Jorge Rivera parlayed his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter: The Comeback into an extended UFC career that’s seen him win five of his last eight fights, get booked for two co-main event bouts at UFC pay-per-view events and open up his own gym in his hometown of Milford, Massachusetts. All in all, not bad for a guy who’d already fought the likes of Rich Franklin, Chris Leben and Anderson Silva in a five-year career before the show.
However, Rivera’s experience with Michael Bisping that culminated in a TKO loss at UFC 127 bore a certain similarity to his experience in the TUF house. He was able to entertain the fans (as he did when he mocked Shonie Carter in a memorable skit), but as in his TUF 4 middleweight quarterfinal bout against Patrick Côté, he couldn’t come away with the victory.
Still, at 39, Rivera has carved out a place of respect for himself in the UFC’s middleweight division, and he took time this week to speak with UltimateFighter.com and Bleacher Report:
Just for starters, what’s the process been like of putting the fight behind you and getting ready to move on to whatever’s next?
It’s been alright. I’m a little disappointed with the fight and whatnot, but I’m not going to get too down on myself for it, I’m just going to try to focus on what’s next.
Having opened up your own gym, does that make it easier to move on and put the fight behind you, because you have to take care of your business at home?
Life goes on. I’ll take this for what it is, try to learn from it, see what I did right and wrong and move on. Life goes on.
Does the fact that Bisping hit you with that illegal knee make it easier or harder to handle the loss, or is every loss hard no matter what happens?
Every loss sucks. It doesn’t matter.
When you said you could continue (after the illegal knee), did you feel like you could win the fight at that point?
I just knew what was at stake. Before the fight, we had made those videos, and the majority of the people who were there wanted to see that fight. It’s just not how I wanted that thing to end.
On the conference call before UFC 122, I asked you about how you value entertaining the fans versus winning and moving up in the ranks, and you said that the two parts go together. But, if you were earlier on in your career, and looking to establish yourself, would you have made the same decision to continue in that fight?
Honestly, I think I would do the same thing all the time. I don’t know. I just knew I didn’t want that fight to end like that.
I know that you’re not necessarily thinking about it this way at the time, but what is it that makes having the fight end that way, on the illegal move, worse than losing the fight the way you did?
The way I look at it was—I don’t know how long I was down or whatever—but that fight is probably the most anticipated fight on that card. We had talked a lot of smack about giving the people this fight, doing this, that or the other, and I know that that’s not how people want to see these fights end. And I know that. It is what it is.
Have you had any second thoughts about how you built the fight up, how intense everything got between you and Bisping? If you had it to do over again, would those videos still have made their way out there?
You know, some people didn’t like them, they thought it was in poor taste. Some people thought they were funny. We needed to promote that fight, get people interested in what we do. If people like them, cool. If they don’t like them, that’s cool too. I’m going to come and do my job, I promise you that. No matter what could happen, I’m going to give you a fight. When I got to that fight, people were excited to see one of us get our ass kicked. [laughs] That’s what’s up.
The videos reminded me a bit of when you were on The Ultimate Fighter, and you did the “Phonie Carter” skit. Is there any connection for you, doing the skit making fun of Shonie in the house, and you made these videos making fun of Bisping? The other promotional stuff you’ve done didn’t make fun of your opponents much; it was more just being funny, like the a capella video before UFC 122. Is there something Bisping and Shonie Carter have in common that make you want to make fun of them?
We just thought that we could get under in his skin, and it worked to the point where he couldn’t control his anger. That was the whole point of it all.
Is there something about Michael Bisping where you thought you could get under his skin, where you weren’t as interested in getting under the skin of Nate Quarry or Alessio Sakara or anybody else?
I don’t know. It’s just one of those things. The thought process was that we could get under his skin, and get him out of his mental state.
That said, with the recall to “Phonie Carter” and your time in the house, what impact would you say The Ultimate Fighter had in allowing you to stick around as long as you have?
I'm grateful for everything that I've had. The Ultimate Fighter was a great experience. I've learned a lot from it, and I'm very grateful that I was a part of it. I'm grateful that I've been able to stay in the game as long as I have, and I've had fun with it. I'm very happy with the things I have. I wish I had better things, but I'm very happy and I'm grateful.