Emmanuel “El Punisher” Rivera (4-0) is a fighter to look out for over the next couple of years. At Legacy Fighting Championship 62, we see Rivera take on another undefeated fighter in Chris Mullins (3-0) in what promises to be an exciting matchup. Rivera attributes his love of combat sports and comfort in the cage in part to his family background.
“I started boxing when I was younger with my uncle. We would have backyard brawls. I have five cousins about the same age, all of us are within five years of each other, and we’d be rough and tough. I watched the UFC and told my roommate I could do that. I started by competing in Toughman, and won three in one year. I went to the gym to work on boxing and got persuaded to try MMA. I lost my first amateur fight. It was against a wrestler and I had no ground game. He basically took me down and ground it out. After that, I worked to improve my ground game and won my second fight and went on from there.”
Rivera spent a lot of his life in Oklahoma, where he still lives, although he originated in a very different area.
“I’m originally from Chicago, Illinois and moved to a small town in Oklahoma when I was young. It was bit of a culture shock coming from very racially diverse big city to a not-so-diverse small town. I think that [in] moving there, things turned out for the better, though.”
We last saw Rivera at Legacy Fighting Championship 45 when he defeated Wesley sharp (2-2) by a devastating KO that saw Rivera switch stance and floor his opponent with a savage right hand. Since that fight, Rivera has obtained two more TKOs.
“My strength is definitely my striking. I love technical knockouts. I like the movement and calculation of getting a TKO, rather than just hitting someone hard and them being knocked out. I like to be technical and beat the guy. I feel TKOs are better in that sense. It’s more satisfying than a regular KO, when someone just goes to sleep and more demoralizing for your opponent.”
Rivera trains in Edmonton, OK at American Elite MMA and Oklahoma Wrestling Academy.
“I train my wrestling at the Wrestling Academy and my Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai at American Elite. We have some really good guys there like Derrick Adkins, who is also on the card, and the Jackson brothers who are both black belts and have a lot of fights. When I joined, there were about five to six guys fighting. Now two years later, we have seventeen or eighteen guys fighting or about to fight who are at the gym a lot.”
Chris Mullins, Rivera’s opponent, also has two of his three professional wins as TKO’s.
“I don’t know too much about him. I know that he likes to strike too. One of my teammates fought him and lost to a decision as an amateur. I’m not worried about what he’s going to do, more about what I’m going to do.”
Having started with a strong boxing base, Rivera still trains a little boxing, but his focus tends to be on other aspects of the game.
“I do a lot of wrestling training and grappling. It’s more technical and there’s a lot to it, so grappling is what I really focus on. I work the clinch, my offense and defense. I probably work on my defense the most; more than offense, but there are guys out there who have a really good ground game. I’m just a blue belt, so I’m catching up.”
After this fight, Rivera feels that his body would benefit from a rest, and that it’s important to take good care of yourself in this sport.
“I want to take the rest of the year off from fighting. This next year I’m looking to get some bigger fights. I was due to fight at the end of January but it looks as if that might not happen. I was asked to fight at the beginning of January but I’m not sure. What happens all depends on this fight. I’m looking for longevity in this sport. I need to be okay and still able to walk in four years, so it all depends what happens.”
As with most professional fighters, Rivera also works to pay the bills.
“I was teaching ballroom dancing and doing boxing privates. I also work for a company who owns radio stations as a technician. I do an MMA segment when something big happens, and there’s a big story with Craig Humphries. He does a show from 9 AM to 12 AM on The Sports Animal. I’m on there about once a week or couple of weeks. I’d like to do more of that in future.”
Training as a professional fighter on top of working fills up a lot of time.
“When I’m not doing that, I like chilling and relaxing, spending the time with my girlfriend and stepson. I wake up do private sessions, work, and train, prepare food and hang out with my family.”
As Rivera stated, until recently he also taught dancing.
“We would teach the fifth grade at different schools. We would take up the PE class and do ballroom dancing. It was a mentoring program disguised as dancing. We’d teach merengue, salsa and other dancing. At the end, we’d choose kids and have a competition between schools at the end of the twelve weeks. I had to let go of something, and unfortunately it was that. It was seasonal work, so in the summer you’d be left hanging work-wise; but it was a really good thing to be involved with.”
Coming into this fight, Rivera is confident and excited.
“I’m ready to go, I’m in shape. This is going to be the biggest fight of my life. There’s nothing I’ll hold back. I want to get the early TKO, and then walk out of there and enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“I want to thank my teams, American Elite and Oklahoma Wrestling Academy. Also my sponsors, Vapor Hut, Life Change Ballroom, Butlers Detail, One Healthy Bod, New Age Nutrition, Doug Crane Tattoos, Patriot Pharmacy and Integrity Promo.”