Former PRIDE FC and K-1 star Gary Goodridge may no longer be competing in mixed martial arts, but that doesn't mean the 45-year-old bruiser isn't still fighting on a daily basis. His new opponents?
Slurred speech and prescription pain killers.
"Big Daddy" is perhaps best known to casual MMA fans for his unintentional snuff film against Paul Herrera at UFC 8: "David vs. Goliath." Goodridge secured his helpless foe in a crucifix and proceeded to rain down elbows until the referee intervened -- even after Herrera lost consciousness.
He recovered shortly thereafter, but highlights of the drubbing are frequently used in the anti-MMA crusade.
Between MMA and kickboxing, Goodridge has amassed a staggering 80+ fights to his name since 1996. Unfortunately his career ended in a serious decline, as the Canadian was forced into retirement following seven consecutive losses dating back to March 2007.
To navigate life after fighting, the 45-year-old depends on medication.
Levoxyl for his thyroid.
Cipralex for depression.
Aricept for memory.
Still quick with a joke, Goodridge can recall his fights in painstaking detail. But he sometimes stumbles over words, and often repeats himself because he simply forgets what he’s just said.
His drug regimen is suited to an Alzheimer’s patient, and that’s no accident. After 85 combined kickboxing and MMA bouts, many of them poorly regulated, Goodridge at times feels much older than 45.
"My brain," he says, "doesn’t remember much these days."
Goodridge, regrettably, may not have found himself in a unique situation.
Brain injuries stemming from repeated head trauma have been receiving more attention as the sport of MMA continues its global expansion, even prompting some fans to disassociate themselves with the sport.
Because MMA is evolving so rapidly and fans (and the medical community) are still running to catch up, it may take several years for damage incurred today to show its lasting effects and long-term consequences.
And do we have a responsibility to act on it?
“Why retire?” Goodridge asked Campbell. “To hang on to a couple of extra brain cells? All the old people die and all the young people live. We’re just getting ready for the bone yard.”
There are no clear-cut answers, but as Goodridge has shown, it may get worse before it gets better.