtesy of Ray Longo
Longo giving some advice to a fighter
Longo presenting at Matt Serra’s UFC Hall of Fame induction in 2018

Alex Pinsky Streinger is a reporter with The SBU Media Group, part of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism’s Working Newsroom program for students and local media.

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