Rivera: "Don't count me out!"
Story by Andreas Hale
Jorge Rivera is no new kid on the block when it comes to battling inside of the Octagon. He’s banged with some of the sport’s finest over his eight-year career. Some nights have ended with his hand raised in victory while others have found him on the wrong side of the winner’s table.
His resume runs down a who’s who of top shelf MMA fighters. The names Anderson Silva, Rich Franklin, Travis Lutter, David Loiseau, Martin Kampmann and Kendall Grove are just a sample of the challenges that Rivera has taken on inside of the Octagon. On the outside however, life’s challenges are beyond any pain an arm bar or triangle choke can inflict on Rivera.
Last April, a close friend passed away after a motorcycle accident. Four months later he lost his 17-year-old daughter after a bad reaction to medication produced blood clots and an unfortunate fatal stroke. Rivera fought through the toughest pain in a spot where it hurts more than a broken limb - his heart. But he managed to make it through and returned to the Octagon to win his fight with Nissen Osterneck. At UFC 104 Rivera will step back into the cage for a fight with the battle tested Rob Kimmons.
“It feels good man,” the 37-year-old warrior says about being involved in UFC 104 after debuting back in 2003 at UFC 44 with a victory over David Loiseau. “It feels good to know that after all these years the UFC still wants you around.”
Although he may no longer be a middleweight title contender, Rivera is definitely no slouch. Nissen Osterneck had to learn that the hard way. The then 5-1 prospect was looking to put his name on the map against Rivera last April but ended up losing a split decision. Kendall Grove also looked to continue his post TUF winning streak but was badly battered and eventually knocked out by Rivera. The label of “gatekeeper” seems to be fitting, but according to Rivera, labels mean absolutely nothing.
“I don’t care what people call me,” he says about the label and his duty to keep the proverbial gates locked. “Call me paid at the end of the day. I don’t care about labels and all that. As long as I keep winning and moving forward, I don’t care! My only ambition in this game is to win. As far as keeping that gate locked, if I lose the gate is open. So the goal is to continue to win. If that means keeping fighters out, so be it.”
Some may be curious as to how much longer “El Conquistador” will continue to fight. The past few years have been especially difficult due to the issues outside of the Octagon. But Rivera explains that fighting is what he was meant to do - no matter what obstacles are put in his path.
“This is life,” he explains when asked how the loss of his daughter has affected him. “Nothing is guaranteed to any one of us. It’s up to us how we choose to deal with it. As far as my life in recent years, some have had it better and some have had it worse. I’m not going to sit there and cry about it. I have to move on with life. I gotta do what I have to do to maintain.”
This doesn’t mean that the thought of retirement hasn’t crossed his mind before. As a matter of fact, Rivera can remember the exact day when he first pondered quitting the fight game.
“September 22nd 2002,” he recalls. “I was fighting Travis Lutter. I had just gone through a divorce and I was spending all of my time in the fight game and it hadn’t paid off. If I didn’t win that fight I was done with the sport. I won that fight in a dramatic way. I saw it as a sign to continue fighting so I did so. It is what I was meant to do.”
Rivera does have a plan intact for when the time finally comes to hang his gloves up.
“I’m getting my own schools going and I’m going to get in the business of managing fighters. I’ve been around the fight game a long time and understand what it takes,” he says. Rivera also has plans to bring New England’s finest fighters and coaches together for a team like no other. Kenny Florian, Stephan Bonnar, Patrick Cote and Dale Hartt are a few of the fighters coming from the Boston area.
“I want to put a team together here in New England to represent worldwide. I think we have what it takes to be the best. We have some great striking coaches here. Some great jiujitsu and good wresting coaches.”
But without getting too far ahead of ourselves, Rivera must look at the opposition that will be across the Octagon come Saturday.
“I like his attitude and I like his approach to the game. He likes to bang out and I’ll meet him there,” he says about Kimmons. Kimmons last five victories have come all by submission but Rivera doesn’t seem to be concerned at all about his jiujitsu credentials.
“It’s all the same to me,” he explains. “I’ve beaten a lot of jiujitsu guys. I think his standup game is underrated. He’s solid and has some credentials with his kickboxing. To be honest with you I think if he stands up this is going to be a war.”
Rivera makes it clear during his interview that he’s not thinking about this fight being on the ground. He laughs at the mere mention of “takedown.” Instead, Rivera is looking to turn this into a brawl that the fans at Staples Center can appreciate.
“I don’t think its going to end in the first round but I think its going to be a knockout to be honest with you. One of us is getting knocked out in the late second, maybe third round,” Rivera states when asked his prediction.
“I hope Rob comes to bang out because I’m looking to bang out so I really hope so. I’ve seen Rob’s fights and I’ve seen where he is banging them out and they try to take him down so he gets the submission. I’m not looking to take him down. I’ll tell you that. So let’s see which one of us gets f*cked up!”
That’s the mentality of Jorge Rivera. As the warrior continues to tread through trying times, quitting is the furthest from his mind. No matter what the circumstances, Rivera makes it clear with one message to anybody who will listen.
“Just don’t count me out.”