Knowing when to hang it up and call it a career is never easy for any athlete.  But when talking about professional athletes, it is even more difficult, as you have people who have tasted the spotlight and made a living while doing it.

It is often highlighted in professional team sports, but it is no different in the world of mixed martial arts.  Being a professional fighter who hangs onto their career for too long is not only difficult to watch as a fan, but dangerous for the fighter.  But before his fight at UFC on FX 1, Jorge Rivera announced that win or lose, he was going to retire after battling Eric Schafer.

Rivera (L) battles Rich Franklin at UFC 50 (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)

Rivera was never the strongest, never the fastest, and not the greatest fighter to ever grace his presence in the Octagon, but the Massachusetts native always came to fight and put on a great show.  He made his UFC debut way back at UFC 44 in 2003 and took a unanimous decision victory over David Loiseau, and it appeared as though he was destined for greatness with that victory improving his professional record to 7-1.

Though the victory was sweet, he wasn’t able to celebrate it very long, as he lost his next fight to Lee Murray and was released from the promotion.  In total, “El Conquistador” had four stints with the promotion and it wasn’t until the UFC brought him in the fourth season of its reality show that he was able to have a lasting effect on things.  Even though he lost to Patrick Cote in his only fight on the show, he found a way onto the main card of the finale, where he took out Edwin Dewees by TKO in the first round.

From that point on, the only platform in which Rivera fought was the UFC.  He bounced on and off of main cards as he went, and his retirement almost came in 2008 after his daughter tragically passed away from reaction to medication.  It was thought that he would never fight again as a result, but he came back strong and used the motivation to accumulate a three-fight winning streak and started to build some real momentum in the middleweight division.

It was at that point where Rivera faced his hardest opponent in Michael Bisping at the co-main event at UFC 127.  “El Conquistador” lost that fight by TKO in the second round despite being hit with an illegal knee earlier in the bout and followed that loss with another his next time out, losing against Constantinos Philippou via split decision.  With the two straight losses, it became clear that he would likely never reach No. 1 contender status and that his career was at the beginning of the end.

Rivera (L) battles Eric Schafer at UFC on FX 1 (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Having seen the writing on the wall, he realized that enough was enough and that he had enough fight in him for one more go at it.  In an interview with MMA Junkie, Rivera said that his reflexes and speed were diminishing with his age and that he knew that it was time to retire, which led to the announcement at the weigh-ins for his last fight.  He went on to defeat Schafer by TKO in the second round after being on the bottom of the fight for most of the first round.  The comeback pushed his record to 20-9 and he amassed a record of 8-7 while fighting in the Octagon.

He will stay busy though, as opening up a school in Milford, Mass., and becoming a trainer is what’s next for “El Conquistador.”  The school was a factor in his decision to retire, and he will now focus on that.

The fighter from Massachusetts won’t go down in the history books as one of the best fighters out there, but he will be known best as a guy who showed up with his lunch pail and went to work, and for any organization to be successful, you have to have guys like Jorge Rivera on your roster.

Top Photo: Jorge Rivera celebrates following his victory over Eric Schafer at UFC on FX 1 (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.