Friday, January 20, 2012

Nice guys don't always finish last


Legendary baseball manager Leo Durocher is credited with coining the phrase, "Nice guys finish last." In most cases, regardless of the situation, Durocher is right; but when it comes to MMA that rule doesn't necessarily apply. The latest example is now former UFC middleweight (185 lbs.) contender Jorge 'El Conquistador' Rivera.

I say former because just like another highly respected good guy before him in Chris Lytle, Rivera (pictured @ left) announced before his fight Friday night that win or lose, it would be his last. Well that wasn't the only thing he had in common with Lytle, because just like Lytle, Rivera went out a winner. A second round TKO finish over tough Eric Schafer, who used to fight @ 205 lbs., means that 'El Conquistador' ends an 11+ years career @ (20-9, 14 KO's, 2 subs).

A very respectable record considering Rivera's resume of opponents, including 15 fights in the UFC. While his record inside the octagon was a mere (8-7), his presence was always felt among his fellow competitors and among the fans where 'El Conquistador' has always been a fan favorite. Another trait he has in common with Lytle who also had a simple .500 record inside the UFC, but was easily one of the most popular fighters among the fans and his peers.

Rivera made his UFC debut after only seven fights way back in 2003 @ UFC 44 against former title contender David 'The Crow' Loiseau. In typical 'Conquistador' fashion, he went three toe to toe rounds before winning a unanimous decision. In his next fight inside the octagon he got caught in a triangle choke submission against tough Lee Murray; and so would go the career of the popular Puerto Rican from Milford, Massachusetts.

Always a crowd pleaser with his stand and bang style, the ground game was always his downfall. Nonetheless, that didn't keep him from competing against the best in the world. Take a look at just some of the names he's fought in his career, Travis Lutter, Rich Franklin, Anderson Silva, Dennis Hallman and Michael Bisping to name a few, and it's easy to see he's had a better than average career.

He starred and competed in Season Four of 'The Ultimate Fighter', the comeback season, and reached his career high point nearly a year ago when he was in the co-main event @ UFC 127 against Bisping. While he never could get over the hump and get a win in that big fight when he needed it most, he would always come back and get it in his next fight. On top of that, he always maintained a positive attitude and keen sense of humor, which he displayed in his many YouTube videos that made him a favorite with the fans.

Rivera's overcome a lot in his life including heading down the wrong path in his younger years and losing his oldest daughter at only 17 years of age to an untimely illness three years ago. In between he became a military veteran and a perennial contender in the biggest Mixed Martial Arts organization in the world. Now one month before his 40th birthday, he's retired on his own terms.

Opening a brand new Gym in his hometown in a matter of weeks and looking to spend more time with his family, Rivera is at peace with his career and his decision to walk away. If you look at my caller bio over @ Gozejitsu.com, I list five fighters as my personal favorites. In that list are the names of Chris Lytle and Jorge Rivera; both are now retired and having gone out on top, it's safe to say that nice guys don't always finish last. Thanks Jorge for the memories and for always being a true professional.

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