There are moments from his UFC 127 bout with Michael Bisping in Sydney, Australia that are still fuzzy to Jorge Rivera, but there is at least one thing he knows for sure.
The illegal knee that Bisping hit him with in the first round? No matter what Bisping said later, that was no accident, Rivera told MMA Fighting on Sunday.
"That knee was deliberate, and I'll tell you exactly how I know this," Rivera said.
"I went to sweep him, and first of all, I want to say that he was at the press conference talking about how he's the better fighter, he's got better jiu-jitsu, better wrestling, but he takes me down, fine. I go to sweep him and he holds on to the fence. He holds on to the fence the whole time. ...And then, within 30 or 40 seconds of doing that, he knees me [illegally] in the head. I'm on all fours, he winds up and knees me in the head. Then he puts his hands up, walks over to my corner and says, 'He's the p-ssy.' Now if that wasn't deliberate, I don't know what the f-ck is."
More Coverage: UFC 127 Results | UFC 127 Post-Fight Press Conference Video
The knee caught Rivera squarely in the head as he was on both knees – a clear violation for which Bisping was docked a point. Doctors and cageside officials rushed in to determine whether the bout could continue, but Rivera admitted that he may have been more damaged by the blow than he let on.
"I was hurt, man. I was hurt. But the truth of it is, I knew that most of the people that were there, were there to watch this fight. I knew the hype was built up, they wanted to see it, and I didn't want it to end like that. It's just not in me to quit. That's not how I wanted it to go," he said. "...I would have liked a few more minutes [to recover], but the truth is, they want to know if you can continue now. They want to know how hurt you are. I just wanted to put on a show."
Rivera's pre-fight YouTube taunts helped to rile Bisping into a frenzy, but they also had an effect on their creator. Even after being hit with the illegal knee, Rivera felt like he was obligated to continue fighting after all the talking he'd done before the bout, he said.
"I was hurt, but this is what I do for a living. I promoted the hell out of this fight, I talked a lot of sh-t about this fight, I talked a lot of sh-t about him, and it's my job as a professional to go out there and do what I do. ...When I was down and everybody's asking me if I'm able to continue, I'll tell you exactly what was going through my head: I fight. I have to fight this guy. There's no way I'm going to sit here and get the W this way."
Bisping would go on to win the fight via TKO, battering a wounded Rivera with right hands and elbows until the referee called a stop to it at 1:54 of round two. Afterward, Bisping appeared to spit at Rivera's striking coach, Matt Phinney, before demanding an apology from Rivera. While Rivera attempted to respond, Bisping accused Rivera of bringing his family into the pre-fight hype – a charge Rivera adamantly denies.
"You've seen all the videos," said Rivera. "Did I ever mention one thing about this man's family in any way shape or form? We're all fairly educated, right? Show me where I did that. Just show me where I did that, and then he'll get his apology. But I'm not a classless piece of sh-t like he is, so I would never f-cking do that."
The videos were meant to upset Bisping, Rivera admitted, but never crossed the line by bringing his family or personal life into the equation. It was pure gamesmanship, he insisted, and it had the desired effect.
"It was psychological warfare on him," said Rivera. "You know the kind of person he is, you know how he's going to behave. We knew how it would go. We filmed those videos all at once, did it all in one day, and it was done literally two months ago. We already had him lined up. This was all planned out."
Though Rivera had some success with his right hand, he chided himself for getting away from his own game plan, saying the goal was to get Bisping's attention with the right but finish him with the left. Once the fight started he got into a zone that he couldn't get himself out of, Rivera said, adding that if not for the illegal knee in round one, "it would have been a different story."
"I've had seven losses prior to this one, and I don't mind losing to a guy who's a better fighter than I am and who just beats me. But to be beaten like that is bitter to take, man. ...When I had an opportunity to sit down and watch the fight, knowing what went on, it was just like, this motherf-cker, man. You know?"
Now Rivera, who turned 39 years old today (at least according to Australian time), said he's anxious to get home to his family and take some time to rest, relax, and think about what's next. It was a long climb to get to this fight, and after so many weeks in the spotlight he could use a little time out of it.
At the same time, Rivera said the UFC expressed appreciation for the attention he brought to this fight. It may not have gone his way, he said, but even knowing what he knows now he wouldn't change his pre-fight strategy.
"I don't regret a thing I did," said Rivera. "[Bisping] showed his true colors last night. That's all I've got to say about that."