One of the reasons UFC bantamweight contender Jimmie Rivera has not fought in more than a year was revealed Friday: Rivera said he and his wife both had the coronavirus two months ago.
Rivera told ESPN's Ariel Helwani that he tested positive for COVID-19 in April and that his wife, Samantha, contracted the virus a few weeks later. Both have recovered, Rivera said, and he is hoping to return to the Octagon against Marlon "Chito" Vera in August.
As far as symptoms, Rivera said he experienced stomach issues, a fever, a bad backache and fatigue. He said he "couldn't get out of bed" at one point but within four days was feeling basically normal.
"We weren't training at the time, because everything was closed down," said Rivera, a New Jersey native. "It was just brand new with COVID. I didn't have it that bad. I had it bad for like three days, and then I was fine afterward. But then at the same time, I do work out all the time."
Rivera said Samantha had a tougher time dealing with the coronavirus, with symptoms that included bad fatigue, a dry cough and respiratory issues.
"Where it really hit was, a couple weeks later, my wife got it, and that was really, really bad," Rivera said. "She has immune [system] deficiency. She was really bad. She had a dry cough. She had everything puts toward this. It was a very slow process with recovering."
Neither went to the hospital, he said, because at the time hospitals in the area were admitting people with severe cases only.
"She got close to that point," Rivera said of going to the hospital. "She had a hard time breathing and catching her breath. But it wasn't severe."
Rivera is one of three UFC fighters who have been announced as having tested positive for COVID-19. The first was Rivera's Tiger Schulmann teammate Lyman Good. Rivera said he believes the cases are related, since he and Good were working together on online videos for students before both were diagnosed with the coronavirus.
It has been a frustrating time for the 30-year-old Rivera, who was supposed to fight Vera in February before a recurring issue with a pinched nerve in his neck returned. Rivera (22-4) has dropped two straight fights and three of his past four, but all those losses were against elite fighters in the division: Petr Yan, Aljamain Sterling and Marlon Moraes. Rivera remains No. 10 in ESPN's bantamweight MMA rankings.
Recently, bantamweight prospect Sean O'Malley has been calling out Vera and there has been reciprocation on social media, but Rivera believes the Vera fight is his in August when UFC returns to Las Vegas from Abu Dhabi.
"I've been training for 'Chito' Vera for the past three weeks or a month now," Rivera said. "... I've been training for it, I've been working with tall guys, and I've been looking forward to it."