When I was in Tokyo for the New Year’s Eve Dynamite!! show, I couldn’t help but notice that Gary Goodridge seemed like a man who didn’t really want to be fighting. He was added to the card at the last minute, matched up against Gegard Mousasi in a fight the promoters obviously didn’t intend for him to win. His last MMA fight was in November of 2008. He hadn’t won one since his 2007 K-1 Heroes bout against Jan Nortje. So what was he doing fighting "Sweet Sassy" on a few days’ notice?
The answer, Goodridge told me when I spoke to him for an SI.com article this week, is surviving. He was getting paid the only way he knows how, though he wishes he didn’t have to.
"I’m trying to get a job, period," said Goodridge. "My background is in security, police, corrections. I went to school for four years at a college level to learn how to beat people properly. I would love to be a bodyguard, whatever. I’m just looking for a job."
Goodridge spent all of 2009 staying out of the fight game and looking for steady work. When the call came offering him the fight with Mousasi, he still hadn’t found anything and his bank account was "drying up." Naturally, he took the fight, even though he already one scheduled in MMA Big Show for the following weekend (his TKO loss in Japan resulted in the Indiana commission refusing to license him for that bout).
He was in reasonably good shape, he says. His weight and cardio were on target, even if his speed and timing might not be. He knew why the promoters were bringing him in, but what could he do?
"I was going broke looking for a job," he said. "I got a load of bills that need paying. When I got the call I thought, ‘Thank God.’ Now I can pay some bills."
As Goodridge points out, he may be a household name from his time in Pride (he knocked out Oleg Taktarov in the first Pride event) or his early appearances in the UFC, but back then fighters weren’t making much money. He’ll be fourty-four years old in a couple of weeks. He can’t go on fighting much longer. But because that’s what he’s spent the last fourteen years of his life doing, he doesn’t have much else on his resume.
Goodridge said he enjoyed the trip to Japan, which was like going back in time for him, only this time he knew enough to appreciate all the little things. Now that he’s had that experience, he’d like to get out of the business. All he needs is for someone to give him a job.