Former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz will make his Octagon return against divisional dark horse Jimmie Rivera at UFC 219. It’s a fight that Rivera has chased since his July success over Thomas Almeida, and he believes that it’s the first step on his way to becoming the division’s greatest of all time.
Rivera’s only career-blemish is a loss in a catch-weight bout at 150 lbs. way back in 2008. Ever since that loss, he’s found a home down the scale at bantamweight and is currently riding a 20-fight undefeated streak, with five of those wins in the UFC.
Speaking to Obviously Fight Talk, he explained that while the UFC are now starting to push him more, he still feels like he’s flying under the radar. However, despite perhaps being the division’s best kept secret, if his career-success continues, and he gets his wish, his path to greatness looks clear.
With victory over Dominick Cruz, all roads would surely lead to a championship tilt against the winner of Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw, who fight on November 4th. If he manages to grasp the title, this double would upgrade the New Jersey-native’s bantamweight record to 23-0 (23-1 overall). And when asked if these two victories, along with his stellar undefeated run, would be enough to cement him as the best bantamweight of all time, his answer was respectful, but resounding.
“I mean, if that happens, I would have to say yes,” he answered. “My only one loss is not even at bantamweight, it was at a catch-weight of 150lbs, so I would be undefeated at bantamweight.
So, I would say, in my opinion, yeah. In my opinion, in my head, I think I’m the best. But everybody has their own opinions, and they’re allowed to have their own opinions.”
Speaking only hours after Cruz’s MMAFighting.com’s MMA Hour appearance, Rivera jested that he wanted Cruz to talk more trash, however, he did have a response to Cruz’s claims that he knew everything about Rivera’s skillset.
“I laugh about it,” he said. “He was saying that he knows me really well, and he’s seen footage. Yeah, he’s seen footage. But it was funny listening to him commentate my fight against Almeida, and he was saying things that I did not do in that Almeida fight at all, and I kind of laughed about it because I don’t always fight every fight the same way.”
Parrying Cruz’s comments and throwing a counter-punch of sorts, Rivera explained that he knows exactly how to deal with the former champion’s famous movement.
“I just worked on it today,” he said. “It’s crazy to see how he moves, and [to see] all that unnecessary movement he does. I mean he does it to throw people off, but if you know how to fight it, and you know how to counter it, and know what to do exactly, you really don’t worry about it.”