Jorge Rivera Retires
There are some friends who you value so much it is really hard to qualify into words.
I met Jorge Rivera three years ago in the same city where he ended his career: Nashville, Tennessee. For that fight, RU was not his largest sponsor, we were a small company that very few people knew, and given the general state of the MMA industry even now, there was no reason to believe we would even exist for his next fight. Furthermore, while fighters are generally very reclusive and private during the buildup to a fight, Jorge had also just lost his seventeen year old daughter, a pain that I can only imagine, and hope to never have to go through. In short, I didn’t expect any of his attention when I arrived at his hotel door to drop off shirts. I wanted to give him his gear, shake his hand, and get out of his way.
Instead, when that hotel door opened, I was greeted by an incredibly hospitable, thoughtful, and giving person who treated me as if we had known each other for years. He refused to let me excuse myself, introduced me to people in the industry I would have never known otherwise, and was incredibly open about his life. By the end of the day before weigh-ins, I felt like I had known Jorge, Matt Phinney, and Tim Burrill for years. I could see in Jorge a man that had made mistakes in life, but through them had acquired incredible wisdom and perspective, and wanted to impart that on those around him. For a guy who had achieved this level as a professional athlete, I was truly amazed by his humility and kindness.
By the time he entered the cage with Nissen Osterneck, hiding a broken hand and partially dislocated shoulder I might add, I felt like my brother was stepping in there. I don’t remember wanting anyone to win so badly in my life.
And he did.
It wasn’t pretty. He gassed early on and we all thought he’d get finished as a result, but he kept on pushing and pushing and refusing to quit. He did what Jorge does best: he fought.
And I don’t mean that in the sense of MMA. Jorge’s had every reason to give up in his life – sometimes because of self-made bad decisions and sometimes because of chance, but I can tell you honestly, he’s had a rough go at it. What makes him special, and what makes me look up to him, even as I examine situations I’d never be in, is that he has never shied from the struggle. When life hits him, he hits back harder. When he can’t hit anymore, he still manages to stand up. He’s not afraid of the fight – he embraces it.
I can’t explain our relationship exactly. Sponsor is almost an afterthought at this point. For my part, I’ve received middle of the night calls about strategy, business, stress, and anything else you can imagine (Jorge, like me, let’s his mind wander at night and can’t sleep). I’ve been there for the highs like beating a very game Nate Quarry in Charlotte with 50 vets cheering him on. I’ve been there for the lows, like watching my friend get kneed in the head and then be disrespected in Australia. Through it all though, it’s just been an honor to be here, to be counted as one of Jorge’s inner circle and to support him as best I could.
So as I sat cageside and Jorge’s last fight started in the same city our friendship had begun, I just wished to God that he would come out on top. As the fight started, I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, as if I was the one about to fight. They began and Jorge had a bad start, but he hung in there, and although he lost the first round, he looked confident going into the second round. He shrugged off a takedown and landed a strong right hand. Moments later, Jorge Rivera’s last fight in the Octagon ended via TKO.
I can honestly tell you I don’t think I would have been happier if the win had been my own.
The first trip to Nashville saw us all go out to a swanky nightclub and party into the night around people we barely knew, seeing people and being seen and all that nonsense. This time around, it was just a small group of us renting out the top floor of a tiny bar: friends, family, and a few loyal vets that have supported Jorge for years.
“I just want to be around the people that matter, Nick,” was Jorge’s guidance.
I remember thinking simply, “I hope to always be on that list.”
Congratulations to a true warrior (in the Cav and in the Cage)on an incredible career. On to the next challenge, sir. We’re here every step of the way.
Love you, brother.