By Caoilte de Barra
Panama is currently preparing for their first IMMAF competition since 2019. Their 2022 Pan American Championships outing will feature only one athlete in national team stalwart David Rivera, who has competed at four IMMAF competitions.
His journey through the amateur ranks has seen him compete with some of the best talents in the bantamweight division, such as Magomed Idrisov and Djamaludin Aliev. It has been a while since Rivera has competed. During his time away from competing, he has been working on the psychological side of the game.
“I have been working mainly on the psychological factor.” He said. “In combat sports beyond physical and technical training, the mentality is the key, and on a platform like IMMAF, where you see athletes of the highest levels, you must have a strong mentality to be able to stand out at any given time.”
Rivera has been a constant in the Panama team that has varied in numbers over the years. In 2017 he became the first Panamanian to compete in IMMAF and has gone on to represent the nation in each event they have entered, something he is proud of.
“For me, it is an honour to represent Panama on the IMMAF platform. IMMAF is the organisation that any MMA athlete should look to join. The level of the athletes and the organisational quality is exemplary. Panama is not a developed country in combat sports like some others. Still, we are a land of fighting and warrior people, like Roberto “Mano de Piedra” Duran and some other champions of Panamanian combat sports.”
Despite combat sports not being as developed in Panama, Rivera is a lifelong martial artist and reveals that he has always been active in training and competing. However, due to the pandemic, he was impacted quite hard by restrictions that were in place.
“Panama is a small country with people with big hearts, a maritime channel that unites and serves as a bridge for the world, and a country surrounded by two oceans. Since I was little, I have been in combat sports. I have always been inside the ring, or octagon. I started with karate and continued learning kickboxing and jiu-jitsu, but always competed. I think a warrior should always be on the battlefield, no matter the result.
“In my country, Covid-19 has been hard. Currently, in Panama, there is still a state of national emergency. At the time, when there was an exit restriction in Panama, you could not train. I had some weightlifting equipment in my house, so my routine was lifting weights and training on the bag at home. You had to be active in the face of the whole situation, but this pandemic has been hard for all athletes.”
During his storied tenure as an amateur competing against high-level opposition, Rivera has not had the best of luck in terms of results but gained valuable experience. He is determined to build on his experience and keep competing to become a World Champion.
“I have participated in three World events and a Pan American event with high-level athletes, which is crazy. All these experiences have taught me to never give up over defeats or victories. Just do what you are passionate about and enjoy the process.
“IMMAF is the platform that will take MMA to the Olympics. I will continue competing in IMMAF until I am World Champion or Olympic Champion. I hope that my children in the future can compete in this MMA organisation and be World and Olympic Champions. This is the dream of any athlete, and IMMAF as an organisation is aimed at that.”
Ahead of his fifth IMMAF competition, he reveals we will see a much-improved version of himself as he looks to overcome the packed featherweight division.
“At the Pan American Championships, you will see a more confident and mature David Rivera as a fighter. The mentality is the key, and training is always done. But when the mind and body are aligned. Incredible things can happen.”