Gloves off, badge on: Former UFC contender Jimmie Rivera doubles as police officer, BKFC fighter
When then-UFC contender Jimmie Rivera’s wife told him he needed to get out of the house and find work for his own sanity, he knew she was right.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit New York and New Jersey hard. With fighting opportunities sparse and gyms closed, the uncertainty engulfed him. The MMA classes on Zoom weren’t cutting it.
“I won’t say I have ADHD, but I can’t stop,” Rivera recently told MMA Junkie. “I always have to work. I’ve always got to do something. I’m all about the grinding. … It’s also very bad mentally, to not do anything. You see people who retire and they don’t do anything. They end up getting right back into it or they mentally degrade and don’t look the best any more.”
Rather than sit and wait for opportunity to come to him, Rivera paved his own way. It was baby steps and when he departed the UFC in 2021, the transition became seamless. Rivera reached out to Elmwood Park Police Department chief Mike Foligno and began a journey down a different path.
“I told him I wanted to get a little dispatch in,” Rivera said. “I told him I wanted to get my feet wet a little bit. At the same time, he was like, ‘Yeah, I want to launch this program.’ So we launched a program with Ron Schulmann, one of the co-founders of Tyger Schulmann’s. That did great.”
Rivera dispatched for a while and gained a better understanding of the ins and outs of the police world. But what he found real pride and passion in above all else was bringing his knowledge of Brazilian jiu-jitsu to officers.
According to Rivera, the program has proven successful thus far.
“People who are cops who are scared, they overcompensate at 100 when this could’ve been settled at a 1 or a zero,” Rivera said. “It didn’t have to be like that. We’ve seen it already with the Elmwood Park Police Department (N.J.). The use of force has gone down. Complaints have gone down. It’s a completely crazy nine-day difference after doing it for a couple years, twice a year. What a tremendous difference.”
The health benefits of such training – both mental and physical – are not to be lost on Rivera, nor those he’s helped.
“Health is very close to mental illness,” Rivera said. “So being able to take care of your health is going to be able to take care of your mental illness. Police officers, they don’t have mental illness, but they have a lot of stress. This sh*t helps them a lot, just getting in, hitting a bag, relieving stress on the bag, and at the same time, getting a workout in. It’s something else we do as well.”
Pre-pandemic, Rivera was a UFC contender. Now, he’s a gym owner, program instructor, BKFC fighter, and a police officer since he graduated from the academy in January. COVID-19 was largely responsible for the major life changes. Above everything else, Rivera has a sense of pride and reward in the work he does despite the 70-80 work weeks.
Whether it’s responding to medical emergencies, gang violence, or parking complaints, Rivera’s day-to-day varies. The department has found it best for him to focus on community policing due to his standing and notoriety in the the area. Rivera likes the uplifting side of the job best.
“If I can help people, that’s my goal,” Rivera said. “I wasn’t put on this planet not to do sh*t. I definitely made a mark in fighting. It feels good, man, when you give back. It feels real good.”