The UFC will make their visit to the South American nation of Chile this weekend. The main card features a bantamweight battle of former Ultimate Fighter teammates as Diego ‘the Pitbull’ Rivas (7-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) takes on Guido Cannetti. There has been significant amount of progress in the mixed martial arts scene in Chile and native Diego Rivas will proudly represent it being the only Chilean on the card.
“A while back, I said that the popularity of MMA in Chile was growing and now that the UFC is here, it’s growing at an immense rate,” said Rivas. “It’s all over TV and radio, and everyone wants to learn about MMA, so I think it’s starting to boom.”
“I did not, to be totally honest,” he said of the UFC making it to Chile just four years after his last fight there. “It is just my hope now that, after this, the UFC will return a lot more in the future.”
Following the bout he earned a spot on the first season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America’. He was coached by former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum and become a teammate with Cannetti.
“My relationship with Cannetti was good in the house,” he said. “I had great relationships with everyone in the house. I never had any issues, and with him being from Argentina and me being from Chile, there were certain customs that were very similar. We were roommates and he slept in the bed above me actually, so we shared stories and built a relationship. Just like my teammate ‘Chito’ Vera and other members of that house, we grew together, but he is a rock in the road for me, just like I am for him. I want to see the best from him and he will see the best from me, so hopefully we put on the Fight of the Night.”
Rivas was eliminated in the quarter finals by Gabriel Benitez. Rivas made his promotional debut against Rodolfo Rubio in November 2014. He won the fight via unanimous decision. He then faced Noah Lahat in February 2016. He won the fight via flying knee KO to earn a performance of the night bonus.
Unfortunately then the bitter happened. Rivas got diagnosed with testicular cancer. Just like his fights he defeated the deadly disease as well however suffered the first loss of his professional career against José Quinonez in his comeback last August. Rivas took some valuable lessons from his defeat.
“That night, I learned that you need to have multiple game plans and that when one doesn’t go as planned, to try and go at your opponent another way,” he said. “In this game, you are going to win and lose, and all that matters is you continue to get better.”
Alongwith expectations of an entire nation on his shoulders, Rivas will fight with an added purpose which is his six-month old son.
“I’ve been a father for five months and it hasn’t been easy to be an athlete and a father,” he admits. “My partner has helped a lot in the whole process and I owe her a lot for that. It’s been an amazing experience and it’s been very difficult, but I love being able to come home to my son and see his energy. Seeing him even when I am tired brings me to life.”
“That night I will have a lot of emotions going into that fight,” he said. “I will have many eyes on me, but I will just enjoy the moments as they come. I am ready for this fight and am extremely proud to be fighting in my home country.”