After spending the first three years of his career building himself up in the Southwest region, flyweight prospect Jerome Rivera got an opportunity to step onto the national stage in April for Legacy Fighting Alliance against Zac Riley.
While Riley had made a name for himself defeating up and comers, Rivera was able to come away with unanimous decision victory in his biggest fight to date.
“That fight against Zac was really cool for me,” Rivera told MMAWeekly.com. “Getting to fight for a promotion like LFA, it’s probably the biggest thing I’ve done. I enjoyed it and was getting used to it.
“As for my performance, I wanted to go out there and do a couple things differently. I wanted to use my hands a little bit more and incorporate my striking more. But my game plan against Zac was to use my kicks, and that’s what I did. I feel like it was a good performance.”
While it had been the biggest exposure he’d gotten so far in his career, Rivera said he was able to get comfortable as soon as the fight itself started and perform like he would on any other stage.
“When I first got there I started warming up in the cage right away and said to myself it’s just like any other cage,” said Rivera. “I enjoyed the whole journey being up there and fighting for the promotion. Once I got out there in the cage it felt like any other fight with him and me in there.”
Rivera (7-0) takes on fellow undefeated fighter Roberto Sanchez (6-0) in the co-main event of LFA 14 for the promotion’s vacant 125-pound title on Friday in Houston.
“With Roberto I think the key thing is going to be patience,” Rivera said. “I think a lot of guys start rushing strikes against him, and that’s when he gets the takedown. I think I have to have good patience and use good range with my boxing, and as long as I do that, it should be a good night for me.”
Having had championship experience in the amateur kickboxer ranks, Rivera is not overwhelmed fighting for a major title this early in his MMA career.
“It doesn’t really feel any different for me,” said Rivera. “Aside that it’s a couple more rounds, it feels just like any other fight. I’m training a little bit harder in case we go a couple extra rounds. Maybe it really hasn’t hit me yet, but for me, I’m just trying to think of it as any other fight.”
Looking forward to the second half of 2017, Rivera is intent on taking this title and keeping it as he works his way through each opportunity that arrives.
“I kind of want to take each fight as it comes,” Rivera said. “I want to go out there, get this belt, defend it a couple times and see where fighting takes me this year. One of my biggest goals has been to get a belt in MMA, so this is a big moment for me right there.”
(Photo by Will Fox)