UFC Pioneer Gary Goodridge Talks New Book, UFC 144, and More in BR Exclusive

Matt Saccaro@@mattsaccaroContributor IIIFebruary 8, 2012

To many, UFC veteran Gary "Big Daddy" Goodridge is known only for being a journeyman with a dubious fourth-degree black belt in Kuk Sool Won whose only claim to fame is an eight-second dismantling of Paul Herrera at UFC 8.

Nothing could be further from the truth. 

In his newly released autobiography titled Gatekeeper: The Fighting Life of Gary "Big Daddy" Goodridge, Goodridge shows the MMA world that he was much more than that. 

He was an immigrant, a kid who was picked on, an arm-wrestling world champion, an amateur boxer, a father and much more.

The recently published book has been on the drawing board for over two years according to Goodridge. 

"It took two and a half years to write the book," he said.

Two and a half years to recap a 14-year career that saw Goodridge start off in the UFC and eventually move to Pride Fighting Championships, which he adored. 

"I felt the safest place for me to fight was Japan," Goodridge said. "The other places I wasn’t too sure I was going to make it out if I beat their guy...I felt secure in Japan. The other places I wasn’t so sure."

From Pride and MMA, Goodridge moved to the famed kickboxing promotion K-1. Unfortunately, his stint there wasn't successful and it would ultimately impact Goodridge for life. 

"That’s where I got most of the damage. Because now I suffer from brain injury," he said. Goodridge's in-your-face fighting style pleased fans but it lead to many knockouts throughout his career. These knockouts ended up permanently damaging his brain. 

It's an unfortunate tale but one that MMA fans, pundits, and fighters need to be made aware of, especially in the light of Carlos Condit's decision victory over Nick Diaz at UFC 143. 

People wanted a stand-up "war" between the two men. Instead, they got a tactical point-fight. If the fans always got what they wanted (read: a brawl) then cases like Goodridge's would be commonplace and the fighters we know and love would have a sad end. 

But fortunately for Goodridge, he was still able to write a book that told his story. And even better, feedback was entirely positive. 

Well, almost...

In the more personal sphere of his life, the book wasn't exactly a hit.

"[Feedback was] nothing but good except from my oldest daughter's mother. 'I know it’s the truth but you didn’t have to put it in there!'" Goodridge said. "It’s a book about my life. It’s a book about what I had to go through in order to do what I did."

The controversy over what's said in the book (you'll have to purchase it to find out the details) has seemingly hurt the former arm-wrestler's personal life, but was there a silver-lining? Goodridge remains doubtful.

"I don't think it was a therapeutic experience. It just helped me bring things out of the closet. It got me in a lot of fights, a lot of arguments. I’m not seeing one of my daughters right now because her mother didn’t like how I wrote the book; I shouldn’t have told the truth," he said.

"It’s the raw truth, and that’s what makes it different from all the other books. When you’re writing an autobiography, it should be the raw truth." 

Goodridge's allegiance to the truth is present in his personal life and also in his views about modern MMA. 

He's elated that the UFC is finally heading back to Japan with UFC 144 and feels that the promotion will be just the thing to bring Japanese MMA out of its current rut. 

"They will be able to revive [Japanese MMA], absolutely," he said.

"MMA is a huge thing in Japan. It’s on the rise all over the world and it’s only going to get bigger in Japan as well. "

Goodridge knocks out longtime rival Don Frye with a head kick in Pride Shockwave 2003.
Goodridge knocks out longtime rival Don Frye with a head kick in Pride Shockwave 2003.

Goodridge didn't stop there. Not only did he think MMA would grow in Japan, he thinks it could even get bigger on a global scale than the NFL or soccer.

"That’s only a thought of mine. I would hope it does. I believe it will be beigger on a big scale. It’s definitely the next boxing. The million dollar pay-days are around the corner. Will it be bigger than soccer? Who knows. Is it gonna be bigger than football? I don’t know."

Regardless of what happens, the Canadian is just happy to have been along for the ride. "I’m so happy from when I started when it was illegal to do this anywhere in the world to where its at now," he said. 

While the UFC will be blaring its trumpets that it's finally conquered Japan, men like Goodridge who helped build the sport both here and in Japan will have been forgotten by Zuffa, stricken from its official history in favor of other fighters. 

We would all do well to remember men like Goodridge. He wasn't the greatest of all time but he was a man who sacrificed his body and the quality of his life just so that people could be entertained, could watch the fights and take a break from all their worries. 

For that alone, Goodridge is a hero of MMA. He fought for us—not for accolades, not for his ego, but for fans, for average guys like he was at one time. And it cost him the full use of his brain. 

Men like Goodridge, the pre-Zuffa pioneers and legends, deserve to be remembered. The first draft of MMA history was written by their experiences. 

At the end of it all, Goodridge proved that he is a true fighter at heart.

When asked if after experiencing fleeting glory that ended in only defeat, pain, and terrible suffering, if he would do it all over again, Goodrige immediately had an answer. 

"Absolutely, the same way, I would not change a thing,"


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