MMP-14 and MMP-9 are two well-established cancer targets for which no specific clinically relevant inhibitor is available. Using a powerful combination of computational design and yeast surface display technology, we engineered such an inhibitor starting from a nonspecific MMP inhibitor, N-TIMP2. The engineered purified N-TIMP2 variants showed enhanced specificity toward MMP-14 and MMP-9 relative to a panel of off-target MMPs. MMP-specific N-TIMP2 sequence signatures were obtained that could be understood from the structural perspective of MMP/N-TIMP2 interactions. Our MMP-9 inhibitor exhibited 1000-fold preference for MMP-9 vs. MMP-14, which is likely to translate into significant differences under physiological conditions. Our results provide new insights regarding evolution of promiscuous proteins and optimization strategies for design of inhibitors with single-target specificities.