Rivera said after discussing the situation with his manager Jason House, it was something he felt like he needed to do. In the second round, Faber clearly poked Rivera in the eye, sending Rivera up against the cage, covering his face noticeably in pain. Faber swarmed, landed punches and eventually cinched in a bulldog choke for the tapout victory at 1:34 of the round.
"When I felt it, I covered myself," Rivera said. "I was trying to tell the ref: 'My eye! My eye!' I felt Faber hitting me. I couldn't see. He was on my left side and I couldn't see out of my left eye."
Rivera said he had a hard time seeing anything for a while after the poke, even the replay of the finishing sequence while he was still in the Octagon. Doctors told him he has a laceration inside his eye and Rivera remained in pain hours after it happened Saturday night.
"I don't know what the hell happened," Rivera said. "It felt like all his fingers were in my eyes. That's how bad it is."
Eye pokes are obviously not allowed in MMA and when an illegal maneuver leads directly to a finish, the fight is usually ruled a no contest. There seemed to be some discussion among Yamasaki and officials after the Faber submission. In cases like this, a referee in Nevada is unable to use instant replay to change his decision. Referees' rulings are also very rarely overturned by athletic commissions.
Rivera said he doesn't think Faber intentionally poked him in the eye, but he's positive that Faber felt it after it happened. That did not stop Faber from pouncing on a clearly disadvantaged opponent, not that Rivera blames him for it in the heat of battle.
"Everybody is making a big deal about how many [submissions] he has," Rivera said. "It sucks for me. It's not like he dropped me and subbed me. He really, really poked my eye. Accidental or not, what am I supposed to do, fight with my eyes closed?"
Rivera said he has already asked UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby for a rematch with Faber. Rivera said Shelby told him that possibility remains on the table and they would talk more Monday.
What makes the result even more agonizing for Rivera is that he was fighting very well against one of the best bantamweights in the world. All three judges scored the first round for Faber, but it was close and many media members thought Rivera won it. Faber was unable to execute his strategy of taking the knockout artist down and Rivera was gaining confidence.
"I thought that I was heading toward one of the best performances of my life," Rivera said. "I was stuffing takedowns, using my movement, slowly picking him apart.
"I felt like I won that first round. I stuffed a few of his takedowns. I think he was freaked about that."
Faber said afterward that he didn't realize initially that it was an eye poke. "The California Kid," who remained undefeated in his career in non-title fights, was somewhat apologetic.
"I just saw (the eye poke) on the replay," Faber said. "I didn't know it the minute I got him in the eye. That's unfortunate. You don't wish that on anyone. It's unfortunate for him, but I go out there to finish fights."
Rivera isn't sure the appeal will work. If that fails, he's still hoping for a rematch.
"I don't think it's fair," Rivera said.