The Bantamweight division just crowned a new champion in Cody Garbrandt this past Friday and the next marquee match-up in the division comes courtesy of Jimmie Rivera and Bryan Caraway. Rivera is coming off the biggest win of his career when he outworked former title challenger Urijah Faber via unanimous decision back in September.
With a new champion, this definitely shakes up the bantamweight division. Number one ranked TJ Dillashaw beat John Lineker which may have potentially set up the next title fight between him and Garbrandt. Now ranked at number 4, Rivera will take on Bryan Caraway January 15th in Phoenix as he looks to move one step closer to a title shot. Caraway is coming off a comeback win over Aljamain Sterling but Rivera wasn’t very impressed.
“I think he’s good but he isn’t great,” Rivera said on Caraway. “He’s gone against mediocre guys and beat them and any tough guys he’s lost to so I think he’s an okay fighter. He’s okay in every aspect; wrestling, grappling, striking but he’s not like outstanding.”
The always underestimated Bryan Caraway makes it a case to prove people wrong. While his wins haven’t been in emphatic manner, he’s shown a lot of heart and durability throughout his career. Despite all that, Rivera insists that he hasn’t beaten the caliber of fighters that he has.
“Who has he beaten that’s a good name? I guess his best opponent was Sterling and that fight was super close. I just don’t think he’s all that great. I don’t want to underestimate him because as a fighter you can’t underestimate anyone.”
Caraway’s win over Sterling definitely earned him respect from the fans as Sterling is a rising prospect. After a tough first round, he was able to turn the tables and control the fight. When asked about Caraway’s last outing, Rivera gave him props for fighting a solid fight but is sure he will have the better game plan come January 15th.
“Aljamain Sterling couldn’t strike with him because Caraway had better striking than him and when it came to wrestling and grappling, Caraway was the better one out of the two. He’s a smart fighter but I’m the same way too. I’m smart with everything I do, there’s always a game plan, a back plan and a backup to the backup plan. I’m definitely going to lay some leather and some kicks on him for sure but I’m just going to play it out and see what happens.”
In his last fight, Rivera put himself in elite bantamweight company by taking out Urijah Faber. Although he didn’t get the finish, he was able to frustrate Faber and attack him from all angles. A win over such a big name did result in some notoriety for Rivera but he felt like he didn’t get enough credit.
“I won that fight and it was all about Faber like what’s he going to do next,” Rivera said. “The number 14 guy beat the number 2 guy unanimous decision 30-27 and now you’re saying that. I didn’t get the credit, I’m kind of seen as the underdog but my record speaks for itself, my hard work shows and I’m just going to go in there and do my thing. I want to win that belt so hopefully after this fight I get the title shot.”
If Rivera didn’t get much credit then, he probably does now as Urijah Faber then proceeded with the final fight of his career by dominating Brad Pickett. The performance left people thinking if Faber was actually done with fighting. Not many people give Rivera, who’s on a 19 fight win streak, the credit he deserves but he is at peace with it.
“His final fight was unbelievable. He tore apart Pickett, Pickett got his butt whooped. He was able to outwrestle him, outbox him, he was just way better than Pickett. I’m a low key guy I don’t talk smack and this or that. I also haven’t been around for forever like Faber; he’s a legend in the sport so it’s kind of hard to get as much recognition as I’d want but it’s okay.”
Before I let Rivera go, I asked him 21 questions for the fans to get know him better. Check it out:
1. Who is your role model?
Rivera: Georges St. Pierre, The Rock
2. If you weren’t a fighter, what would you be?
Rivera: I’d probably be in the military so something with the military or a cop.
3. Favourite subject in High School?
4. Dream venue to fight in?
Rivera: MSG or back in Jersey again.
5. Hardest thing to refrain from when cutting weight?
Rivera: Chocolate (Brownies, Hershey’s chocolate bars)
6. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Rivera: I love teaching. I have a school in East 23rd Street in New York City and besides teaching, spending time with my friends and family.
7. Who are some of your favourite fighters to watch?
Rivera: It’s not fighters as much as match-ups; I just like watching good fights.
8. Do you have any favourite sports teams?
9. Are you good at any other sports?
Rivera: I grew up playing a little bit of baseball and I wrestled.
10. What’s your favourite food?
Rivera: Italian or Hispanic food.
11. Favourite place you’ve ever been to?
Rivera: Scotland was really cool. In the country, California.
12. Which country would you like to visit that you’ve never been to?
Rivera: I would love to go to Italy.
13. Favourite movie and favourite actor/actress?
Rivera: Movie: Top Gun. Actor: Tom Cruise.
14. Current favourite song?
Rivera: Read me my Rights by Brantley Gilbert.
15. Favourite music artists?
Rivera: Don Omar, Eminem, 50 Cent. I kind of like everything from Rap to Reggaeton to Country music. Artists like Brantley Gilbert and Luke Bryan.
16. Song on your iPod that you’re embarrassed to have?
Rivera: I’m not really embarrassed by anything; I have Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus on my phone. I got NSYNC and Backstreet Boys; in the Faber fight, they videotaped me warming up and I was actually listening to Bye Bye Bye by NSYNC.
17. What’s your worst pet peeve?
Rivera: When you take something and you don’t put it back.
18. Favourite fight you’ve ever been in and favourite fight you’ve ever seen?
Rivera: My favourite fight was the Faber fight, I fought someone I grew up watching and admiring and to beat him by unanimous decision was unbelievable. Best fight I’ve seen was the second McGregor/Diaz fight. That was a good fight.
19. Favourite thing to wear when not working out?
Rivera: Board shorts and a tank top.
20. If your gym was closed for a week and you had to go train somewhere else, where would you go?
Rivera: Nowhere (laughs). I had a great experience training with Nick Catone and Frankie Edgar. I can’t see myself training anywhere else so it’s hard to answer so I don’t really know.
21. What’s one thing that no one knows about you?
Rivera: I’m a horrible a singer.