Whether you were a MMA fan before the sport showed up on Spike TV or became one shortly after Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar opened the world’s eyes, chances are you’ve been entertained by Jorge Rivera on numerous occasions. Never known for a boring fight or backing down from a challenge, the Massachusetts native has put together an impressive resume over the past decade en route to a 19-8 record stocked with strike-based stoppages.
The 39-year old’s next test comes this weekend at UFC 133 against Constantinos Philippou, a fighter who shares his passion for pugilism and backs it up with knockout power.
Rivera recently took some time to talk to Five Ounces of Pain about his bout with Philippou, the circumstances surrounding their match-up after original opponent Alessio Sakara withdrew due to injury, if a rematch with Michael Bisping is on his radar, and much more.
“Just disbelief,” Rivera responded when asked for his initial reaction to the news the Sakara scrap had once again fallen apart after two other failed attempts to pair the middleweights. “My manager called me up, told me about it, and I just didn’t believe him. I was like, ‘Oh sh*t,’ you know what I mean? And then the next question is, ‘Alright, now what do we do? Who do we fight next?’ And I had a couple of options and I thought out of all of those Philippou was most similar to Sakara so I didn’t have to change my preparation for the fight.”
The similarity in styles not only worked well in terms of training but, according to Rivera, should also lead to an entertaining in-ring affair on Saturday night.
“I think it’s gonna make for a good exciting fight. I don’t see him going for a double-leg or single-leg…if he does, so be it and I’ll deal with it then…but I see a good stand-up fight.”
However, just because he envisions the bulk of the bout involving fisticuffs doesn’t mean Rivera will be searching solely for a knockout even if scoring one would make him the first person to finish Philippou in his nine-fight career.
“I don’t put pressure on myself to knock a guy out – I just do what I do and the knockout will come,” said Rivera. “I want to finish the fight, but that’s the hardest way to get a knockout. That’ll just come when the opportunity presents itself. You don’t throw a punch thinking you’re going to knock him out, you just keep doing your job.”
This weekend’s bout will mark the first for Rivera in a little less than six months after a 2010 featuring a single showing and only four fights in the previous two years. Still, it’s clear his inactivity is not by choice, as “El Conquistador” explained, “The thing is, there are so many things that go into it. Your opponent gets hurt, you get hurt, or what’s available. It’s not always that you have a choice in the matter. If I can fight 3-4 times a year, hell yeah…I’ll do that. I’ll take what presents itself.”
“I’m taking it day by day,” he continued. “We’ll see how this fight goes. I mean I don’t know…I’m just living my life.”
On the subject of a second go with Bisping after their controversial clash in February, Rivera maintained a Zen outlook, saying, “I just handle my business and if we things go that way, fine, if they don’t, its fine. It is what it is. Either way it’s not the beginning or the end of my life. Obviously I’d love a rematch, but if it wasn’t meant to be, that’s cool.”
Rivera’s casual approach to things and appreciation for every moment is an attitude that’s developed as he’s gotten older and been given more perspective on the way the world works. One of the experiences undoubtedly shaping his perspective was the unexpected death of his oldest daughter, Janessa, on August 5, 2008.
Given the proximity of UFC 133 to the anniversary of her passing it’s understandable that the event means a bit more than a regular show might.
“I’ll definitely be thinking about her and she’ll be close to my heart. But beyond that I’ll be there, I’ll be ready to do my job, and I’ll be focused. Nobody needs to worry about that.”
When asked to impart some of the wisdom he has taken from the highs and lows of both his personal and professional life, Rivera replied, “Always believe in yourself, never give up, and remember there are six billion on this Earth and if God wanted us to be alone it would be just you (here).”
Rivera’s final message was to some of the people who have helped him throughout his career, yet another testament to his humility and overall character.
“Big shout out to Tim Burns Jiu-Jitsu, Peter Welch, and all my people from Massachusetts! I love those guys, I’ll never forget about them. Big shout out to Ranger Up and Alchemist Management. And for all the sponsors who’ve supported me over the years, thank you very much – I love you!”
Fans can catch Rivera’s latest Octagon offering on the PPV portion of the UFC’s stop in Philadelphia. Thirteen of his nineteen total wins have come via TKO including victories over Travis Lutter, Rob Kimmons, Kendall Grove, and Nate Quarry. He has also found past success against David Louiseau and Dennis Hallman.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC