Following a nearly five-year layoff former UFC bantamweight Francisco Rivera returned to MMA with a first round TKO over Ryan Lilley for XMMA this past January.
Though he took the fight less than a month before it happened, the fact that he had never really stopped working on his game during his time away helped Rivera get back into competition on the right foot.
“I took it on a three week, three and a half week notice against a tough guy (in Lilley),” Rivera told MMAWeekly.com. It was nice to get back into the cage, get back to fighting, and come out with a win that day.
“I’ve been training. I’ve been helping guys with their training camps. I’m always in the gym. Then this fight had no fans (in attendance), so it felt like it was a training session, a sparring session, so I was able to go out there calm and collected, and have fun. I put on a show and got that first win.”
Compared to the last time he had fought in 2016, Rivera believes he has matured a lot both in his training and his fight philosophy.
“I’m a smarter fighter,” said Rivera. “Back in the day when I was in the UFC I was just going out there brawling, trying to knock people head’s off, but I’ve learned my lesson now.
“I’m doing my training regimen a lot different. I showed it in my last fight. I was cool, collected, not head hunting, not trying to gas myself out. I was fighting smart, being confident in there, and got the knockout.”
This Saturday in Miami Florida, Rivera (12-7) takes part in a single-night eight-man 135-pound tournament for Combate Global, with his opening round bout scheduled to take place versus Adam Martinez (7-2).
“I’ve never done a tournament like this,” Rivera said. “I’m trying to look at it like a sparring session with different guys. I’m trying not to think too much about who I’m fighting, when I’m fighting, I’ve got to be prepared for anything with something like this. Anything can happen.
“I’m going to come out there, put on a show, and get a win in this tournament, because that would be huge for my career.”
Having missed a half decade, Rivera is looking forward to being as active as he can in his return and close out 2021 with as many fights as possible.
“I just kind of go fight by fight,” said Rivera. “If I start looking ahead or looking past anybody that’s going to get me in trouble. Anything can happen in a fight, so I’ve got to be smart and make sure I don’t underestimate anybody and take it one fight at a time.
“I like to set goals, and now that I’m back to fighting, I want to fight on bigger shows. I’m taking these fights serious and one fight at a time. I’d like to continue to stay active. That’s my number one goal.”