Jorge Rivera (top) has gone the distance only once in his last 10 fights. | Photo: Dave Mandel
Jorge Rivera will face Constantinos Philippou in a featured middleweight matchup at UFC 133 “Evans vs. Ortiz 2” on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. After 27 fights -- including bouts with Rich Franklin and Anderson Silva -- the 39-year-old sounds like a man at peace with his place in the sport.
“I’ve enjoyed my career,” Rivera told Sherdog.com. “I’ve fought some of the best [fighters] in the world. I’ve never backed down from a fight, and that’s what I wanted to do when I first got into it. I wanted to fight in the premier league and to fight the best in the world. I’ve been able to do that, so I’ve accomplished what I wanted to do from the very beginning, and I had a real good time doing it. I’ve enjoyed the camaraderie and the friendships I’ve made over the years.”
At a point in his career when many of his peers have already walked away from the cage, Rivera still has some spring in his step. He turns 40 in February.
“I don’t know that I’ve slowed that much,” Rivera said. “I would say maybe [my age impacts my] recovery. It takes me a little longer to recover now, but I think what I lack in that area I gain in experience. I know how to train better. I know how to push my body but in a smarter way, where before I was reckless. I think it’s an even trade.”
Rivera last appeared at UFC 127 in February, when he succumbed to a second-round technical knockout against “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner Michael Bisping at the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia. The defeat halted his three-fight winning streak. Worse yet, in the immediate aftermath of their encounter, Bisping appeared to spit in the direction of one of Rivera’s cornermen.
“I was very disappointed,” Rivera said. “I don’t like losing.”
The Rivera-Bisping match was also marred by an illegal knee from the Brit in the first round, nearly resulting in a premature stoppage. Rivera elected to remain in the fight, perhaps to his detriment. Bisping ultimately finished him in round two, as he battered him with punches and knees against the cage. A final volley sent Rivera to one knee, and the referee intervened. Some have questioned the wisdom in his decision to move forward after the illegal strike.
“Hindsight’s 20/20,” Rivera said. “I did what I thought was the right thing to do. I think the only things I’ll regret in life are the things I didn’t do.”
Philippou, who moved up on the UFC 133 lineup as a late replacement for American Top Team’s Alessio Sakara, has never been finished as a professional. He made his promotional debut at UFC 128 in March, when he lost a unanimous decision to Nick Catone at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The 31-year-old trains under former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra and striking guru Ray Longo.
Rivera, who spent nearly two weeks training at Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts in Albuquerque, N.M., ahead of UFC 133, has no expectations beyond this particular bout.
“Right now, I’m taking it one fight at a time,” he said. “I’ll see how this fight goes and take it from there. I just want to compete and get the most out of it. I enjoy fighting for the fans. I enjoy the roar of the crowd. I enjoy competing, and that’s what I want to do until I don’t think it’s worth doing anymore, until I can’t do it anymore.”