Gary “Big Daddy” Goodridge, is a Trinidadian-Canadian who made is name as a heavyweight kick boxer and mixed martial artist who fought out of Barrie, Ontario. Before competing in kickboxing and MMA, Gary was one of the top ranked professional arm wrestling contenders in the world.
- How did your athletic career begin?Gary started out playing a host of different sports including baseball, hockey, football, and rugby. He also competed as a Canadian amateur boxer and became a champion in the super heavy weight division. Big Daddy was a very avid weight lifter setting a bench press record at Georgian College in Barrie. At the time, his max bench press was 580lbs – that’s a lot of weight! Gary became the World Arm Wrestling Champion in 1991, a feat that he would repeat in 1994. On his path to the title, Big Daddy was able to beat arm wrestling legends Sharon Remez and John Brzenk. Gary’s greatest athletic passion was mixed martial arts. He got the itch to join after he and some friends watched the UFC 3 card which featured MMA legends Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie. Big Daddy’s friends thought he could do some real damage in the sport and as it turned out, they were right. Gary’s debut in MMA was in 1996 in the eight-man tournament UFC 8: David vs Goliath, where he made it all the way to the finals, following a 13-second knockout in the quarter-finals and another knock out in the semi-finals. He eventually lost via submission in the finals to MMA legend Don Frye.
- What were some of your biggest MMA accomplishments?In his MMA career, Gary went 23 and 23 with one draw. Thirteen of his wins came via knockout. Gary competed in three more UFC events, making it as far as the semi-finals at UFC 10. It is important to note, that we are now at UFC 203 and most people and modern fighters would consider the one night tournament format that existed in those early days to be inconceivable. Gary then moved to Brazil where he was crowned the first ever International Vale Tudo Champion. Gary then competed in the first 3 PRIDE Fighting Championship events before eventually becoming a mainstay in their heavyweight division where he would rack up several wins including a win over Don Frye in his final PRIDE fight. Gary then competed for a few years in the K1’s HERO series, where he would record several more wins including taking down Sumo Wrestler Alan Karaev.
- How nervous were going into your first match?Gary says that before his first match he was “very nervous and that feeling never really went away. I used that nervous energy to my advantage, because it made move and react quicker.” Gary also describes fighting as a huge adrenaline rush.
- What has been the biggest adversity you’ve had to overcome as an athlete?Gary broke his right foot in a match with Oleg Taktarov and also suffered a broken knee and had his nose broken seven times. His biggest challenge came after his career ended. More on that later.
- What was the turning point in your fighting career?Gary’s career really swung into high gear after he was fired from the Honda Plant in Alliston, Ontario. Prior to that, he was training and fighting against world class fighters after working eight hour shifts. He has said that his cardio was a big problem for him in his first few matches and said that during those he often found he would, “run out of gas.” All of that changed when Gary started working with Roman Spvoda, a trainer whose style was best described as old school. He ran Gary through some crazy drills. Gary reflected upon a particularly difficult drill Roman had him do where he would have to throw a 90lb rock up a large hill and then run up as fast as possible to grab it before it rolled back down the hill. At that point in time his training sessions would start as two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening which then progressed to three hours in the morning and three hours on the evening . Gary described those work outs as “worse than any Rocky film,” adding, “It made Stallones workouts look like a schoolyard picnic.”
- How would you compare today’s fighters to you in your prime?“The sport has grown in leaps and bounds,” Gary says, “The highest purse I ever fought for was $100,000 which was a lot of money back then but most fights paid me $5,000 or less.” Gary also says that the comradery back in the day was totally different. Back then, all of the fighters trained together, fought together and partied together.
- Who was the biggest fighter you fought against?The biggest fighter Big Daddy ever squared off against was Hong-Man Choi who stood a towering 7’1” and weighed in at 330lbs. He went by the nicknames “Che Man”, “Techno Goliath”, “Korean Monster” and “Korean Colossus”. Choi bested Gary on August 5, 2005 via knockout at the 1:34 mark of the first round. Gary describes it as one of the only time his 6’3” and 240 pounds left him feeling small.
- What challenges have you faced in your fight career?As mentioned above Gary’s main adversity came after his career had ended. Gary suffers from Dementia Pugilistica, a form of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, that mainly affects boxers, wrestlers and other athletes who compete in sports where concussions are a common injury. This condition results in dementia, memory issues, dizzy spells and a lack of balance. It is commonly a precursor to Parkinson’s, and the effects of Dementia Pugilistica can affect every aspect of a person’s life. Some notable boxers to have felt this same affliction include Jimmy Ellis, Floyd Patterson, Bobby Chacon, Jerry Quarry, Mike Quarry, Jimmy Young, Wilfred Benitez, Emile Griffith, Willie Pep, Freddie Roach, Sugar Ray Robinson, Billy Conn, Joe Frazier, Fritzie Zivic, and Meldrick Taylor. Other well known athletes who have had CTE include hockey Player Derek Boogaraard and Professional Wrestlers Andrew Martin and Chris Benoit. Gary and co-author Mark Dorsey, published, “Gatekeeper: The Fighting Life of Gary “Big Daddy” Goodridge” in December 2011. The book is available on Amazon.
Lorne’s Take – I really appreciate Gary taking the time to speak with me. He had tremendous success as a fighter but it came at a price. I wish him nothing but the best.