NAS Whiting Field sailor places second in International Martial Arts Competition

Published on May 10, 2018 with No Comments

By Lt. j.g. Luke Rague, NAS Whiting Field Public Affairs Staff.
Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla. – An active duty enlisted master-at-arms stationed onboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field placed second in the World Kickboxing Association Asian-Pacific Championships, an international K1/Glory style Pro-Am Event at the 3rd International Thai Martial Arts Games & Festival in Bangkok, Thailand on March 12-22, 2018.
Master-At-Arms 2nd Class Sebastian Rivera participated in the Muay Thai competition as a member of Team USA, earning the silver after a loss to teammate Michael Carson. Rivera won his first fight against Italy’s Corrado Rubwo with a second round technical knockout. He then won by forfeit when Bangladesh’s Yahsam Hajih backed out after watching Rivera knockout Rubwo, advancing Rivera to the finals.
Rivera’s trip to Bangkok was the result of years of training and development as a competitive fighter, earning him an invite from Team USA to compete in the pro-am level competition.
Muay Thai has roots in Muay boran, a fighting style that was developed by an eighteenth century Siamese solider named Nai Khanomtom.

Team USA poses together at the World Kickboxing Association Asian-Pacific Championships and 3rd International Thai Martial Arts Games & Festival in Bangkok, Thailand. MA2 Sebastian Rivera (second from right) placed second in the Pro-Am competition, losing to teammate Michael Carson (center). (Photo courtesy MA2 Sebastian Rivera.)

Nai Khanomtom was captured by Burmese forces in 1767 and offered the chance to fight in hand-to-hand combat to earn his freedom. Winning the fight, he was released back to Siam where he was treated as a war hero and master martial arts instructor. Muay boran remained loosely structured until it was given official equipment and rules in the 1930s, starting the sport of Muay Thai.
Rivera’s draw to Muay Thai was an unexpected change from his initial goal of a fighting career in the more popular sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). “I became interested in Muay Thai because of how unrelenting the sport really is,” he said. “My intentions were to compete in MMA with a solid base in striking, but I fell in love with Mauy Thai and decided to focus strictly on that art.”
Rivera previously spent time training in other martial arts disciplines, studying Jujitsu and Judo. But for the past three and a half years, Rivera has focused almost solely on Muay Thai. He believes it has helped him both professionally and in his personal life.
“Mauy Thai has brought a calmness to my life. Knowing I don’t have to fight every battle, it has helped me with patience as well,” Rivera explained. “Being in the law enforcement field, I think my training will allow me to control many situations if things get physical. It has also allowed me to understand there is really no need to become violent.”
Raised in Cutler Ridge and a graduate of Homestead High School, suburbs of Miami, Rivera has strong roots in the state of Florida. He has participated in local fights in Crestview and he won his first title fight, the International Kickboxing Federation Welterweight Title, July 23, 2017, in Orlando, Florida.
But Rivera is not confining himself to the state of Florida. He has competed throughout the country in the pro-am circuit up and down the East Coast, in New York, Delaware, Virginia and South Carolina.
Still, he was eager to fight and explore new places, especially internationally. So when Team USA gave him the opportunity, he jumped at it. After getting permission from his chain of command and completing an overseas medical screening, Rivera was ready for an experience of a lifetime.
“Thailand was wonderful. I enjoyed the food, how inexpensive everything is, how kind and polite the people are,” Rivera said. “My favorite part of Thailand was experiencing the fight life. Every single night there was an event where fights were being held, from live national broadcasted events to local stadium events.” The only part of the trip that Rivera didn’t like was leaving.
But he returned with more experience and a better perspective on how to succeed in future competitions. “I realized my actions prepping me for competition, as difficult and exhausting as they already are, need to be improved,” Rivera said. “I am experimenting with my meal plan to promote a well-rounded diet. I have altered my workout plan to focus on my weaker areas. After competing alongside high-level fighters and coaches, and hearing them tell me I have what it takes to make it, I know I have the skillset to go far in this sport.”
The suggestions and encouragement from everyone he trained with are driving Rivera to aim higher and work for invitations from bigger organizations, such as Lions Fight Promotions, Glory Kickboxing, and Bellator Kickboxing.
“Training is always on the agenda. I have my whole year planned out,” Rivera said. “I plan on fighting in Delaware, Georgia, North Carolina, Orlando, South Carolina, Spain and even locally. I would like to turn professional soon, but I will not rush myself.”
Rivera also plans on staying in the Navy. With nine years in already, he plans on serving at least 20 years and pursuing the Limited Duty Officer (LDO) route from enlisted to officer. Either way, he looks forward to future sea duties. “The best time I’ve had in the Navy so far was on deployment,” Rivera said.
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