By Danny Segura |
June 10, 2020 8:10 pm
Irwin Rivera’s UFC debut came under wild circumstances, to say the least.
The Mexican fighter made his promotional last month at UFC on Mid American Herald 8 debut, coming up short in a unanimous decision against Giga Chikadze. Rivera (9-5 MMA, 0-1 UFC) was against all odds, as he had less than two days’ notice for his debut, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., and took place at featherweight – a weight class above the division he normally competes in.
It meant Rivera faced an uphill battle for his UFC debut. Yet, despite all the craziness around him, Rivera didn’t think twice about taking on the former Glory kickboxer.
“I didn’t care how it got done, but I knew that this opportunity was going to come,” Rivera told MMA Junkie. “I put two and two together, I’m a very smart guy. I realized we’re in a pandemic, people are going to start to pull out, people are not going to want to fight, and people are not going to be able to fight because people are going to be sick. So I knew that the opportunity was going to come. I do wish I could’ve been more prepared, but I know it was going to come.
“So the minute my manager Ali hit me up, he was like, ‘Irwin, what’s your status on your medicals?’ And I’m like, ‘I have to get everything done,’ and he’s like, ‘OK, if you can get everything done, we can make this happen. I have an opportunity for you to fight in the UFC,’ and I’m like, ‘What? Are you serious?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah!’
“So I’m like, ‘I’ll get that (expletive) done right now!’ so literally (over) 15 hours and in three hours, I got all the medicals done. I’m very thankful for all the connections I have like the doctors and nursing staff, they all know me and they were willing to stay after for me to make sure I get everything done.”
Rivera said he didn’t feel nervous going into his first UFC fight. He felt his training with coach Henri Hooft and world-class fighters such as Eddie Alvarez, Gilbert Burns, and many others helped him stay composed at UFC on Mid American Herald 8.
Although Rivera lost, he constantly pressed forward and looked to finish the fight and attack until the final bell. The former Titan FC champ admitted he didn’t think he was able to show his full potential given the circumstances, but he’s glad people got to see his fighting spirit.
“The one great thing that everyone got to see is my heart, bro,” Rivera said. “I have a huge heart. What I lack in physical size – I don’t even look at myself as a short guy. When I see myself in these pictures and I’m standing next to these giants I’m like, ‘(Expletive), I’m (expletive) short!’
“But one thing I got to show, which is very important to me, is my heart, man. I will always fight with all my heart every single time I’m in that cage. This is what I love to do. I have nothing else. This is my life, this is my world, this is my passion.
“So I will always fight with tons of heart in all my fights. I tell people, ‘Tune in, because I’m going to do some amazing thing in the UFC.’ Naturally, I’m an exciting fighter and it’s very hard to prepare for a guy like me because I’m so unpredictable. I don’t even know what I’m going to do! One minute I can be fighting normal and technical and the next minute I’ll throw a tornado kick or some crazy (expletive).”
Rivera said he plans to return to bantamweight for his future fights, and while he admitted he has no opponent in mind, he said he’s targeting a return in July or August so he can step back into the cage fully prepared for his next test.