Anyone to approach Gary Goodridge, 45, is promptly greeted with his two greatest trumps: his smile and his right fist, with which “Big Daddy” welcomes the interviewer. An MMA pioneer, the fighter from Trinidad and Tobago long transplanted to is retired, “irremediably retired,” but states that he will be one of the most enthusiastic spectators in the Rogers Centre for UFC 129.
I ask him which he believes will be the best fight, the one he most wants to watch. The giant glances at me, mulling it over some, leaving me hanging long enough to wonder if I’d said something dumb.
“Machida and Couture,” he finally blurts, agreeing with Tito Ortiz’s tweet from the other day. The veterans seem more anxious about this one than they are about GSP-Shields or Aldo-Hominick.
So I ponder whether “Big Daddy” doesn’t see something of his own style of fighting in that of karateka kid Lyoto Machida.
“Yeah, my style’s completely different. But I like watching his technique and striking. He hits and retreats, hits and retreats, while I’d hit and not think about anything else; I’d just keep hitting and going forward,” recalls the retiree, venturing a forecast of what game will be on display by Lyoto, who asserted that he will be looking to win the fight on his feet.
Former UFC and Pride FC fighter Goodridge was one of the greatest knockout artists of the romantic old days of MMA – he was always either knocking out or getting knocked out. It was a risky method, but it was fun. After a number of years at the top the heavy-handed big guy became a respected gate keeper – that is, the guy to beat to get a shot at the title. Gary Goodridge was the guy Rodrigo Minotauro had to go through before his crowning win over Mark Coleman at Pride in 2001, as you may well remember. Now, he’s talking about his gym here in Toronto, his new students, his work as a teacher – the things he’s currently proudest of.
Next to us, journalists and fans are hassling Royce Gracie. I point and ask if a fight against Royce in Rio wouldn’t tickle his fancy.
“It would be an incredible fight, but I really have stopped. At 45 I just want to teach and produce champions at Big Daddy Fight Team. This Royce-versus-Goodridge fight is all in fans’ heads; they can imagine what it would be like. Today Royce and I are friends; I’d rather sit down and talk to him about MMA than fight him,” he said in closing, before baring his fist for another exchange of friendly punches, this time in farewell.