There’s no excuse now for Jimmie Rivera, at least in Marlon Vera’s book.
Almost two years ago in early 2017, the two bantamweights were briefly linked to fight when Rivera’s original opponent for UFC Phoenix, Bryan Caraway, pulled out of their scheduled bout due to injury.
“Chito” Vera was offered as a replacement for Rivera, but “El Terror” Rivera rejected the opportunity. He claimed he didn’t want to look like a “bully,” basically saying Vera wasn’t good enough to share the Octagon with him.
“The fight was signed and everything, and the next day, he published (this story) that he wasn't going to fight and got out of the fight saying something like he didn’t want to hurt me,” Vera told MMA Fighting. ‘That he was too much and all that – nothing that made sense. This is not a sport where you can be concerned whether or not you’re going to hurt somebody.
“This is not a sport. It’s only a sport before and after the fight. In the cage it’s not a sport – it’s a fight, and that’s it. The excuses he made made no sense. And that’s life. Sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down.”
Fast forward two years, and Vera is on an impressive 5-0 run with all wins coming via stoppage. The 26-year-old fighter now wants the bout with Rivera and feels confident he’s eliminated Rivera’s reservations to fight him.
“It’s the fight that was supposed to happen,” Vera explained. “At the time he rejected it and made a bunch of excuses, (and he) said something like he was way too high (in the rankings), so now he needs to pay his debt. He’s down, coming off two losses and looking bad, while I’m coming off five wins with five finishes. He has no excuse now.
“It’s the perfect fight. He’s on his way out, and I’m coming up. So the time to retire him is now, and it’s going to be me who does it.”
Rivera, who sits seventh in the UFC bantamweight rankings, is 1-3 in his last four outings. Prior to the skid, Rivera had won 13 straight and was labeled as one of the division’s most dangerous contenders.
Vera can’t put his finger on the reason for Rivera’s recent slump. But he doesn’t care – he just cares about getting in the cage him.
“Maybe he’s not working as hard as he use to, (or) maybe USADA came into his life,” Vera said. “There are many potential factors, and we will never know what could be it. The only thing I know is that I want to fight him.”
Vera has shown much improvement in the last year, and even more if you compare him to his first few fights in the UFC.
The Ecuadorian entered the Las Vegas-based fight promotion at 21 with just eight fights on the regional circuit in Latin America. He went 4-4 at the start of his UFC career before his current streak.
Vera attributes his recent success to simply having the proper tools to develop – and no longer being that inexperienced 21-year-old.
“Everyone has excuses when they’re not doing well,” Vera said. “If I have an excuse, I just analyze it in my head and I try to resolve it. But the people don't know I arrived to the UFC without experience.
“I arrived with very poor training. It was just the balls and heart that I have in me that got me by. In my first few fights I was lost, my technique was very low, but I did have my warrior spirit. People don't know where I come from. Where I come from there are no fighters, so I had to research and do everything to be here. I had to do what very, very many haven't been able to do: Learn along the way.
“Many fighters who came green to the UFC, now they don't even fight anymore. I came green and I matured in the company. I looked to improve, and I invested in my career, and thats why I’m doing well.”
Vera recently tweeted Rivera, challenging him to the fight. But he hasn’t received any kind of response.
“It seems he still hasn’t found his glasses,” Vera joked.
If Rivera does, Vera would like him to know January or February are preferred months for a potential bout. That is, assuming he’s reconsidered his stance on hurting the lower-ranked.