Jimmie Rivera said he’s the obvious next candidate to challenge UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw. There’s a roadblock in his way, however, and his name is UFC flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson.
Rivera’s (21-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) future was thrown into uncertainty this week when his scheduled UFC 219 matchup with Dominick Cruz (22-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) was called off when the former titleholder suffered an injury. The bout was likely a title eliminator in the 135-pound division, but after “The Dominator” pulled out, Rivera said there’s no question he should be fighting new champ Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) next.
The twist, however, is that Dillashaw appears to be moving down to 125 pounds for a champion vs. champion showdown with pound-for-pound king Johnson (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC). The fight has been discussed since earlier this year, and after Dillashaw reclaimed bantamweight gold with a knockout of Cody Garbrandt at UFC 217 this past weekend, UFC President Dana White said he wants to see it happen.
That leaves Rivera as the odd man out, and he said he’s not sure what’s going to happen.
“I’m kind of in limbo now,” Rivera told MMAjunkie. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I don’t know where it leaves me. You’ve got Cruz who is hurt. You’ve got Cody who is getting hand surgery. That leaves T.J., but the thing with T.J. is, will Demetrious take the fight against him?
“It’s up to Demetrious if he’ll take the fight with T.J. If he takes the fight, it pushes me back, if not it’s fair game.”
Rivera, No. 5 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings, said he’s not upset at No. 1-ranked Dillashaw for chasing a potentially historic fight against “Mighty Mouse.” He understands why the champ and UFC brass would be compelled to book the fight, but he’s just disappointed with where it leaves him.
The New Jersey-based fighter is frustrated the 125-pound champion is the one who will determine his immediate future, and he said he really has no idea whether Johnson will accept the fight.
“I honestly don’t know what will happen,” Rivera said. “It comes down to money. Are they going to give him the money he wants? I don’t really care about the money and all that. I just want to fight for the belt. I got in the UFC to fight for the belt, and that’s the main goal. I’m waiting to see what’s going to happen. I want that strap around my waist, and it sucks I have to keep waiting for on people for it.”
“I run a business so I know how a business works,” he continued. “Obviously, the UFC is a business, and they want to push that fight because it’s going to have an impact. I understand why. It’s a good business move for T.J. and Johnson, but I don’t know if Johnson is going to get the number he wants for that fight. It might not be the best situation for Demetrious Johnson. There’s a lot on the line – losing his title – and he could lose his winning streak. There’s a lot on the line for that. I don’t know what’s going to happen with that. It’s kind of crazy that a title shot at 135 is held up on Demetrious Johnson, who is the champion at 125.”
At this point, Rivera’s not sure if he will still fight at UFC 219. Brazilian bantamweight John Lineker (30-8 MMA, 11-3 UFC) has offered his services, and a grudge match with Aljamain Sterling (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) is also a potential option.
Rivera, though, said those fights simply don’t make sense to him.
“I tried to fight (Sterling) as I was coming to the UFC and when I was in the UFC, and he said no,” Rivera said. “Now I’m ahead of him, and I’m in a better position, and now he wants to fight me?
“A win over Sterling – everyone says I’m going to run through him, and I am going to run through him. He’s not going to help me get the belt. He’s not a No. 1 contender fight. It’s not going to work out with him at all. The one thing I said numerous times is that once I am champ, I’m not going to turn down a fight. I will fight whoever they want me to fight because I’m the champ, and that’s an obligation. Now I’m not the champ, and I’m trying to work for it. A fight with him doesn’t make sense. He beat a nobody and he beat a washed-up (Renan) Barao.”
With an incredible 20-fight winning streak to his credit, Rivera is adamant that it’s essentially title shot or bust at this point. He’s aware of the reality of his situation, though, and said if Dillashaw ends up dropping to flyweight and fighting Johnson, he will either be forced to take another fight or experience an extremely long layoff.
Rivera said his team is going to work with the UFC in the coming days to help gain clarity on his future, but at this point, he knows exactly what he wants.
“Who am I going to fight? The only three fights that makes sense are Dominick, Cody or T.J., and Dominick and Cody are both out,” Rivera said. “I have nothing against anybody else in the division but no one is as established as I am. No one is on the winning streak I am, and no one is doing what I’m doing. The Cruz fight was going to settle the No. 1 contender, but Cruz is out, so now I’m the No. 1 contender. That’s what it means. That’s the only way I see it.”view original article >>