Francisco Rivera felt like he got pepper sprayed after eye poke incident

BY Damon Martin • December 17, 2014

When Francisco Rivera got the call to fight Urijah Faber at UFC 182 he knew the odds were stacked against him.

Rivera was coming off a decision loss to Takeya Mizugaki from earlier in the year and Faber was unbeaten in non-title fights during a career that spanned more than 35 bouts over 11 years.  Still the power punching Rivera didn't back down from the challenge and after five minutes in the cage with Faber, his confidence was soaring.

Rivera stopped Faber's early takedown attempts and started to find his range with punches from the outside as well. Just when it looked like Rivera might be able to pull off the upset, disaster struck in the worst way possible.

During an exchange in round two, Faber caught Rivera with a finger directly in the eye.  At the time it looked like a short punch so the fight continued and seconds later Faber had a choke locked up and Rivera was so out of it that he had no choice but to tap out.

Only after a slow motion replay did everyone watching see that it was an eye poke and not a punch that precipitated the end of the fight. 

"He came out, he tried to take me down and I stuffed his takedown and as I stuffed his takedown and as he came up with kind of a jab/punch with his hand wide open and just poked me and yanked my eye. It felt like I got pepper sprayed. It was a burning sensation and I've been poked before, and I'm pretty tough but it felt like he yanked my eye out," Rivera explained when speaking to FOX Sports.

"When he hit me the first time, I thought it was the ref coming to break us up. I opened my eyes to see who it was and I couldn't see him.  It was just downhill from there.  He put me in the choke and I couldn't even defend myself at that point."

Following the end of the fight, the eye poke was all anybody could talk about.  Faber answered all the questions about it at the post fight press conference and made it clear that he didn't mean to jab Rivera in the eye the way he did, nor did he know that's what eventually led to the end of the fight.

For his part, as heartbreaking as the loss was that night, Rivera doesn't have any ill will towards Faber for the move.  He just knows that it happened and without the eye poke there's no telling what would have gone on for the rest of the fight.

"I don't believe Urijah did it intentionally.  Urijah's one of the most respectful fighters, he's a legend in the sport, he's such a nice guy. I've never even see him get angry at somebody that's not already angry at him," Rivera said.

"I just have a feeling he felt it.  Even in the heat of the moment where he just jumped on the opportunity.  I've trained and sparred with partners who I've accidentally poked and I've known to do it and stop and say 'I'm sorry' but in the moment, it happened so fast, so I'm not one to say anything.  It definitely wasn't a punch that got me in the eye."

Whether or not Rivera would have ultimately won or lost the fight is always up for debate, but the fact that he never got the chance to prove it still bugs him even days later.  When he returned home and watched the fight repeatedly, Rivera just can't get that sick feeling out of his stomach about how everything ended.

"Finally getting back home and watching the fight over and over, it was just so disappointing on how it turned out," Rivera said.  "I definitely felt I was winning round one.  I stopped his takedowns, I was just getting warmed up. At the end of the first round when I was sitting down I was telling my coaches how I felt, I have this, I've got this and I was just getting excited and then the incident happened and it was just one of the worst days of my life.

"It was just a huge, huge break for me in my career to get a win. It just shattered everything I ever dreamed of."

Since the fight happened, Rivera's team has filed an appeal with the Nevada State Athletic Commission to have the result overturned due to the eye poke that helped lead to the end of the fight.  While it's unlikely the fight will be expunged from his record, Rivera would still like nothing more than to actually finish what he started with Faber two weeks ago.

He knows if Faber asked for a second fight the UFC would grant his wish so Rivera is going to keep pounding the drum in hopes of earning a rematch.

"Whether it was an accident or not, it cost me half of my money. People don't understand, I'm not Anderson Silva, I'm not Urijah Faber where every time they fight they get that big money. I'm trying to get there and winning my fights is going to get me there and for this to happen in a fight I thought I was winning, it's just heartbreaking," Rivera explained. "Especially before Christmas and just thinking about it makes me sad and hurt.  I let my kids down and I let my coaches down, it just sucks.

"No matter what happens I would like to fight him again.  To see what really would have happened. I'm going to try to push it and hopefully the UFC will let us fight again. He said he doesn't make the decisions, but if he tells the UFC who he wants to fight, they will do it.  He hasn't really said he wants a rematch or would be up for a rematch so who knows, but I would definitely like a rematch."



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