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Jimmie “El Terror ” Rivera: From Being Bullied To UFC Bantamweight Champion

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

Written by Melissa Griegel, Bergen County Resident Photos by Melissa Griegel Photography, Bergen County Resident

When Jimmie and his mom were living in Lodi, single mother Francine Grieco knew she wanted more for her child. She was a product of low-income housing and never went to college. Francine and her son moved to Ramsey, New Jersey when Jimmie was eight-years-old so Jimmie could benefit from the Ramsey school system. Moving to the quiet suburban town came with its one set of difficulties though. Being a new kid in school can be a tough transition, and Jimmie was bullied a lot in the third and fourth grades. There was one kid in particular who was the main instigator. Francine knew she had to do something to give Jimmie the confidence and self-esteem to stand up for himself, so she enrolled him in the local Tiger Schulmann’s Martial Arts.

Instructor Vincent Domingo was just what Jimmie needed. He became hooked on karate and would arrive an hour early and would stay late whenever he could. The bullying continued at school. After a particularly bad incident, Jimmie decided to defend himself using his newly-found inner strength and his karate skills. He got into a physical altercation with the bully and was able to win the fight. Afterward, both kids cried. The bully cried because he was hurt, and Jimmie cried because he was afraid to get in trouble. Although Jimmie does not advocate violence as a solution to problems, he knew that he at this point in his life he had to take a stand. Both kids ended up with detention (five days for the bully and only one for Jimmie since the principal knew that Jimmie was just defending himself). His mom was proud of him and the bullying stopped. The two kids even developed somewhat of a friendship.

When Jimmie turned 13, he started helping out at Tiger Schulmann’s working with other kids help them get better. He received a break on tuition for his contribution to the studio. He began working more and more at the Tiger Schulmann’s and started competing. From 13-18 he competed in the Challenge of Champions mixed-martial arts competitions. All of the early losses motivated him to work harder at improving his skills. Soon, he starting winning and began amateur kickboxing and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) when he turned 18. He was 4-0 in kickboxing and 7-0 in MMA. Due to his success, he was able to turn pro at 19.

Working with Danny “Tiger” Schulmann, Jimmie’s career was off and running. He made his professional debut on April 10th, 2009 at Bellator 2 against Willie Gates, winning via submission in the third round. His career continued with King of the Cage, The Ultimate Fighter, Ring of Combat, a second Bellator run, and World Series of Fighting, before signing on with Team Tiger for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Jimmie’s first fight with UFC was in July 2015. With a record of 22-2-0, Jimmie is currently the ranked #5 in the official UFC Bantamweight rankings.

Jimmie has accomplished a lot in his 29 years. In addition to his MMA career, Jimmie now owns his own Tiger Schulmann’s franchise. He purchased the East 23rd Street location in NYC five years ago. He continues to train at the Tiger Schulmann’s headquarters in Elmwood Park with other MMA fighters such as Lyman “Cyborg” Good, Shane “Hurricane” Burgos, Justin “The Moose” Muslija, and Julio Arce.

Married for two years, Jimmie and his wife Samantha live in New Jersey and have a dog. Samantha is a medical writer and is very supportive of Jimmie’s career. She comes with him to all his fights. Jimmie spoke proudly of his “tough” wife who grew up in Quakertown, PA, hunting and skinning animals.

Jimmie worries about today’s kids who face even tougher bullying issues with cyber-bullying and all of the other challenges kids face in this new era. Jimmie can relate as he gets cyber-bullied himself by people who comment on social media about his MMA career. Tiger Shulmann’s franchises nationwide try to help kids and adults alike by offering classes that will help with self-discipline and self-defense strategies, in addition, giving free “Women Safe” seminars and bullying prevention seminars. You can call your local Tiger Schulmann’s for information on these programs and how to arrange for a bullying seminar at your school.

Tiger Shulmann’s offers a wide array of classes for kids and adults. Classes for kids include “Kidfidence,” Karate, Martial Arts, and Bully Prevention. Adult classes include fitness, kickbox - ing, self-defense, martial arts, Muay Thai, and nutrition. You can call your local Tiger Shulmann’s or go on their website to sign up for a free trial class.


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