Martial arts has always been something Maria Rivera loved to do. After moving from Puerto Rico to Massachusetts when she was young, around the age of 10 or 11, Rivera’s friend wanted to try Tae Kwon Do but wouldn’t do it alone, so she asked Rivera to join her. The friend didn’t last long but Rivera fell in love with the sport, continuing it into her teenage years. During those years, she competed heavily even participating in the junior Olympics, twice and she won two gold medals.
Towards the later part of her teenage years, Rivera moved back to Puerto Rico despite not wanting to go back. At 24, she moved back to Massachusetts and rejoined the same gym she had been at. She resumed competing, getting her international license and competed in Canada and Mexico.
But the reason Rivera got back into martial arts wasn’t because she pursued it, it was because her son wanted to try it.
“The only reason why I thought about going back to training honestly was my son wanted to try martial arts so bad that he made me, like no I wanted to sign up for karate. I found out my master at the school and I was like ok, if you want to do it you might as well do it the best way. I went over to take him to take classes and then of course I got caught back in it.”
It was a process for her to get back to competition. When she went back, Rivera was close to 200 pounds. Through hard work and dedication she took it off and as the weight came off, she knew she wanted to start competing again.
“How are you going to train so hard and not go compete, it’s like your reward for training so hard. First thirty pounds I lost I knew I wanted to compete again.”
That was three months after that and within a year she was competing internationally.
During that time, she started learning jiu jitsu to mix up her training and enjoyed it. She realized the skills she had went well together and wanted to try an MMA fight, which turned into another passion. She started working on her overall game with Jorge Rivera and that gym turned into BST Fitness.
An interesting note is that Rivera doesn’t train at one gym, in fact she mainly focuses on each part of MMA at a time, only putting it together a few sparring sessions at BST. She trains Tae Kwon Do at Boston Tae Kwon Do and jiu jitsu at Boston Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
“The way Tae Kwon Do athletes train its so intense, I cannot imagine getting the cardio school from that Tae Kwon Do school to any MMA workout.”
She is also training with Olympic athletes who are helping develop her speed and power on the feet. She also feels that the segmentation helps her grow more.
“I find that doing everything segmented just gives me that opportunity to grow into each area.”
So far it has worked for Rivera as she has an undefeated record at 2-0. The soon to be 31-year-old is dedicating herself to martial arts full time now by getting her physical training license and teaching Tae Kwon Do and jiu jitsu. She is looking to make it to the highest levels of the sport and believes that working in the area will help.
Really excited for this match-up of top female strawweight contenders, Maria Rivera (2-0) & Mallory Martin (3-2), at #CES50 at Twin River Casino on June 15, LIVE on AXS TV Fights! Get your tickets ➡…
But the past couple of years have not only brought success but also several obstacles. Rivera last fought in March of 2017. When she makes her return on June 15 at CES 50 against Mallory Martin, it will be over a year since she was in the cage. She had a knee procedure, a broken finger and an illness which prevented her from competing.
“It was really frustrating, the fact that I couldn’t get back to training even though I wanted to. I was still hoping to have a fight at the end of last year.”
Now she is back and will face her toughest test yet. Mallory Martin is making the trip to Rhode Island following her submission win against Linsey Williams at LFA 38. Rivera knows it will be a tough fight but believes she is ready for it.
“I know it will be a challenge and I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
And though she thinks the fight is a challenge, she sees herself getting a finish.
“I definitely think a knockout.”