Looking back over his 2019, bantamweight Irwin Rivera couldn’t be happier.
Not only has he gone undefeated inside the cage, winning both of his fights with finishes, but he’s also managed to sort out his personal life, which had been negatively impacting his career.
“This has been by far one of the best years of not just my career, but of my life,” Rivera told MMAWeekly.com. “I had a couple of setbacks prior to my last two opponents. I had some personal family issues that I had to really deal with.
“Where I’m at now exactly is where I pictured myself at two years back. My personal family issues had been what was holding me back, and now that I’m rid of them and stuff, I’m in a good frame of mine. I’m doing what I love. Things are going great. This is the start of something amazing to come.”
For Rivera, it’s the changes he has made to his personal life that have had the biggest impact on the development of his game in 2019.
“I’m always working and always getting better, but the biggest game changer has been making sure that I put myself in a positive environment,” said Rivera. “I’m very happy. I’m like the kid I used to be when I first started MMA, when I first said to myself that this is what I want to do.
“I feel like I broke out and I’m free. I feel like anything is possible. I want to show everybody that I’m legit. I want to show everybody I deserve to be where I belong.”
On Friday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Rivera (8-4) will look to close out the year with a successful title defense when he faces Danny Sabatello (6-0) in the 135-pound championship main event of Titan FC 58.
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“I have a very good understanding of this game,” Rivera said of Sabatello. “He’s a wrestler and is going to try to implement his wrestling, but so I’m very well-rounded, and I’m prepared for anything that he has to throw at me.
“They’re hyping him up to be the next big thing. I will be more than happy to show that I deserve that attention. I’m the current champion as we speak. I’ve been through so many blood, sweat, and tears to get to where I am, and I’m looking forward to exposing him for who he really is… and take him into those deep waters and break him.”
For Rivera, having an eye both on the bigger and smaller pictures is the best way for him to approach his career in 2020.
“I will always have my goals that I’m going to reach for,” said Rivera. “I know what I want. My goal has never changed, but I’m more attentive to the present. I’m letting the present lead me to my future instead of always keeping my eyes focused on the future.”