Q & A : 'El Conquistador' Jorge Rivera On Life After The UFC

Jorge Rivera made his mark in the Ultimate Fighting Championship as a hard-nosed Puerto Rican fighter whose technique was unique to him. The former enlisted Army man's career in the cage primarily took place in his 30's and encompassed some tough injuries like a broken jaw and some even tougher tragedies like losing his 17-year-old daughter.

A year after leaving active competition behind, the Massachusetts native has embraced his other roles as father, trainer and sometimes MMA Analyst.  

Fox News Latino spoke to the retired fighter.

FOX NEWS LATINO: So it’s been just over a year since you walked away. Do you regret retiring or are you happy with your new life, your new role here?

JORGE RIVERA: No, I don’t regret anything, I’m very happy with my life right now.

FNL: Why’d you walk away? Was it for family time, to work on your own businesses?

RIVERA: I didn’t feel like I was with it. I wanted to be relevant, in everything that I do.  I feel like I was passed by time.  I didn’t want to be told to walk away.  I wanted to walk away on my own account.

FNL: You have 15 fights in the UFC.  Do you feel like you had a successful run?

RIVERA: Yeah, the record will speak for itself.  I had a lot of fun and I don’t regret anything, you know?  I’m very grateful for what that organization was able to do for me, personally and professionally.

FNL: Did Dana at any point tell you that you still had some fights in you, that you could go for a few more rounds?

RIVERA: No. [LAUGHS] I’m 41 in a couple weeks.  I mean, I look at the roster now, and these guys are all young guys. I did not want to be that guy.

FNL: Randy Couture fought in his 40s. Right now you got Dan Henderson who’s 42.  Did you ever think maybe you could be one of those guys? 

RIVERA: [SIGHS] Those guys, they’re not your average guy.  Those are very rare human beings.  We’re talking about people seven billion people on the earth, you just mentioned two people that could pull it off.   Most people can’t do that.  Most people don’t have it in them to do that.  These are two, outstanding professional athletes, that most of us, ninety-nine percent of the human race, we’re just not made like that.  We also have our luck where we have good fortune that falls upon us, which allows us to continue longer than others. And then we have our ability.  These guys are two outstanding wrestlers, they can knock guys out, which allows them to have more of a longevity in this kind of fighting, because their style of fighting doesn’t allow them to take a lot of punishment.

FNL: Your last fight in the UFC, Eric Schafer, you had two-fight losing street, and then Eric Schafer came around, and you handled him pretty fairly.  Was it important for you to go out on a winning note?

RIVERA: Oh, absolutely. If I had lost I’d probably still be doing it. [LAUGHS] You want to go out with a 'W.'

FNL: Now, what was your highlight of your career?

Fighting is a lot of time away from your family.  A lot of people don’t realize that it’s a full-time job, constantly in the gym training or traveling.  And I didn't want to do that anymore.

- Jorge Rivera

RIVERA: I don’t really have any.  I enjoyed it all.  You know, there are a few places I enjoyed more than others.  You know, I enjoyed fighting Travis, not because of Travis, but because of what I was going through in my personal life, during that fight.  [Rivera’s daughter died at the age of 17 from an allergic reaction to medicine] The Ken McGraw fight was another fight, ‘cause I’d been out for a year with a broken jaw, and no one expected me to win that fight.  So they were sweet but I enjoyed the whole experience.  I enjoyed all the fights.

FNL: You mentioned the tragedy that happened in 2008 with your daughter.  You have other children, did you want to spend more time with them?

RIVERA: Absolutely.  You know, my kids are growing, and you don’t want to make the same mistakes.  Fighting is a lot of time away from your family.  A lot of people don’t realize that it’s a full-time job, constantly in the gym training or traveling.  And I didn't want to do that anymore.  I want to be here [in Milford, MA].

FNL: How has your Puerto Rican heritage played into your career?

RIVERA: There’s a lot of pride in it.  I’m fully aware of all the great Puerto Rican fighters that have come from the island.  You always want to give back to your culture.  I was always pretty aware of it, and I’ve always wanted to do well.  And I’m also aware that I’ve, I’m one of the only ones in, in the UFC, that’s 100 percent Puerto Rican.  I was very well aware of that.

FNL: You’re also doing stuff for ESPN right now. [Rivera is an analyst for MMA coverage for ESPN].

RIVERA: MMA Live is on hold right now.  So if you can find anybody, someone to sponsor that show, please let me know, ‘cause I want that show back on.  Right now, I’m just running my gym.  And, you know, looking for whatever opportunity arises.  If something comes up, I’d be more than interested in it. 

FNL: Have you found the next Conquistador?

RIVERA: We’re in the process.  I’ve got a bunch of young, good talent here and I would think within three or four years I’m hoping to have a couple of these guys ready to make their mark, where you would be able to recognize their name, nationally.

FNL: What do you want your legacy to be?

RIVERA: I don’t know, my friend.  That’s something I really don’t think about.   I don’t really think about legacies and stuff like that.  I’m just living my life.  You know, trying to be a good person, better person, I’m just living my life. You know, some days I take a small step back, and I got to jump back on the horse.  You know  keep moving forward, my friend. But that’s what I’m trying to do, is live a good life, and lead by example.

FNL: You still ordering the Pay-Per-Views or watching the Fox cards?

RIVERA: [LAUGHS] Yeah man, I’m still ordering the Pay-Per-Views.  I’m writing them off now, though, they’re tax write-offs.

Follow Victor Garcia on Twitter @MrVicGarcia.

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