Gary Goodridge and the price of fighting

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Gary Goodridge’s first MMA fight, at UFC 8, ended in devastating fashion for his opponent, wrestler Paul Hererra:

He came back that night and fought again, and won. And again that night he fought, finally losing to Don Frye. That was in 1996. He fought for the UFC again that year, and then went on to PRIDE, K-1, and a number of other organizations. For almost 15 years, Goodridge enjoyed an amazing career in combat sports, most notably as PRIDE’s gatekeeper.

He was willing to fight anyone anywhere, and he did, over the years facing the heaviest hands and feet, in the history of the sport, including Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, Igor Vovchanchyn, Pedro Rizzo, Marco Ruas, Mark Coleman, Gilbert Yvel, Heath Herring, Don Frye,  and many more. Goodridge had some 85 MMA and kickboxing bouts in total.

Over and again he suffered this:

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And delivered this:

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And suffered this:

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It’s HOLY F@$%ING $#!@ stuff. Goodridge earned pride, fans, and money, and he paid for it in the end with his mind. In 2012 he was diagnosed with CTE and dementia.

The fighter believes his years in kickboxing were when the majority of brain damage occurred. A quick look at Goodridge’s kickboxing record lends credence to the judgment. He lost twelve of his last 13 kickboxing matches. One was a draw. Three of the losses were via KO, three were via TKO, and six were decisions. But perhaps he took even more punishment in the decisions.

However, his MMA record at the end was not radically different, with four wins out of the final 13 fights. Of the nine losses in MMA, one was a KO, five were TKOs, one was a submission, and two were decisions.

In 2011 Goodridge told the Orangeville Banner he believes a lot of the damage likely occurred as a result of him getting back into the ring too early following a concussion.

“I had like three weeks in a row where I was knocked out two of the three weeks,” he said. “You built up brain injury after brain injury after brain injury by not giving it proper time to heal. That’s not to say that if you were to give it time to heal, then it was going to go away.”

‘Big Daddy’ says he wishes he knew then what he knows now. And he’s trying to alert fighters about the potential dangers of professional combat sports.

Depression is one of the symptoms of CTE. In the clip below from last year, Goodridge tells Inside MMA correspondent Amy Dardashtian that without medication, he would have committed suicide.

Living with CTE is a heart-breaking reality for Goodridge, and one that individuals considering a career in combative sports should carefully weigh when making the decision to compete or to keep competing.

“I could get a job,” he explains. “But I would forget I had a job.”