Damn good but not great, fi rst runner up always gets a line in the almanac but fades quickly from public memory. Don’t believe me? Quick, who lost Super Bowl XXXII? Name the fi ve teams the Chicago Bulls trounced en route to their six NBA titles in the 1990s. Who did Muhammad Ali defeat in his fi nal successful title defense?
Still skeptical? Ask Gary Goodridge. The 6’1”, 240 pound, 42-yearold fi ghter was born in Trinidad, but is a lifelong resident of Barrie, Ontario, Canada. He holds a professional kickboxing record of 11-19 and a professional MMA record of 23-15, but you’ve probably never heard of him.
Largely forgotten by longtime American fi ght fans, and completely unknown to the newest generation of combat connoisseurs, Goodridge was tapped by former UFC owner Bob Meyrowitz to compete in a YAMMA Pit Fighting Master’s division superfi ght at Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, NJ on April 11 along with Eric “Butterbean” Esch, Don Frye, and Oleg Taktarov.
The new promotion, a joint venture between Meyrowitz and Live Nation, the country’s leading concert production company, has been greeted with a number of pressing questions: What is this mysterious YAMMA fi ghting surface? Why is Meyrowitz diving back into the fray? Who is Gary Goodridge?
Even though he has fought for the UFC, PRIDE FC, K-1, and K-1 Hero’s during his decade-long career, it could be argued that Gary “Big Daddy” Goodridge has less name-recognition than the guy who left The Ultimate Fighter house in season three because his girlfriend was supposedly stepping out on him. Goodridge attributes this to, “new people discovering a new sport,” and concedes that fi ghting almost exclusively in Japan for the last decade didn’t help his stateside celebrity.
A solid fi ghter with a respectable resume, Goodridge was good enough to challenge for numerous high-profi le titles but never good enough to win more than one. Goodridge burst onto the scene on February 16, 1996 with little more than some boxing skills and his credentials as a competitive arm-wrestling champion. He took out two opponents at UFC 8 that night, including a brutal elbow strike knockout of Mark Herrera, before losing in the fi nals to Frye. He returned three months later and lost to Mark Schultz at UFC 9, and again to Mark Coleman two months later in the second round at UFC 10. Frye defeated Goodridge again in December of that year at Ultimate Ultimate.
Big Daddy then took his game overseas, winning three fi ghts in one night at a Brazilian tournament. Then it was on to Japan, where he fought as a kickboxer and mixed martial artist for PRIDE, K-1, and K-1 Hero’s. Promoted as a gatekeeper by PRIDE, Goodridge beat Taktarov, Frye, Jan Nortje, and a slew of lesser-known fi ghters. “I can mix it up with anybody in any style,” Goodridge said, and he proved it against Jan Nortje. He faced the Dutchman – who recently wrecked PRIDE and K-1 veteran Bob Sapp at a Strikeforce event – and defeated him by knockout and submission in their two matchups.
But Goodridge lost to all the top-fl ight opponents he faced while competing for the three organizations, solidifying his reputation as a dangerous but inconsistent fi ghter.
So even if Big Daddy’s fi ght against Butterbean scores him some old-timer love from American MMA fans, it is anything but a comeback. The fi ghter has enjoyed more success against high-level competition in this decade than most of his MMA-pioneering peers. He fought frequently for K-1 (mostly losing) and PRIDE and K-1 Heroes (mostly winning) until the end of last year. At 42, Goodridge believes he’s gotten better with age and told FIGHT! that, “with the exception of Fedor and Randy Couture I can handle anyone.”
Let’s hope for his sake that he fi nds success stateside, because second place is nothing but a footnote