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Athlete looking for a home found one in Barrie
« on: February 26, 2011, 09:22:50 AM »
Athlete looking for a home found one in Barrie
By Gene Pereira (The Barrie Examiner)

Barrie is home to a wide range of high-profile athletes. But not all of them were born and raised here. In fact, a great number of them came to this city for athletic purposes and simply never left. As part of an ongoing series, The Barrie Examiner will be featuring an array of sports figures who arrived as strangers to the city, fell in love with the area,

He would become a world champion arm wrestler and a popular mixed martial arts fighter who went by the name "Big Daddy" in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

But Barrie's Gary Goodridge admits he never imagined as a child that his life's path would take him in that direction.

Not when your older sisters, Sharon and Shirma, would land playful smackdowns on their brother in the family's living room or backyard growing up in Barrie.

"I had no idea (I'd follow this path). My sisters used to beat me," Goodridge said with a chuckle. "They used to beat me in arm wrestling and kick my butt in fighting as well.

"Next thing you know, I'm the world arm wrestling champ and I'm kicking butt in the ring. I can thank my sisters for it."

Goodridge, 45, has been retired for almost a year after spending more than 14 years in the "octagon," battling it out in a sport where only the toughest of the tough survive.

It's been quite a journey for the native of Trinidad and Tobago, who first arrived with his family in Barrie at the age of 8. While the Eastview Secondary School graduate didn't know which sport it would be, he always knew he would end up having a career in one of them.

"When I grew up, I knew I was going to be an athlete," said Goodridge, who would end up winning nine world arm wrestling championships and 11 Canadian titles and had contracts with UFC, Pride and K1-federations in racking up an MMA record of 23 wins and 15 losses. "I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I was an athlete looking for a home.

"I thought it would be football, then I thought it would be rugby, then baseball. For a minute, I thought it would be cricket, but I knew I would be an athlete, I just didn't know what kind."

Goodridge's journey to the international sporting spotlight actually got its start in downtown Barrie at a now-extinct place called Wizards, that was located next to the old Stinson theatre.

The then 15-year-old walked in, having no idea how much his life would change.

"They had arm wrestling in downtown on Dunlop Street and I went in and won," he said. "That started my arm wrestling career."

Goodridge met Phil Stoppert there. The two, who are still good friends today, hit it off and Stoppert, an arm wrestler himself and a member of the Canadian Armwrestling Federation, helped guide Goodridge.

Goodridge shot up the ranks, winning world and national titles, even earning a film role in Over the Top with Sylvester Stallone.

But it was his victory over longtime world super heavyweight armwrestling champion Cleve Dean -- a behemoth of a man who stood six-foot-eight and weighed 450 pounds -- that would soon send him in a different direction.

Goodridge had seen the UFC fights on television.

"When I first saw it, I thought it was the most barbaric thing I've ever seen," he said. "I saw it and I wanted to try it, but I was scared because I had never really been in a fight before and these guys are professionals."

But a phone call from then-UFC promoter Art Davie would lead him to the octagon.

"At this point, I was scared. I didn't want any part of it and (Davie's) trying to get into fights," Goodridge said. "He saw me and said you're the guy that beat those behemoth arm wrestlers on TV. He said he saw me beat Cleve Dean."

Goodridge's introduction into the world of arm wrestling was quite the successful one. During his UFC 8 debut in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1996 against American Paul Herrera, he avoided his opponent's fireman's carry, trapping both of Herrera's arms in a crucifix hold and with several elbow blows to the head knocked out his opponent in just about 13 seconds.

A fourth-degree black belt, Goodridge's mixed martial arts career would take him all over the world and he even had a Japanese comic character based on him.

"I loved it from the minute I got in it," he said. "But I didn't love it because I was getting beat up. I loved it because I was making money. Money talks."

And yet, despite his world travels and his popularity in countries like Japan, Goodridge always came home to Barrie.

"My roots are here," said Goodridge, who has two daughters, 11-year-old Trinity and nine-year-old Tyra. "Because my family came here, everything started here. I have met a lot of good people here.

"I've been through a lot of trials and tribulations, but really I have Barrie to thank. I've been to other places to train, but I've always called Barrie my home. Barrie's my home."

His closest friends are from here. The first day he moved to Barrie and attended his Grade 3 class, he met Mike Mobbs. The two immediately became best friends and still are today.

"We were best friends the day we met, we'll be best friends until the day we die," Goodridge said.

Goodridge has no plans of going anywhere else. He's busy preparing to open his new MMA gym called Big Daddy MMA ( early April, which will run in conjunction with Total Fitness, located on Lennox Drive.

"I want to introduce people to my way, how I made my living for the last 14 years," he said. "Show people how to do what I did, how to get where I got.

"People can teach you how to fight, but there are very few people that know the connections to get you that fight."

Goodridge has watched as the popularity of UFC and other mixed martial arts has grown worldwide, but especially here in Canada. Ontario will finally host its first UFC event on April 30 in Toronto.

The sport has changed drastically from the days he first stepped into the ring.

"When I started, it was like human cockfighting," Goodridge said. "Now you can fight anywhere. You weren't allowed to see it in Canada when I started."

The Conquering Lion of Judah shall break every chain.