Retired UFC Middleweight Jorge Rivera Says Champ Anderson Silva Has His Work Cut Out For Him
By Tom Taylor
It’s been almost three months since Jorge Rivera announced his retirement. On January 20th, at UFC on FX 1, the former UFC middleweight blasted Eric Schafer with a barrage of punches, scored a TKO win, and walked out of the UFC’s octagon for the final time.
He is no longer a professional cage fighter, but MMA is still woven deeply into his life, keeping him as busy as ever. And while the spotlight may not follow him as closely as it once did, Rivera took time out of his schedule to speak with Full Contact Fighter about his life after fighting so far.
Since that final fight, Rivera says his retirement has been excellent and that he believes he retired for the right reasons.
“I was getting too old, man. Other than the money, I didn’t see any reason to be fighting anymore,” he said, citing his feeling that his career had run its course. “If my heart and soul aren’t into it, what do I do?” he continued.
It was most certainly a long and fruitful career—one that saw him enter the cage with legends like Anderson Silva and Rich Franklin, as well as other notables such as David Loiseau, Chris Leben, Kendall Grove, Michael Bisping, and The Ultimate Fighter Season 1 veteran, Nate Quarry, whom Rivera pummelled into retirement.
The win over Schafer, though, was the culmination. While Rivera spent some time on his back during the fight’s first round, he rallied in the second, brutalizing Schafer and scoring a TKO victory 1:31 into the second frame.
Despite the rough first round, the decisive ending was exactly the kind of exit from the sport that he had hoped for.
“It felt great. It’s the way I always wanted to go out,” Rivera said of the win. Having achieved his goal of retiring in the wake of an impressive victory, Rivera can now focus on other things. Where his days were once filled by the frequent and rigorous training that is required to excel in MMA at the elite level, they are now filled with work of a different kind.
“I’m working man, I’m working a lot,” he said, explaining that a retirement from professional fighting does not imply an exit from the work world. Rivera now runs his own gym, Rivera MMA, in Milford, Massachusetts. “I’m trying to set up my gym right now. I’ve got a family to take care of. I work a lot.”
His career as a fighter spanned nearly eleven years, and, should he have opted to continue fighting professionally after his battle with Schafer, it would now be almost time for his next fight. Given this, Rivera admits it has been somewhat difficult to turn off the internal clock he developed that tells him it’s time to compete again.
“You know, I watch the guys fight out here, and I miss it. I enjoy that competition,” he explained. But while he misses certain aspects of his former career, he says he will not stray from his choice to retire.
“I’m not thinking about fighting again. Even when I feel like I watch these guys do their thing, and I want to do it again—I don’t want to,” he said, hesitating for a moment before continuing, “I’m cool, man, I’m cool. I’m done fighting.”
Throughout his long career, Rivera says he has achieved everything he hoped for. While his wins were never rewarded with a middleweight title shot, he says he is free of regrets.
Even his three cancelled bouts with rival striker Alessio Sakara do not disappoint him. His long career was riddled with knockout victories and exciting fights—something he is proud of, and rightly so.
“I did this because I loved it. I got to fight in the UFC. That was the main goal. I got paid for awhile, and I got to fight some of the best fighters in the world. I had a great time. I enjoyed it. How many people have gotten to do what I got to do?”
Retired or not, his long-time role in the UFC’s middleweight division does make him an interesting commentator. Rivera doubts that there are challengers in the middleweight division likely to dethrone the reigning champion, Anderson Silva.
He does believe, however, that Silva will have his work cut out for him in the future.
“There are always people there, you know. As far as chances right now, there’s Vitor Belfort. His rematch coming up with Chael [Sonnen] is going to be a tough fight for him.” Rivera said. While he wouldn’t offer an official prediction for Silva’s title fight with Sonnen, he did offer some speculation.
“I think Anderson’s the man. It’s going to be tough to beat him. He’s the best fighter in my opinion right now and he’s going to be tough to beat.
With his fighting career now behind him, Rivera looked back and summarized what it was that he loved about it, and what led him to participate in 29 cage fights over a span of eleven years.
“It was many things. It was a combination of things. It was the fans, and the competition. It was everything.”