The 1st International Vale Tudo Tournament Champion and the 2005 K-1 World Grand Prix in Hawaii Champion
GARY “Big Daddy” GOODRIDGE
By Es Francis
The worlds fascination with MMA continues to grow. Some have coined this period in the sports history as the “Golden Age” of MMA. The sport has grown rapidly over the last few years, the quality and standard of the fighters, the attractive purses and clever marketing have all contributed to its growth.
It’s been 20 plus years since the UFC emerged onto the martial arts scene. I was honored to be able to have a conversation with the one they call “Big Daddy”, Mr Gary Goodridge. Gary is mostly known for his involvement in the UFC, PRIDE Fighting championships and K-1 Kickboxing.
He exploded onto the MMA scene in UFC 8 where he put in an unforgettable performance winning his first two fights to reach the final against Don Frye. His first fight, against Paul Herrera, is considered one of the most brutal knockouts in the history of the UFC history where he knocked out his opponent with a series of elbow strikes. He went on to fight some great champions such as Pedro Rizzo, Alistair Overeem, Valentine Overeem, Peter Aerts and the late Mike Bernardo.
He became amateur Canadian Super Heavyweight Boxing Champion, the very first International Vale Tudo Tournament Champion and the 2005 K-1 World Grand Prix in Hawaii Champion. Prior to kickboxing and MMA, he was also one of the top ranked contenders in the world of professional arm wrestling and has been inducted into the Arm Wrestling Hall of Fame. Originally from Trinidad, Gary grew up in Canada with four sisters.
Gary with his sister and strength/conditioning coach Susie
“Growing up in Canada was good. In Trinidad we don’t get snow so when I saw snow for the first time I was in 2nd grade about 7 years old. It was great but that was the only time I ever liked snow. Since then it’s been very cold every winter, I don’t like snow. My parents moved here for a better life and it is a definite better life but it’s cold as hell (Laugh)”
Being the only boy in the house he found himself playing with his sisters toys, dolls etc and admits he was a pansy.
“You know I grew up with 4 sisters and no brother. I always had a problem with being a tough guy, I was never a tough guy, I was kind of a pansy. I use to play with dolls and stuff but as I grew up I wanted to be a tough man, strong, so I started training.”
By 15 years of age Gary began arm wrestling and from arm wrestling moved into boxing and became Canadian heavyweight champion before moving into MMA.
Gary Goodridge Arm Wrestling Champ/Hall of fame
“I decided to enter arm wrestling, tough man contests and competitions as well as boxing that went down at the time, arm wrestling too and then the UFC came up and someone suggested that I should do it, so I did.”
In 1996, he was offered the status of 4th degree black belt in the Korean arts of Kuk Sool Won, and a free Dobok, if he would represent their school at the UFC. He took two classes in Kuk Sool Won before making his MMA debut in the eight-man tournament at UFC 8: David vs. Goliath in Puerto Rico. After reaching the finals against Don Frye Gary entered the UFC on 3 more occasions before getting his first taste of Brazilian “Vale Tudo (Anything Goes)”. He travelled to Brazil to compete in the tournament hosted by Sergio Batarell. On July 6, 1997, he defeated Augusto Menezes Santos, Cal Worsham and Pedro Otavio in the one evening to win the first International Vale Tudo Championship.
IVC Tournament Poster
“I did Vale Tudo and UFC and as I was doing UFC I received a call from Koichi “Booker K” Kawasaki and he invited me to take part in the PRIDE Fighting Championships in Japan. I said yeah sure. At first I was really afraid of it because technically I really didn’t know how to fight. …..Japan was great, they welcomed me and opened their arms up for me.”
PRIDE Fighting Championships
PRIDE began in Japan in 1997 and went on to hold more than sixty mixed martial arts events, broadcast to about 40 countries worldwide. It’s been reported that over 67,450 people attended the PRIDE Final Conflict in 2003.
Over the next two years, Gary became a regular in PRIDE’s heavyweight division, taking wins over Yoshiaki Yatsu, Valentine Overeem, Achmed Labasanov, Lloyd van Dams and Dan Bobish, as well as losses to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Fedor Emelianenko. He won his third match against Don Frye at PRIDE Shockwave 2003, scoring a KO with a head kick in the first round. This was to be his retirement from PRIDE.
Gary KO’s Don Frye
“I then got invited to fight on K-1. I loved K-1 but didn’t realise how violent it was as a sport. I got a lot of damage from it. K-1 was all about KO’s. You either lose by KO or win by KO. Their whole persona is about the KO. When I think of my career overall I remember fighting Wesley “Cabbage” Correira, I really enjoyed fighting him. Also my fights with Peter Aerts, I fought him twice and he really beat my ass 2 times in a row and I learned a lot from fighting him.”
Gary in K-1
Gary against Jerome Le Banner in K-1
Gary’s last bout was in 2010 and thereafter retired from the Ring and the Cage. In 2010 Gary published his memoirs called “Gatekeeper: The Fighting Life of Gary “Big Daddy” Goodridge.
It includes some great stories about his fighting career that people will remember.
Gatekeeper: The Fighting Life of Gary “Big Daddy” Goodridge
“I wanted to bring out a book to let people know who I really am. Because some people have an idea that your this way or that way and they really dont know me and they really don’t understand where you’ve been unless you know. So I wrote the book to let people and fans know where I’ve been, where I am and where I’m going.”
Unfortunately in early 2012 Gary was diagnosed with the early onset of “Dementia Pugilistica”, which has features of dementia that affect amateur or professional boxers, wrestlers as well as athletes in other sports who suffer concussions. It’s been 2 years since his diagnosis.
Gary in action at his seminar in Mexico
“My health is great, yes I have some small issues but I’m 48 looking like 38. A lot of people think I’m dead or really ill but I’m fine, there’s nothing wrong with me but of course you may have to remind me of something every now and then but I’m good. My health is good, I’m training, I look great, I’m down on my weight now. My weight went from 245lb to 285lb and I’m back down to 245lbs again, in great shape. I now teach and do regular seminars. I recently had a MMA seminar in Mexico and more in the pipeline so I’m keeping busy and enjoying connecting with people. I’m still in contact with a few of the fighters I’ve fought like PRIDE legend “Big Cat” Tom Erikson, we talk about 3/4 times a week. We became good friends after we fought each other in 1999 at PRIDE 8.”
FIGHTING IN JAPAN
Gary has had a total of 85 fights in his career and became a big star in Japan and the rest of the world.
Gary and his Japanese Fans
“I have had so many highlights in my career but I would say my time in Japan was like home. I love Japan and the Japanese people and as a matter of fact I’m losing my Japanese as I haven’t been there for so long, I speak good Japanese.”
Gary is now actively working with young people.
“When at home I work with young people, I go to gyms and teach people, just training and sharing experience with the next generation including new young fighters. If anybody wants me to pay them a visit I’m easily found and I would be more than happy” I think today the fighters in MMA and Kickboxing are very good. I watch GLORY Kickboxing and UFC and I have some fighters that would be amazing in there and who have been training for a long time.”
“I just want to say a big thank you to Es Francis for this interview and a big thank you to my fans in the UK for all their love and support. I look forward to coming to the UK at some point. I can be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as well as email firstname.lastname@example.org. Osu!”
Pics: By Gary Goodridge