Jorge Rivera may never be mentioned in the same sentence as the greats of mixed martial arts, but if you look down a record that includes the names Anderson Silva, Rich Franklin, Travis Lutter, David Loiseau, Chris Leben, Martin Kampmann, Michael Bisping, Dennis Hallman, Nate Quarry, and Kendall Grove, just to name a few, it would be hard to find a fighter who has been more willing to test himself against the top middleweights in the game than “El Conquistador.”
“I fought Anderson, I fought Rich, I fought Lutter, Loiseau, Leben – you name them, I fought them, and I never turned down a fight,” said Rivera. “When I first started fighting, that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to say at the end of the day that I fought all these people. I can say that now, and I feel privileged and honored to say that. I’ve won some and I’ve lost some, but just to be able to say that I was good enough to compete with these guys at this level makes my day.”
This willingness to put it all on the line night in and night out has garnered Rivera respect from his peers and an ever-growing fanbase. On Saturday, August 6th, he returns to the Octagon to face Alessio Sakara.
David Loiseau – UFC 44 – September 26, 2003
Result – Rivera W3
On a seven fight win streak, Montreal young gun David Loiseau blasted out of the gate in the UFC with a first round knockout of Mark Weir at UFC 42. Expected to do the same to the debuting Rivera (5-1 at the time), Loiseau came out fast and took the first round, cutting the New Englander with some of the best elbows in the game. But over the next two rounds, Rivera showed the heart that would come to define him, almost finishing “The Crow” in the final round as he pounded out a close, but unanimous, three round decision win.
Lee Murray – UFC 46 – January 31, 2004
Result – Murray Wsub1
Just as Loiseau’s quick UFC start got a rude stop in fight number two, Rivera’s perfect Octagon record got evened up in a hurry by the UK’s Lee Murray, a debutant who was getting a lot of attention for a street brawl with Tito Ortiz after UFC 38. Expecting Murray to be a one-dimensional banger, Rivera took his foe to the mat and figured he would have his way with him. 1:45 later though, Murray sunk in a triangle choke and Rivera tapped.
“That was a fluke, I just underestimated the kid,” said Rivera a few years back, but regardless of the circumstances, the upset loss killed the momentum built up by his impressive win over Loiseau four months earlier, and it was back to the drawing board for the Massachusetts native.
Rich Franklin – UFC 50 – October 22, 2004
Result – Franklin Wsub3
Following the loss to Murray, Rivera picked up two wins outside the Octagon before getting a return call to take on rising star Rich Franklin. It was without a doubt one of Franklin’s toughest early bouts, and in the back-and-forth clash, you could even make the argument that Rivera was winning (or at least even) as the bout entered the final round. But it was in that final round that a bloodied Franklin pulled away, as he used his ground and pound to set up a finishing armbar with 32 seconds left.
Anderson Silva – Cage Rage 11 – April 30, 2005
Result – Silva TKO2
Before he began his record-shattering reign in the UFC, current middleweight champ Anderson Silva took his show on the road with fights in Hawaii, Japan, and in England, where he competed for the Cage Rage organization. His second bout there was against Rivera, and while Silva was in control throughout as he showed off the devastating knees that would eventually earn him the UFC’s 185-pound title, Rivera didn’t back down against “The Spider”, and he gave a gutsy effort before being halted in the second round.
Edwin Dewees – TUF4 Finale – November 11, 2006
Result – Rivera TKO1
Throughout the rest of 2005 and into early 2006, Rivera won four of five fights, going 1-1 in the UFC with a win over Dennis Hallman and a loss to Chris Leben. But it was his stint on season four of The Ultimate Fighter that was going to determine where his career would eventually end up. Rivera wouldn’t win the show, but he did get a fight on the finale card against Edwin Dewees, and with his UFC career basically on the line, he delivered an emphatic one round TKO win that gave him new life in the Octagon. He has not fought outside of the organization since.
Nissen Osterneck – UFC Fight Night – April 1, 2009
Result – Rivera W3
The win over Dewees was followed by a 14 second knockout loss against Terry Martin that shattered his jaw and put him on the shelf for nearly a year. When he returned against Kendall Grove in January of 2008, he knocked out the TUF3 winner in 80 seconds, but again showed his erratic ways when he was submitted by Martin Kampmann five months later. Then came the most crushing blow of all when his daughter Janessa tragically passed away in August of 2008.
When he picked up his fighting career in April of 2009, Rivera was still dealing with the effects of this tragedy, and yet he carried on.
“It’s something I struggle with every single day,” said Rivera. “Some days are better than others. Some days it tears me down, and other days I use it to fuel me. But it’s not something I’ll ever get over, and it’s something I deal with on a daily basis.”
The verdict that night in Nashville may have been a split decision in Rivera’s favor, but really, Osterneck never had a chance against the emotional and motivated Rivera, who channeled his grief into a compelling performance that may one day be looked at as his greatest victory.
Nate Quarry – UFC Fight Night – March 31, 2010
Result – Rivera TKO2
The Osterneck bout kicked off a career resurgence for Rivera, who has learned not to let the “little things” affect him anymore.
“I think I cared too much about winning and losing before,” he said. “Not that I don’t care about it now, but I want to perform now. I want to put on a great fight and I want people to talk about it. I want to win every time by finishing my fights. I want the fans to go nuts.”
They have been. Rivera’s next bout after Osterneck was a punishing third round finish of Rob Kimmons in October of 2009, and then in March of 2010 he turned what was expected to be a Fight of the Year candidate into a one-sided blasting of Nate Quarry. It’s been an unlikely comeback, but a fun one to watch, and despite a UFC 127 loss to Michael Bisping, a win over Sakara will put him back in the 185-pound mix.
“I think it’s a story that a lot of people can relate to,” said Rivera. “In life we all have our struggles and it’s how we handle them and how we persevere. I’m flattered, I’m grateful, and I appreciate all the love and the fanfare, I really do. We’re in this life together and I acknowledge that, and I need people around me. I appreciate the love and I want it, and I want to reciprocate it to everybody who gives it to me. We’re all human, we all experience the same things, we all feel the same things, and we all want the same things. I think once we acknowledge that, we push forward to a higher level.”