Jimmie Rivera never gave much though to Marlon Moraes until late last year.
While the two bantamweights are just days away from clashing in the main event at UFC Fight Night 131 in Utica, N.Y., the rivalry from Rivera’s side doesn’t date back more than the past six or seven months.
According to Rivera, he never cared much about Moraes one way or the other, but that might be part of the reason why the former World Series of Fighting champion was so heated towards him when he was trying to land this match-up.
“The whole thing with the rivalry, I think it came where they offered me to fight him when he was 1-1 and I said no, he’s got to win some fights. I’m 4-0 in the UFC at the time, why would I fight him? It doesn’t make sense. It could have been that, the fact that I turned him down because he wasn’t a worthy opponent,” Rivera told MMAWeekly.com.
“The fact that maybe I said he came from World Series of Fighting and World Series of Fighting’s not even around anymore and he got a top five guy [Raphael Assuncao] in his debut where as I fought in almost every promotion and I held belts in three promotions — King of the Cage, Ring of Combat and CFC — I won them, defended them and vacated them and I didn’t get a top five guy. I had to work up the ladder to get in the top 15 and that was a b–ch to do. So it could have been that, that he wasn’t worthy enough to get a top five guy.”
That all led to UFC 219 last year when Rivera was supposed to face former champion Dominick Cruz in a fight that almost assuredly would have secured a title shot for the winner.
Unfortunately, Cruz suffered a broken arm and was forced out of the fight just days before the event, leaving Rivera without an opponent.
Moraes was rumored as a potential replacement, but the fight never came together. Rivera and Moraes have different versions of the same story why they didn’t end up fighting, but ultimately the bout didn’t happen.
Add to that, Rivera claims he had a heated altercation with Moraes’ manager Ali Abdelaziz ahead of the year end event in 2017 and that only threw gasoline on the fire of a simmering rivalry between the two bantamweight contenders.
“One of the reasons I took this fight is his manager will hide behind his fighters, but I’m going to go in there and whoop his fighter’s ass. All that animosity has been helping me train for this fight and I’m looking forward to fighting him,” Rivera said.
“I don’t have any respect for him and especially who he has that manages him. No respect as a fighter. That’s even why when we got up there at the press conference, he was saying something and I couldn’t understand him cause he always mumbles his words. I’m going to go in there fight and do what I have to do.”
As far as the disdain shared between the fighters somehow affecting his performance, Rivera promises that he’s able to compartmentalize his emotions when it comes time to step inside the cage.
Rivera may not like Moraes very much but he’s not going to be amped up on emotion heading into the cage this Friday. Instead, Rivera promises the best possible performance he can put on and he’s confident the end result will be a victory.
“Trash talking, I don’t even pay attention to it,” Rivera said. “At the end of the day, I’ve got a fight to train for and a business to run. That’s all that matters to me.”