Jorge Rivera may be closing in on 40, but he’s game to do hour-long runs up Albuquerque’s Sandia Peak if he has to. And when he was working out with Tim Kennedy over the last couple of weeks -- in choking 100-plus degree desert heat -- turns out he had to.
Rivera just spent 11 days in New Mexico prepping for Alessio Sakara with Greg Jackson and his team. He trained with the Jackson collective in the mornings, but left it up to Kennedy to occupy his afternoons. That, he says, was a particularly dumb and masochistic thing to do.
“I was basically doing everything that Tim Kennedy did,” he told ESPN.com. “Let me tell you, I’ve worked out with a lot of people, and I have yet to see anything quite like that man. I am being dead-honest when I tell you that. He is an animal of a different breed. It’s unbelievable.
“I’ve done a lot of work with a lot of guys, and I’ve never done anything quite as intense as what he does. He’s not one of these guys who’s ‘rah-rah’ while you’re doing it -- he’s right there beside you doing the workout, motivating you with his own work. He really pushed me.”
Rivera is mixing things up a bit for his UFC 133 fight with Sakara on Aug. 6, alternating camps between New Mexico and his usual digs in Massachusetts. It’s the third time he and Sakara have signed on to fight one another, and this time it looks like the fight is actually going to take place (yet with the way the UFC 133 card has gone, you never know). As far as hype goes, this one couldn’t be any different from the lead-up to his last fight with Michael Bisping at UFC 127, when Rivera was busy turning the Brit’s pupils black with derisive videos beforehand.
This time it’s a quiet focus towards the Italian brawler Sakara, and, after more than a dozen years in this racket, Rivera’s cool with “quiet” too.
“Man, I enjoy it all,” he says. “I enjoyed the last fight -- if I said I didn’t I’d be lying. I enjoyed making the videos, the good and the bad, all of it. That’s life. I don’t sit there and dwell on the negatives. I had a lot of fun getting underneath his skin, and watching him go nuts over silly things. Not only that, but [Bisping] set himself up to be tortured by anybody else who’s going to be fighting him in the future. I had fun knowing that too.
“I realize we’re in the business of entertainment, and people were entertained. More people wanted to see that fight due to those videos than anything else. They brought more attention to the fight.”
The Bisping fight ended bitterly for Rivera, who took an illegal knee while still down that signaled the beginning of the end in a TKO loss. He says he wants to fight a couple of times before returning to that piece of “unfinished business,” but right now he’s going about preparing for a fight with Sakara in which he feels the outcome is all but certain. Somebody -- and Rivera concedes it might be him -- is going to require smelling salts by night’s end.
“Yeah, I just don’t see it going any other way,” he says. “It’s what the fans want. If a submission could happen, I’d take it. But that’s not how I see it going. I see one of us getting knocked out.”