Jorge Rivera is a lover, a poet, a "Conquistador."
At least that's what his "Jorge sings the 80s" video would have you believe.
In reality, the 39 year old veteran of 13 UFC fights is full of even more surprises than his funny YouTube videos. He was on a roll in the middleweight division with three straight victories before an illegal knee from Michael Bisping contributed to his TKO loss at UFC 127 this past February.
Now, over five months later, Rivera is back and he's not letting the third cancellation of a fight with Alessio Sakara get to him. Instead, he accepted a fight against undercard fighter Constantinos Philippou and will battle with his less experienced foe on the main card of UFC 133 this Saturday night (August 6, 2011).
Rivera has been going through many changes, and he discussed his new opponent, his goals for the rest of his career and his unique relationship with Ranger Up in this exclusive interview with MMAmania.com.
He explains his feelings on the Sakara cancellation after the jump.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): After this third time now that the Alessio Sakara fight has been cancelled due to an injury or some kind of strange occurrence, do you feel like the MMA Gods just do not want this fight to happen?
Jorge Rivera: Well that's a good way of putting it man. That's exactly how I feel. That's pretty much how I felt about it. It's just one of those things that may not be meant to be and I think it's the only fight in the UFC that they've tried to set up three times and it's fallen through three times. Maybe it's just one of those things that's destined to never happen you know?
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Are you more disappointed that your fight isn't happening or that your funny/trash-talking video about Sakara is kinda ruined now?
Jorge Rivera: (laughs) Oh man. Either way, I don't get too emotionally caught up in my opponents. I try to have fun with the videos but if the fight falls through, I'm just out there for guys that are looking to fight. So I have to focus the next guy who's stepping in line otherwise I'll get caught. That's what I'm focused on right now.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): At this point, would you even accept another fight with Sakara or have you just given up on that ever happening?
Jorge Rivera: I don't really have much of a say in that, you know what I mean? That's for them to decide. If they say, "let's do it one more time," alright then, let's go do it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I was wondering, did you have any time to make anything new for Constantinos Philippou?
Jorge Rivera: In all honesty, we tried something for Sakara and it was purposely done for him. If I have another opportunity for a different fighter who I felt I would benefit from it, then I think so. Everything is happening, I don't even know how to put it. To be even further honest with you, who knows? It's all about promoting the fight and having fun with it. No matter what I say, it doesn't really matter. We have to go meet each other in the cage and punch each other in the face either way. Whether we're friendly with each other or we hate each other, nothing's gonna change. You still have to go in there and do your job.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What do you really know about Philippou at this point? He's a bit of a newcomer.
Jorge Rivera: He's got good boxing, he's done some work with professional boxing. As much as I've seen on him, he's got a good right hand, a good left hook and a good, tight, inside left hook too. He's similar to Sakara in the manner that he's a good stand-up fighter. I think probably with a little more power than Alessio at least from what I've seen on video but it looks like he still needs to work some more on his wrestling and jiu-jitsu. I know he's training over at Matt Serra's so I assume they're addressing that.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you feel, in a way, that this fight is even more dangerous because he's this young gun with something to prove?
Jorge Rivera: Sure. I'm sure he's gonna want to make the most of his opportunity.
Jorge Rivera: Yeah it was the first time I'd ever been out there. I had a great experience. I want to give a big thank you to Ranger Up for getting me out there and Tim Kennedy and everyone over at Jackson MMA, Greg Jackson, thank you very much.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Did they help you with the gameplanning at all or was that more something from back home?
Jorge Rivera: I worked back home with Tim Burrill and Peter Welch. They didn't help me with the gameplanning at Jackson's, they just helped me push and Tim Kennedy gave me some great strength and conditioning, great sparring, everything you could have imagined so thank you so much to those guys.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Are you happy that this fight is still on the main card even though Sakara dropped off and they're bringing on a guy in Philippou that people don't really know yet?
Jorge Rivera: Yeah, most certainly. In all honesty, I'm just happy to be fighting, man. I'm happy to have my health and be doing what I love to do. I'm grateful for that.
Jorge Rivera: No, I believe that Strikeforce and the UFC are both unified now so one covers the other. They won't be able to sponsor me for this fight. Either way, they're still my guys. I love those guys and as much as I can help them, I will.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I want to talk about that relationship a bit. Tim Kennedy said you have "Ranger Up" tattooed on your leg. I want to know a little bit more about your relationship with those guys. It seems like they've really been big supporters of yours.
Jorge Rivera: They most certainly have. They've helped me personally and they've helped my career as well. They've been more than a sponsor to me, they've been family. They've helped me get through some real hard times. I am really grateful for that. I'm thankful for everything they've done for me. They've been the inspiration behind those videos, they've been out there pushing my name as a fighter and as a person and I've known them forever. I'm eternally grateful and I'm very, very happy for my relationship with Ranger Up.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've heard a rumor when I was down at Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Fedor this weekend that you might be doing a duet with Tim Kennedy. Is there any truth to that?
Jorge Rivera: (laughs) It might be happening. We'll have to wait and see.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Aww, come on Jorge, don't leave me hanging!
Jorge Rivera: Honestly, it's something that may be in the works. I can't comment on it. If it happens, you'll definitely know. It'll be fun. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): On a more serious note, you had a nice three fight win streak and now you're coming off of a tough controversial loss. What kind of goals do you still have? At 39 years old, what do you really want to achieve in the remainder of your UFC career?
Jorge Rivera: Right now I just want to go out and have some good fights. I want to have some great fights for the fans. They're paying money to see this fight and I'm hoping I can deliver on that. That's just what I'm doing right now, just going out there and testing myself, see where I stand and enjoying my time. Like I said before, I love doing this so that's what I'm doing it for.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): After your fight with Nate Quarry, Joe Rogan said it was the best performance of your entire career. Do you feel that you're still improving?
Jorge Rivera: Absolutely. Even at my age, I feel like MMA is a thing for life. You continue to learn for life and it applies to life on a daily basis. I think that you've got to look at a mass of the whole game, you've got to constantly be learning and the second you think you've got a grasp on it, it's gonna flip on you. New things are going to keep coming up, new techniques, new everything. It's something that's gonna be happening for life.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): The last question I've got for you Jorge is, in a dream scenario, how would you like this fight with Philippou to finish on Saturday night?
Jorge Rivera: I would love to walk up, touch gloves, throw one punch and knock him out and go home. (laughs). Get knockout of the night and go home. There's nothing that could beat that.
Jorge would like to thank Ranger Up and everyone associated with Ranger Up, Alchemist Management, Lex McMahon, Tim Kennedy, Greg Jackson, Tim Burrill, Peter Welch, Matt Finney and all the fans that have supported him over the years.
So will Rivera bounce back against his unheralded foe on Saturday night? Or will the upstart Philippou pull off what would be the biggest win of his young career?