Jimmie Rivera is one of the most highly regarded bantamweights outside of the UFC.
"El Terror" trains out of Team Tiger Schulmann in the New York area and has quietly compiled a solid 9-1 record as a professional which includes his current eight fight winning streak.
After a failed attempt to get on The Ultimate Fighter season 14 as an undersized featherweight (losing a tough bout to eventual finalist Dennis Bermudez), Rivera has gone back to work at his current role, the reigning defending Ring of Combat bantamweight champion.
The talented young fighter is slated to defend his title against Joel Roberts tomorrow night (Sept. 14, 2012) in the main event of Ring of Combat 42 in Atlantic City, New Jersey and he spoke to MMAmania.com about his current goals, what he's learned in a difficult past year and how he expects to handle Roberts tomorrow night in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Jimmie Rivera: (laughs) You know what? I looked pretty good getting my ass kicked so it's pretty high right now.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): People have got to be questioning your takedown defense after seeing that right?
Jimmie Rivera: There's a lot of stuff they cut out of that. My takedown defense is still good, I promise. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): That must have been fun though, a nice change of pace from the grind of training.
Jimmie Rivera: They did that about a month ago, mid August and I wasn't even supposed to be the one that was gonna fight her. Louis Gaudinot wussed out on it so I was like, "all right, I'll do it." It ended up being a pretty good workout. That first round she was very timid when she hit me and by the end she was trying to knock my head off.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've got your next title defense coming up for Ring of Combat. How does it feel to be going out there and being active again? You really haven't been the most active the last couple of years due to The Ultimate Fighter, cancellations and other factors.
Jimmie Rivera: You know what? It feels good. I'm not gonna lie. I didn't have that much of a break for this fight between June and September but it feels good. I'm trying to get up there. Everybody's goal and my goal is to get up to the UFC and I'm trying to be active where I get a lot of fights and get up there and do it. I was supposed to fight a couple times after The Ultimate Fighter and the fights fell through or someone got injured.
It was kind of depressing being delayed. One fight, I was supposed to fight in November and they called the day before to say he was out, the day before weigh-ins. They even tried 4-5 people as a replacement and there was no one. It does suck. With my status now, 9-1, and learning a lot about myself, things I've worked on and perfected in my game, it was a big deal. Even on The Ultimate Fighter, I did really well in that first round against Dennis Bermudez. He caught me in the second, but that's MMA. Anything can happen.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You said you learned about yourself, can you talk about some specific things you learned about yourself in detail?
Jimmie Rivera: What people don't know about The Ultimate Fighter is you go out there for six weeks and of course you have to fight to get in the house and you're basically fighting a fight where you don't know anything about the other guy. You haven't got the research or anything like that. You also have no coaches there. Well, there are coaches but you just met them for 5-10 minutes, they know nothing about you and that's it. It's just a fight with you against someone else and you have to trust your instincts and go with what you know.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Considering that you've had so much success at bantamweight, do you have any regrets at all that you competed on the show as a featherweight? Was that just something you were doing because it would be easier to make weight for the extent the of the show if you had advanced?
Jimmie Rivera: Yeah, it's a lot easier to make weight. Plus Louis was at 135 that season and of course I didn't want to fight Louis in the finals. I did it too because you have to be professional about everything. This is a sport just like any sport. You have to act the part. You're in a professional sport. This is the big leagues. I didn't want to miss weight because you had to make weight whenever they say.
There are guys on the show who fought and they made him fight again a couple days later and he had to drop about 15-20 pounds. I didn't want to be the guy constantly dropping that much weight and going into the fight and being dead. I wanted to be able to push myself and the person I was fighting. I actually got questioned a couple times from the people on Spike that did The Ultimate Fighter, "Are you sure you don't want to go to 135?" and I sat down, thought about it, spoke to my family and coaches about it and said, "I think I'll stay at 145."
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now you've got your title defense against Joel Roberts. This guy is a pretty nasty submission fighter. He's on a nice five fight winning streak, submitted all five of his opponents with a couple pretty solid victories mixed in there over east coast guys like Scott Heckman. Is the ground game your biggest concern against him?
Jimmie Rivera: I'm really comfortable everywhere. I try not to be one of those fighters that focus on just one thing. I'm always trying to round out everything. I go into wrestling practice and jiu-jitsu practice and roll with the best people in all facets. I don't think I have a weakness in my grappling or anything.
I have this new outlook when I go into fights because my last fight was against Justin Hickey who's a very, very tough fighter and I saw tape of him where he was wild, crazy, not picking punches or looking for certain stuff and I was fully expecting a wild crazy guy when I went out there against him. Instead, he was picking punches, had good boxing and looked good at everything. He had evolved into a completely different fighter and after that first round, I had to change up my gameplan because I was going at someone who's different than what I thought.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Is there a reason you were trying to get another fight so quickly after your last one?
Jimmie Rivera: I'm trying to get the pace going, get some more fights. I was out for a year with stuff falling through. You can only go into this sport until you're a certain age. Just like baseball and football, there's a small window for even the best of athletes. I want to get in as much as I can now so when I look back, I can say I did everything possible to make the best impact I could. I don't want to keep postponing stuff.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Is there any pressure to not just win, but win impressively to gain that attention and perhaps the eyes of a company like the UFC?
Jimmie Rivera: I'm always trying to put on exciting fight. I'm always looking for the finish whether it's standing or on the ground with a submission. I just want to get in there and put on the most exciting fight I can. You think no one's pushing the pace in some fights but I always want to push the pace and go balls out.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Is there anything you can take from some of your teammates like Nick Pace and Louis who have UFC experience?
Jimmie Rivera: Those are my training partners. We're the lightweight guys here at Team Tiger Schulmann so I get to see what they go through. When I go out there, I'm not gonna be brand new at it. What they do at the fights, we all do the same training going out there, watching tapes of fighters, this and that and I try not to make the same mistakes they did in the fights and learn from my own mistakes as well. As you get older, you become a little more open minded to a few things. I'm not afraid to try new things.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Can you cite an example of something you were stubborn about before but over time have accepted as a benefit to your game?
Jimmie Rivera: Definitely cutting weight. In my first few fights, I fought at 150. My first fight, I won and in my second fight, I lost a split decision. It was at 150 and I showed up on fight night at 152-153 and he was like 170 pounds. He looked completely different than he did at the weigh-ins. I learned the hard way about cutting weight. That's definitely a loss I'd like to have back. I was not an expert at cutting weight. I missed it once when I first started and that's something you just have to learn. I learned the hard way. That's definitely something that was a learning experience for me. I learned from those mistakes.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): There are a lot of ritual and superstition in mixed martial arts. Do you have anything in particular that you need to do before your fights?
Jimmie Rivera: Honestly, I'm very OCD. Everything has to be right. I have to make sure my training is the same and I've done everything I can do get in the best shape. It's the same ritual when I cut weight. Once I get a pattern of success, I like to keep it the same and not change it up. Going to The Ultimate Fighter and changing up coaches, it was like a big deal that I kept to myself. It was so strange going in there with someone backing me that I've known for five minutes instead of the coaches I've known for 10 years. There's a price I paid for that. I don't have crazy rituals like not showering or anything but I like to keep the same pattern when I'm getting ready for a fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you're thinking about this upcoming fight against Joel Roberts, how would you envision the perfect victory to be?
Jimmie Rivera: The perfect victory would be either a knockout but it would be even better to get a submission. He's a big submission guy with all his wins except for one being submission. It's an impressive feat to beat a guy where he's the best. If I could go down there and beat him where he's best on the ground, I would be super, super happy.
Jimmie would like to thank his coaches, Team Tiger Schulmann and the fans. You can follow Jimmie on Twitter @JimmieRivera135.