Time will tell if Rivera's viral strategy pays dividends at UFC 127
I can think of several reasons why a fighter like Jorge Rivera might take time out of his busy schedule to make a series of YouTube videos mocking an upcoming opponent.
For one, training camp can get pretty monotonous. When it's the same routine every day and night, nothing keeps things fresh like getting your striking coach to do his best Michael Bisping impression.
There's also no quicker or surer path to increased media attention than the outright insult, and when that insult comes via the majesty of song and dance, all wrapped up in embeddable video form, there's just no way for the MMA blogosphere to resist.
But then, what does Rivera care about media attention? He's already got sponsors and he's not getting a cut of the pay-per-view proceeds. His bout is second on the card behind only the B.J. Penn-Jon Fitch main event, so it's not as if people weren't going to be paying attention already.
For a glimpse of the goal of Rivera's trash-talk crusade, all one needed to do was listen to Bisping's reaction at Tuesday's UFC 127 press conference in Sydney, Australia. While Bisping has resisted the urge to jump on YouTube and respond to Rivera's many taunts, word had it that he was genuinely angered by the online assault.
At the pre-fight presser, that anger didn't take long to boil over.
"I'm a professional fighter," Bisping said at one point. "I'm not an idiot in the schoolyard, making up silly rhymes and jokes and making stupid videos. This is a press conference, by the way, Jorge. This is what you do. I know it's your first time being involved in something like this. Welcome to the big leagues. After this you'll be back to the undercard, believe me."
See what I mean? It's all fun and games with video editing software until someone gets his feelings hurt.
It doesn't take a genius to see that this is exactly the reaction Rivera was hoping for. His smack talk repertoire in the lead-up to this fight basically consisted of two jokes: 1) Michael Bisping talks funny, and 2) Michael Bisping avoids striking exchanges because he lacks punching power.
Point number one is, if not a low blow, then at least low-hanging fruit. Accents are a matter of perspective, and you could argue that a guy from Milford, Mass. (pronounced,
Point number two, however? That one's got to sting a bit. Bisping isn't exactly known as a knockout artist. He's more of a finesse fighter, and when he fights opponents who are more of the brawler persuasion, as Rivera is, he's usually smart enough not to stand in front of them for too long.
Rivera knows this, just like he knows that if he follows Bisping in circles all night the way Chris Leben did, he'll end up losing on the judges' scorecards (also like Leben did). Here's where the trash talk comes in.
Rivera's hope is that he can make Bisping angry enough to brawl with him. In truth, he'd probably settle for simply making him mad enough to stand in one spot for a few seconds, but if he can goad the Brit into actually coming forward and trading haymaker for haymaker, his scheme will have been a success. At least, phase one will be.
See, that's the downside of using your singing and acting skills (or humorous lack thereof) to generate a ton of buzz and a seething opponent. If it works, you look like a genius. If it doesn't, you're a punchline and a cautionary tale. That's why the more talking you do before a fight -- even if it is part of a coordinated strategy -- the more you kind of have to win.
Rivera has succeeded in getting our attention, and judging by Bisping's demeanor at the press conference he's also succeeded in giving his opponent one more good reason to want to hurt him. Whether that will prove to be a good idea in the end, well, that depends on what happens when the cage door closes and the talking stops.