Ex-gang member turns to life in the ring

Fernando Rivera
Reminder Publications submitted photo
June 11, 2012

Carley Dangona


SPRINGFIELD — To describe Fernando Rivera, president and matchmaker of Battle Xtreme Championship (BXC), as solid is an understatement.

Rivera is a man upfront about his past, who had no qualms discussing his colorful life or the upcoming fight at the MassMutual Center on June 16, with Reminder Publications.

"I was born in raised in Hartford, Conn. My first involvement with gangs was when I was 13. Back then break-dancing was in and the gang was based on that. Eventually, however, it turned out to be a violent street gang," Rivera told Reminder Publications.

Rivera is an ex-convict who spent eight-and-a-half years in prison after two brief stints in Manson Youth Institute. During his second trip to Manson he became affiliated with Los Solidos, or The Solid Ones, a Hartford gang known for its drug trafficking and brutality.

"Growing up around street gangs, it was all I knew," Rivera said. "I loved the rules and regulations. I felt a part of it. There were a lot of scary moments. I plead guilty to conspiracy to murder charges and took a 20-year suspension after a 10-year prison sentence. I almost got a life sentence and yet I was still a gang member in jail."

Even after being released from prison in July 2004, Rivera returned to the Solidos.

"I held the presidency and an executive committee position. I tried to make changes to separate the gang from criminal activity. Rumors were started about me and I was put on suspension — that was the wakeup call. I thought 'I'm outta here.' Two years later I was cleared, and that's when The Godfather of Los Solidos, Lawrence Beauvais, gave me the nickname 'The Solid One.'"

By the time he was cleared in 2006, Rivera had already moved out of Connecticut to start a new life.

When asked when and how he got out of the gang, Rivera responded, "I'm not out."

"I moved to Worcester, Mass., in August 2006 to make positive changes in my life — talk about the best decision I ever made," Rivera enthused. "The first thing I did was find a job and then I enrolled at East West Kenpo Karate."

Rivera described himself as having always been "a Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee freak," stating that he has studied various forms of martial arts since childhood.

"I've always been into martial arts," Rivera said. "I started Tae Kwon Do when I was 7. When the Ultimate Fighting Championships came out, I was like 'cool, legal street fighting.' While browsing the web, I came across an amateur league looking for fighters — I signed up. I signed up for any and all [fight promotions] that would accept applications."

Rivera fought his first fight, without even realizing it was a professional bout. To say his training preparation for the fight was lackluster would be accurate.

"I weighed 245 pounds and was still smoking cigarettes," Rivera explained. "I won my first fight. Basically, my opponent got tired before I did."

Rivera faced David Woodby in his second fight. He lost the match, but said he gained much more than if he won.

"At the end of the fight they told us [the fighters] to collect our purses," Rivera said. "My response was 'We get paid for this?' I didn't realize until this second fight that I was already pro. Dave and I became close friends. Later we decided to join forces."

Formally founded this year, the fights at the MassMutual Center on June 16 will be BXC's first event.

"We had the idea to start a fight league for fighters," Rivera said. "These smaller promotions are doing it wrong they don't have the fighters [well-being] in mind at all. We want to pay fighters what they're worth and give the fans a show. We want fans to say, 'Wow! That was a great fight.' The fans are what make you."

Rivera emphatically continued, "We're thinking out of the box. We look at every aspect. We are going to be the Northeast's biggest show. We look at the fighter's records; we speak to them about who they've fought. We look at the amateur fights too because they're still fights."

The nine bouts on the fight card are sure to be explosive, according to Rivera. The fighters come from a variety of mixed martial arts (MMA) backgrounds from wrestling to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and have appeared in various promotions from the International Fight League to the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

"New England is going to be in for a surprise with our league," he said. "We are different — we're not just your local promotion. I want people to recognize us for what we are, an extreme league."

Despite the seeming success of BXC, Rivera has faced more hardships over the past year including fighting injuries and a serious car accident.

"I'm currently homeless," Rivera admitted. "As for the car wreck, I don't remember leaving the club, but I do remember the accident from the time I hit the other car and my vehicle went airborne to being treated by paramedics. That's it, the next day I woke up and was like, 'What just happened?'"

"I'm a firm believer that you make life what it is," Rivera said. "I don't want to be 90 and say 'I should've done that.'"

Despite the ups and downs of his life, Rivera remains positive.

"I'm doing me," Rivera shrugged. "I don't want to go back to prison. I'm where I want to be, doing what I love. "

For tickets to the fight on June 16 at 7 p.m. at the MassMutual Center, visit www.bxcfights.com.

Additional information about Rivera may be obtained by visiting www.thesolidone.com, www.hoodlumfightgear.com and www.blogtalkradio.com. Catch his radio show at www.blogtalkradio.com/mma-with-the-solid-one or follow him on Twitter @battlextreme and @Elsolido.

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