WWE's Matt Riddle Talks Transition from UFC, Timothy Thatcher, COVID-19 Pandemic

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2020


Matt Riddle has a warning for any former UFC stars looking to make the leap into pro wrestling: It's not as easy as you think.

Riddle spoke to Brent Brookhouse of CBS Sports about his transition:

"I think, if you're a talented athlete and have charisma, you can totally make the jump to pro wrestling. At the same time, wrestling is one of those things that does not come easy. The fans, just like MMA fans, they can be brutal at times. If you don't bring it or you mess up or you're not doing things right, they're going to be cold. Those guys all have a good amount of charisma, they have a good amount of star power, they're amazing athletes and fighters. But it's a process. When I started wrestling, I could do all the moves and was like, 'This is going to be easy. I'm super athletic and I feel like I can talk.' But when you're out there wrestling, it's a completely different animal. It's hard.

"I wish I could say, 'Yeah, if you're an MMA fighter, hop in.' But to be a good pro wrestler, you have to love pro wrestling. I've loved pro wrestling longer than I've loved mixed martial arts. It's just that I wrestled in high school and I just went on that path before I got into pro wrestling. Tom Lawler is the same way. He's a great example of a mixed martial artist who loved pro wrestling before he started wrestling and he's had pretty good success, I think."

Riddle posted an 8-3 (2) record as a professional MMA fighter, emerging as a promising welterweight in UFC before being released by the promotion in 2013 for two positive tests for marijuana. He began his pro wrestling career in 2014, working on the independent circuit before signing with WWE in 2018.

WWE has signed several former MMA fighters in recent hears, including Ronda Rousey, Shayna Baszler and Riddle. That's without mentioning Brock Lesnar, who has made the leap back and forth between UFC and WWE to great success.

Riddle and Pete Dunne are currently the NXT tag team champions but are unable to defend the titles because of the coronavirus pandemic. Dunne is unable to be in the United States because of travel restrictions. Riddle has since been working with Timothy Thatcher as his temporary partner. 

"You know, I think we've been rivals for so many years, we've worked so many matches with EVOLVE and over in Germany and the UK, we've had a lot of history but have never teamed before," Riddle said of Thatcher. "We've always had a pretty good mutual respect for one another, and we've always been friendly. I think us teaming brings that to light even more. A lot of times, people think teams are randomly put together like we're just doing this last minute, but me and Tim have a history. Putting us together isn't anything too crazy for us because we know each other quite well."

WWE has continued putting on weekly shows during the pandemic. Riddle says the company has done everything in its power to ensure the safety of competitors. 

"Honestly, I know it's a pandemic, but things are pretty sweet in the Riddle household," Riddle said. "I relax, I go skateboarding, I do schoolwork with the kids and we watch movies. I made a slip and slide out of my wrestling mats yesterday.

"I wrestle only every couple weeks, but we're very safe. They test us before we go in. We wear masks. We do the tapings in blocks so not everyone is there at one time. There's barely anybody there, so we can stay as safe as possible. Honestly, I'm not that busy, but I'm having a lot of fun and just trying to stay safe."