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Gatekeeper: The Fighting Life of Gary

Gatekeeper: The Fighting Life of Gary "Big Daddy" Goodridge

by Gary Goodridge

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The biography of a pioneer in the mixed martial arts (MMA) scene, this work takes readers through Gary “Big Daddy” Goodridge’s entire career - from his rollercoaster formative years and his emergence as a world champion athlete to his role as a loving father struggling to find work. With humble beginnings as an immigrant in a small city in Canada


The biography of a pioneer in the mixed martial arts (MMA) scene, this work takes readers through Gary “Big Daddy” Goodridge’s entire career - from his rollercoaster formative years and his emergence as a world champion athlete to his role as a loving father struggling to find work. With humble beginnings as an immigrant in a small city in Canada, Goodridge endured bullying as a child and honed his natural strength, athleticism, work ethic, and charisma while fighting on the streets and as a bouncer in clubs. Eventually learning to channel his rage into more productive outlets, Goodridge soon became a world-champion arm wrestler, a boxing champion, a lethal Ultimate Fighting Championship contender, and a renowned MMA warrior. Early in his career, Goodridge used his incredible strength to become the National Amateur Heavyweight Boxing Champ of Canada after only ten months of training. In 1996, he entered the Ultimate Fighting Championships; after knocking out his opponent in under a minute with crushing elbows, he became an immediate mixed martial arts star all over the world. Known as a hardworking warrior who always fought the toughest competition, no matter what the circumstances, Goodridge took on the best heavyweights in the world for over a decade, including U.S. Olympic wrestlers Mark Coleman and Mark Schultz, and combat sport legends, such as Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Today, Goodridge lives with the physical consequences of a life spent literally battling to pay the bills. Filled with stories about backstage fights, steroid use, and fixed fights, this inspiring tell-all is a must-read for fight fans the world over.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Gatekeeper is a deeply personal account of the life of one of MMA's most interesting fighters. For fight fans looking for more insight into the MMA industry, for fans of Gary Goodridge and for those looking for a fascinating life story – told by a man who owns up to his decisions – it is a book that I cannot recommend enough." —www.f4wOnline.com

Product Details

ECW Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.90(w) x 9.60(h) x 0.52(d)

Read an Excerpt


The Fighting Life of Gary "Big Daddy" Goodridge

By Gary Goodridge, Mark Dorsey, Michael Holmes


Copyright © 2012 Gary Goodridge and Mark Dorsey
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-77090-071-4


I am the little guy, the ditch digger, the farmer, the construction worker; I worked in a factory for many years, and every time I fight, I fight for those guys. I represent the heart and courage it takes for every average guy to get up in the morning and face another day. I represent the guys who take that shit-kicking and come home at the end of the day an accomplished person.

In late 2003, I was 37 years old and one of the most well-known mixed martial artists in the world. As the "Gatekeeper" of the Pride Fighting Championship's heavyweight division in Japan, I had fought the biggest, toughest, and most skilled heavyweights in the world. I didn't always win, but even when I lost, I always gave the fans an entertaining show. If I had been a cautious fighter, guarding my win-loss ratio like it was the last piece of cheesecake in the fridge, I'd look a lot better on paper. But I don't fight that way. In the era I was from, it didn't matter if you were a technical fighter, skilled in all of the various disciplines. The only thing the fans expected was that you fight with heart and keep going no matter what. Somebody's going to go home with a loss but at the end of the day, if you fought your heart out, you earned respect. My biggest worry going into the ring was always that I might disappoint my fans.

Despite my success, fighting had taken its toll on my personal life. Not only was the mother of my daughter Trinity harassing me for more money in child support payments, she was also pushing to keep my daughter full-time. That meant I would have only been able to see her every other weekend. My ex-girlfriend and I had shared custody, but all of a sudden, out of nowhere, she wanted full custody; she didn't think I was in the country enough. The only reason I fought in the first place was to feed my children and give them a better life; if my career was getting in the way of my relationship with my kids, then maybe it was time to start thinking about retirement.

It wasn't just the personal problems that were forcing me to get out. My body was beaten down from so many exciting but brutal fights throughout the years. Among other injuries, I had torn the cartilage in my knees, broken multiple fingers, cracked my ribs, lost several teeth, and had 30 stitches put above my eyebrow from a head kick that left me with a gaping wound. I was also suffering from a recurring back problem that stemmed from a car accident I had been in as a teenager. Every now and then, the pain would hit me like a wave, and near the end of 2003, the pain was particularly bad.

One afternoon, I was lying in bed in complete agony when I got a call from Nobuyuki Sakakibara, president of Dreamstage Entertainment, the Japanese-based company that owned Pride. Sakakibara had an interesting proposal: he wanted me to fight Don Frye on New Year's Eve, at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan. Don "The Predator" Frye looks like Tom Selleck and has a similar, really deep, gruff voice. Originally, Frye had been a firefighter but in 1994 he left the fire department to pursue a full-time career in mixed martial arts. When he started in the sport at UFC 8, Don Frye was already a former pro boxer and a second-degree black belt in judo with over 700 competition victories. He was also a stellar wrestler, having been state champion in high school and an all-American Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestler with Arizona State and Oklahoma State. Even though I had been bedridden for a month, I immediately knew that I wanted the fight. Earlier in my career, when I was still competing in the United States for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Don had defeated me on two separate occasions. In those fights Frye had beaten me with experience and superior wrestling, but that had been eight years ago. Now that I also had experience, I was sure that I could beat Frye and avenge those two losses.

I wanted to fight Frye, but before I could do so I needed a new contract with Pride. The only thing that would keep me in the fight game was a pay raise and some guaranteed fights. That way I would be able to give my daughters more money in child support. I was in tremendous physical pain, but I knew I could fight if it meant a better future for my family. It had been almost a year since my last contract, and I wanted Pride to renew it or let me go. When I told Sakakibara I needed a contract extension or else I wouldn't fight, he quickly tried to change the subject, telling me we would talk about it another time. I was insistent; I needed an answer.

Sakakibara knew I wasn't going to budge, so he told me he needed to talk to some of the other Pride executives about renewing my contract. He called back a few times, but we couldn't agree on any of the terms he kept offering. Finally I got sick of it and told him not to call me back until he had made a decision that was fair. A short while later, Sakakibara called with his final offer: my fight against Don Frye would be my retirement fight, and Pride would give me $100,000, win or lose. Since I was thinking about retirement anyway, it sounded good to me. I'd make a lot of money, have a big retirement fight, and hopefully avenge my earlier losses to Frye.

Going into Pride Shockwave 2003 on New Year's Eve, there was no doubt in my mind that Don Frye was going to take a beating from me. Even with all of the personal problems and injuries I was dealing with, I was still confident that I was going to kick Frye's ass. He had been away from the game for a number of years doing professional wrestling in Japan, so I knew he wasn't at the top of his game. If I couldn't beat Frye at this point in our careers, I never would. There was no way I could allow myself to lose. Looking back, I didn't have many reasons to be so confident, but as a fighter, you can't allow doubt into your mind if you want to win.

During the trip over to Japan, I was in terrible pain. I could barely walk — the flight attendant had to keep bringing me ice packs. Backstage at the Saitama Super Arena, my back was still killing me. In order to try and get some mobility, I had one of the doctors shoot numbing agents into the muscles of my lower back. That helped for awhile. I used the respite from the pain to stretch out really well and throw a couple of high kicks at my assistant, Andrew McMichael, who was holding the pads. Due to my chronic injuries, that little bit of warming up was the only training I was able to do in the lead-up to the fight.

Frye was clearly having mobility problems of his own. Whenever he saw me looking, he'd jump up out of his seat as if there was nothing wrong. However, I could tell that just getting out of his chair was causing him a lot of pain. Don and I were both playing the game. Fighters always have to put their best foot forward. When you're going into battle, you want everybody to believe that you're functioning at full strength. Another option is to pretend you are a wimp, then come out there like a killer, but you have to be in control. In poker, you don't want somebody to see your hand before you show it. The same thing is true in fighting; despite appearances, it's largely a mental game.

When it was finally time to fight, I jogged and shadowboxed from my dressing room, down the main corridor leading into the arena, trying to loosen up. Emerging onto the long entrance ramp, I tried to stay calm as the crowd roared with anticipation. "We Will Rock You" by Queen came on, a laser light show started, and I began walking toward the ring. Along the way I pumped my fist in the air to the beat of the song, trying to block out all the other noise. Fighters who get caught up in all of the hoopla before a fight waste a lot of energy. You have to find a quiet, calm place in your mind. You don't want to be mesmerized by all of the fans wishing you well and cheering you on. To most people I looked calm, but the fact that I hadn't trained before the fight made me scared as hell. I really needed to focus my energy and try to overcome my nerves if I was going to beat Frye. At 6'1", 216 pounds, Don Frye was a very lean, tough guy. I concentrated on my strategy: I knew I had to keep the fight standing, because even after working for years on my grappling, Frye still had the advantage on the ground. There were a lot of things running through my mind before the fight but I tried to harness my adrenaline and use it to my advantage instead of letting it become a problem.

After an intense stare down with Frye during the announcements, I grabbed the back of his neck in a gesture of respect. Rather than reciprocating, Frye pushed me away and aggressively raised his gloves. I guess he was letting me know we could only be friends after the fight; right now, we had to go to war. When the bell rang, the crowd roared, and Frye and I touched gloves. He came out swinging, but I backed out of the way and hit him with a hard outside low kick to try and make him think twice about wading in with wild punches. I stalked Frye around the ring and loaded up on a big one-two combination that rocked him pretty hard. When he tried to clinch, I pushed him away then stalked after him, hitting him with a hard left hook.

I took a brief pause and assessed the situation: Frye's background was wrestling and wrestlers are susceptible to being kicked in the head because they tend to keep their hands low. At that moment, Frye dropped his hands slightly, so I loaded up my right leg for a huge kick to the side of his head. The kick landed perfectly and knocked Frye out cold, sending him face down on the mat. When Frye hit the floor, the Japanese fans went absolutely crazy and gave me a huge standing ovation. It was a fantastic feeling. As Stephen Quadros, the announcer for Pride, said on the broadcast, Hollywood could not have scripted a better ending for my career. Nor could I have asked for a better opponent to fight. Don Frye had been so significant in my mixed martial arts life because he had beaten me twice in my first year as a pro fighter. A win over him was a hurdle I had to clear, and the perfect ending to a long and turbulent career.

After a short celebration in the ring, I went over to make sure Frye was all right. From the mat, he winked at me as if to say, "Yeah, you got me," then sat up and gave me a hug. Next, the Pride head honchos, Nobuhiko Takada and Sakakibara, came in and gave me a giant trophy, two big bouquets of flowers, and my money. When Sakakibara told me to keep in touch, all I could manage to say in response was "Thank you. Thank you for all of the wonderful years." Takada called me "Mr. Pride," which was a huge honor for me: at the time, Pride was the best mixed martial arts organization in the world. Once Frye was up and walking around, he held up my hand with the trophy in it. Frye was my nemesis, but he was also a brother of mine in the art of war. We had started in the game at the exact same time.

My final fight was a really emotional time for me and as I hugged my team in the ring, the tears started to flow. I can't even describe the rush of emotions I was feeling. When given the microphone to address the crowd, I said "Sumimasen," which means "I'm sorry." "I'm really emotional," I continued, "because tonight means a lot to me. Thank you to all my Japanese fans for making me feel at home every time I come here." After my words were translated, the crowd cheered. I didn't want to stay in the ring all night, so I wished everybody a happy new year and left the ring to continue the celebration backstage. For a moment, everything was gone: the pain, the problems, the worries about what to do next — all of it. But just for a moment. Even at what I thought was the end of my career, it soon became clear my life would continue to be what it had been from the start: a fight.


I was born in Saint James, Trinidad, on January 17, 1966, to Henry and Barbara Goodridge. In the old country, my parents were extremely poor, so we lived in a really small dwelling. How poor were we? I remember going to school some mornings with no breakfast and then barely being able to afford to spend the little bit of money that it cost for lunch. Discipline was strict and harsh, and I had to deal with a lot of beatings whenever I misbehaved. In Trinidad, if you did something you weren't supposed to do, you got beat for it. My mother and father used to work extremely long hours, which meant that us kids were usually left on our own. Even when my dad wasn't working, he wasn't around because he was usually off fooling around with somebody.

My sisters and I spent a lot of time at my grandparents' place a few streets away. If we weren't at home, my mom would march over to my grandparents' place with a belt and start beating us, even if we were sleeping — she didn't like to have to chase us down after a long day. There were lots of times we'd have to quickly grab our clothes and run down the street while my mom ran after us, threatening bodily harm and yelling, "Get out of here! You're supposed to be at home!" For a young kid, getting woken up like that was pretty scary. However, it got me used to taking a beating, something that would come in handy later on in my life.

After years living in poverty, my parents decided that they wanted a better life for their kids so they started the process of immigrating to Canada. Like many immigrants, we couldn't afford to move the whole family at once, so my father moved first to set up living arrangements and start making money. The plan was that once my father established himself, the rest of the family would move to the new country one by one, as we could afford it. Approximately one year after my father left, my mother joined him in Toronto. For two years my younger sister Susie and I lived with my mother's father in Barbados. (My sisters Sharon and Shirma left for Canada after a year in Barbados.) He was a painter by trade. He was also an alcoholic and would stay up and talk all night, telling stories about his childhood or singing old war tunes until he had sung himself to sleep.

Being left behind by my parents gave me a fear of being abandoned. People make comments like, "Your parents left you in a nice tropical island like Barbados? How bad could that be?!" But it's not like that. My parents left me at a very young and vulnerable age when people could have taken advantage of me. Nobody looks after you as much as your parents do. Even today, leaving is one of the worst things that anybody could do to me. It's an awful feeling that I have experienced many times throughout my life. When somebody who you love leaves you, it always feels like the entire world is falling apart.

I have four sisters: Susie, Shirma, Sharon, and Lisa. They are the backbone of who I am. Throughout my life I have had many relationships. Many people have come and gone, but I can't divorce my family; they are a part of me forever. As the middle child between two older sisters and two younger sisters, I have always been spoiled. My sister Shirma is just like my mom in a lot of ways: an outspoken person and a fighter. Shirma was the one who always fought my battles if I was being bullied. Even to this day, if anyone messes around with me, they better prepare to mess with Shirma and my mom.

Although I love all of my sisters to death, Susie and I have always had a particularly special bond. Ever since Susie and I were left by ourselves at such a young age, we have never been apart from one another. When everybody else in our family was splitting up, we were always kept together. As a result, we've always been there for each other. One day my mom went into the bank, leaving Susie and me in the car to look after our younger sister Lisa. At the time, Lisa was just a little snotty-nosed kid; Susie and I were starting to get fed up with taking her everywhere that we went. This particular day, Lisa was nagging me non-stop and just being a pain in the testicles. Finally, I'd had enough, and since I couldn't hit her, I turned around and spit in her face. The minute the spit hit her, she started screaming like somebody was trying to kill her. I began to worry about what my mom was going to do to me: was I going to get kicked out of the house?


Excerpted from Gatekeeper by Gary Goodridge, Mark Dorsey, Michael Holmes. Copyright © 2012 Gary Goodridge and Mark Dorsey. Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Gary Goodridge is a world-renowned fighter and arm wrestler. Mark Dorsey is a PhD candidate at York University in Toronto. They both live in Barrie, Ontario.

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