It was poverty that developed tenacity in muaythai fighter Jessa Rivera.
“I’ve seen a lot of Filipinos going to school with empty pockets, which I have experienced also, but are persistent to continue in their schooling, which they believe will give them a better future. I’ve seen children who are really suffering from poverty,” said Rivera in an interview with The Manila Times.
The 17-year old lad from Quezon City even dreamt of becoming the Philippines’ president so she could uplift the poor. But for now, she is focused on becoming an inspiration by representing her country in international muaythai competitions.
“When it comes to sports, I want every Filipino athletes be recognized because I want the public to see all the hardships and how dedicated these ladies and gentlemen are to give honor to their country,” she added.
Now regarded as the top female muaythai fighter in the country, Rivera recently won two gold medals in two different world championships.
In 2015, she bagged the top honor in the Royals World Cup in Thailand where she beat a Thai champ in their own sport. Her opponent was undefeated in 15 years.
And in May 2016, she ruled the 45kgs division of the 17th International Federation of Muaythai Amateur World Championships in Jonkoping, Sweden.
Despite the adversities she encounters daily, Rivera always choose to look on the brighter side of life not losing sight of her goals that is to bring pride and honor to the Philippines.
“When I am in the ring, I always get nervous. But I always tell myself and pray to God that he helps me – You are my refuge and my strength. Because for me, I don’t want to go back in the country without any trophies or medals,” said Rivera.
Rivera revealed she was not spared from bullying when she was a child.
“That is why our father encouraged us to participate in sports so we can protect ourselves,” she said.
Rivera idolized her father Edwin, which is a former boxer.
“I look up to him as an inspiration. He always tells me go push my limits during training. He guides me along with my mother.”
“My mother, however, constantly reminds me not to be afraid when I fight because God is with me every time.”
Rivera, out of her earnings as an athlete, aims to buy her family a house and a vehicle.
The young fighter said that muaythai has changed her life.
“For me, muaythai is part of my life. Since I was young, it was there up until today. It changes us for good.”
As a parting shot, Rivera called on the Filipino youth to get involved in sports, “To all the youth, I encourage you to find time to try any sports because it will teach you discipline and help you become a better person.”