Heading into 2019, flyweight Jerome Rivera was looking to have a breakout year, but instead due to a series of unfortunate events he only managed to step into the cage once throughout the year.
Coming off an injury which took much of his mid-2019 away from him, Rivera was looking to return in the last part of the year when a scheduled bout was nixed due to the LFA contracting events following a split with AXS TV.
“Last February I had my comeback fight, my first fight since I dislocated my elbow, and that went really well,” Rivera told MMAWeekly.com. “About two weeks before that fight I tweaked my shoulder really bad so that kind of threw off my plans for having an active 2019. That shoulder injury I picked up ended up being a pretty nagging injury.
“I had a great training camp (for my scheduled LFA 78 bout), I felt really good, so it was a bummer what happened with the LFA and AXS TV. I don’t blame (the LFA) for that. They took care of me, getting me another fight pretty soon after. That’s a recap of my 2019.”
While he didn’t fight as much as he wanted to in 2019, Rivera was able to stay active in the gym, so he’s not too worried that he won’t be 100-percent ready for a full slate of bouts in 2020.
“I don’t think ring rust is going to be a thing that’s going to affect me too much,” said Rivera. “I’m excited for 2020 and what I’m going to be able to do. I want to go out there and show that I’m not just a grappler. I can strike with anybody the LFA has on their roster.”
On Friday in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Rivera (8-2) will look to kick off his year in strong fashion when he faces Kendrick Latchman (10-4) in the 125-pound co-main event of LFA 80.
“Kendrick definitely seems like a striker more than anything else, but he’s not like an elite level Golden Gloves boxer or anything like that,” Rivera said. “I think he’s going to want to come out and strike with me.
“I want to showcase some of my striking and box with him a little bit. I want to show that well-roundness and make a statement for the LFA or anybody who might be watching. I want to show that I can potentially beat anybody on a good day.”
For a prospect like Rivera, a good showing in the LFA could lead towards opportunities at the next level, but rather than rush full speed towards those opportunities, he wants to take his time and make sure the move happens when it is meant to.
“I’m not in a rush right now,” said Rivera. “I feel like I want to take it one fight at a time. Right now I’m content where I’m at. I’m focused on Kendrick Latchman and making a statement, then go from there.
“We’ll see what the LFA throws us next. In 2020 I want to destroy anybody they put in front of me and showcase the skillset I have. By the end of 2020 I want to have a lot more people know who I am.”