Jimmie Rivera doesn’t see much upside to his next fight, but he still hopes to land a top-ranked opponent with a victory.
At UFC 247 on Feb. 8 in Houston, Rivera takes on Marlon Vera, a fighter who’s ranked seven spots behind him in the official UFC bantamweight rankings.
“The ‘Chito’ fight, I think it’s more of, there’s a lot more cons to the fight,” Rivera told MMA Junkie. “There’s a lot more benefit for him than there is for me, but on the other hand, I gotta go in there and obviously not take the fight lightly but gotta go in there and get a win, and try to get someone in the top five after.”
“I’m looking (for) a win over Chito to get me someone in the top five. Obviously it depends on performance but I’m looking for that top five.”
Rivera (22-4 MMA, 6-3 UFC) originally wanted to compete at UFC 244 in Madison Square Garden, but fights with Cody Stamann and Rob Font fell through, which caused him to miss out on the opportunity to fight in one of the world’s most famous arenas.
Instead, he will compete in Texas, the same state in which he last picked up a win, when he defeated John Dodson via unanimous decision at UFC 228.
“I really wanted to fight close to home,” Rivera said. “I really wanted to fight at MSG. I never got to fight at MSG so I’m a little upset that I didn’t get to do it. I love Texas, I love going there and fight. ”
The fight with Vera almost materialized almost three years ago, when Vera offered to step in on short notice after Rivera lost his initial opponent, Bryan Caraway, due to injury. But Rivera rejected the replacement offer, as he thought Vera was not ranked highly enough in the division.
Three years later, Vera is enjoying the best run of his UFC career. He has finished his last five fights as he draws his biggest opportunity to date in Rivera.
Despite the impressive streak, Rivera just doesn’t think that Vera has competed against the division’s best, or against anyone who possesses his style.
“I think he’s gotten better, but I’m not trying to be mean, but I’m not super impressed,” Rivera said. “When I look at his fights, I look at how he’s done, I also look at who’s styles are maybe similar to mine. I really look at the fights he’s had in the top 10 but one that pops up, I’ve watched a few times, is the Lineker fight.
“I gauge the competition a lot from who he fights, even though I’ve watched the other fights against Frankie Saenz, unfortunately the other guys I don’t remember their names, but I watched one fight and I believe it was a finish, but it was a lefty, so it’s a little different because I’m not a lefty.”
Rivera has lost three of his last four bouts, which followed a remarkable 20-fight unbeaten run that included wins over Pedro Munhoz and Urijah Faber.
His three losses came to top contender Marlon Moraes, where he suffered a quick knockout loss, a unanimous decision to Aljamain Sterling, and finally his most recent loss, a back-and-forth battle with Petr Yan at UFC 238.
While Rivera isn’t dwelling on the past too much, he proceeded to break down what he thinks went wrong in those losses.
“With that fight (Sterling), I think it’s really my fault,” Rivera said. “I went, I didn’t have the best weight cut and I never recovered from it well, and I could tell when I watched the fight again, it showed, and in the last fight with the Petr Yan fight, it was a tough fight to actually really swallow. I won 14 minutes and 30 seconds of the fight, and only lost 15 seconds in the first and 15 seconds in the second.”
“I mean obviously yeah, I got dropped, but I didn’t get rocked where I was out and laid back flat. I got hit with a good shot, which was a shot I didn’t see, and I got back up and kept scrambling so that fight was really tough. Really tough to kinda take in just because I lost a very little bit of the fight out of 15 minutes.”
Rivera has taken part in a few lackluster fights, but he puts that on his opponents, who he believes were often afraid to exchange. He’s had his fair share of entertaining wars though, with the likes of Munhoz, Iuri Alcantara and Thomas Almeida, who all stood in the middle and traded.
“All my fights, they’re either a war because the person wants to stay in the pocket and I like that, or they’re not as entertaining because it depends on who it is.”
With Vera, Rivera isn’t too sure what to expect, but he’ll be ready either way.
“I feel like it can go anywhere,” Rivera said. “If he wants to go down to the ground, I’m super comfortable there. If he wants to keep it standing, I’m super comfortable there so I feel like it really could go anywhere.”