Constantly changing fight cards is something seemingly every fighter has had to deal with. From location switches to date switches, from opponent changes to catchweights — few are immune from the chaos of the COVID-era in the UFC. While it is a curse to plenty of fighters, it’s opened the eyes of others.
Take Jimmie Rivera, who jumped on a last second opportunity to fill out a Fight Island card against fellow bantamweight Cody Stamann. Due to the short nature of the opportunity, both fighters agreed to take the fight at featherweight to avoid an extreme weight cut in a short period of time while traveling internationally during a pandemic. Although Rivera walked away with the win, the real victory in the fight was in what he learned about himself.
“I’m not looking past this fight, but there could be an opportunity where I end up moving up [weight classes]. Obviously it depends on the outcome of the fight, and it depends on sitting down with my management and my coaches, and talking about it,” Rivera said musing on his performance against Stamann. “But I think there’s a strong possibility of me moving up to 145 just because I felt great.”
It makes sense for Rivera, who is not the tallest in the division by a longshot, but carries a lot of mass for the division. As time has gone on, the weight cuts don’t get any easier and the opportunity to fight without one helped him see there may be benefits to ditching the cut.
“When I cut to 135, I literally cut as much fat as I can and a lot of it comes down to muscle. I have to get rid of some muscle to make it, so that’s what sucks about it. I don’t feel the same groove as I do when I’m walking around at my natural weight,” he shared. “Honestly, I just feel a lot stronger. I feel all around better.”
It isn’t just the stock he’s placing in a single fight though. Rivera looks to two of his divisional contemporaries as examples of why making the lowest possible division may not always be the best bet.
“Two people I have in mind are Frankie Edgar and [Jose] Aldo. Frankie, you saw him fight at 155. He’s literally the same height as me,” he said. “I always think of those Gray Maynard fights, he would go in there – it was like Rocky – he got beat up in the first round and came back. But if you think about it, Gray Maynard was cutting a lot of weight. Same thing with Aldo. When Aldo was fightin Petr Yan, in the 4th and 5th rounds he started dying out. Why? He’s cutting a lot of weight.”
In addition to the difference in how he feels, Rivera has a keen eye on what’s going on in the divisions. While he continues to be a highly ranked bantamweight, he recognizes his losses to the two fighters about to square off for the title put him at a disadvantage to getting a look at that strap for himself.
“[Fighting for a title], that’s the big thing. I got this fight, and I’m not looking past this fight. After this fight, obviously get the win, then I kind of figure out and go from there to think about what I want to do,” Rivera said. “I’ve also contemplated just fighting in both weight classes.”
Although it seems like a strong possibility, his next bout will undoubtedly play into his decision. That bout is tentatively scheduled to be against Pedro Munhoz after the pair had their bout rescheduled yet again. Previously they had been set to fight in January and then again this weekend at UFC 258. Both times, the bout has been rescheduled for undisclosed reasons.
You can listen to the full audio of this interview at 2:47