Interview: Matt Riddle Discusses All Things Wrestling & MMA at wXw 16 Carat Gold

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Photo: Mortiz Risch / LWOPW

During the Media Center of Europe’s biggest Wrestling tournament, wXw 16 Carat Gold, multiple media group interviews were conducted. As a special surprise, beside the already announced Mike Bailey and Jonah Rock, Matt Riddle appeared and answered questions on topics like being happy in the independents, weight cuts and travelling in the UFC, shoot style wrestling, wrestling in Japan, his upcoming GCW Bloodsport show and so much more.

Photo: Oli Sandler

You wrestled ACH, then had about 50 minutes to go the airport to take an international flight to Dublin, then got onto another plane and came here, so how are you feeling ?

I feel pretty good. I’m kind of used to the international travel at this point, it gets a little strenuous, but i knew I´ve done this flight before for MLW, from Orlando to England and I knew I had to get that 8:50 flight. (…) This time I made it pretty good, last time not so much. I was wind sprinted to the airport, drenched in sweat (…). Last night was pretty easy, pretty good flight, slept most of the way, got on my other flight, slept there, got in the car and now I’m here talking to you guys, pretty easy, they did all the work.

Photo: GCW

Matt, I saw an announcement about an AMBITION like tournament at Wrestlemania weekend, who came up with that ?

So, myself and the people of Game Changer Wrestling (GCW), that also do Joey Janela’s Spring Break, they came up to me and said: “hey, we want to do an event around you” and I suggested (…) Matt Riddle’s Bloodsport. At Wrestlemania, there are so many shows that weekend, there are probably like 75 to 120 shows from Wednesday to Sunday. So, you are going to see a lot of lock-ups, a lot of headlocks, you are going to see a lot of the basics over and over again. So how can we stick out ? Have more of a shoot-style tournament, have MMA fighters in the tournament. It is basically shoot-style wrestlers that know how to shoot and shoot MMA fighters that do professional wrestling for a living, meeting for the first time and mixing it up. Also, we don’t have ropes on the ring, it is submission and K.O only and No-Disqualifications. You got guys like Nick Gage and people like that, you don’t know what they are going to do, so no DQ is the way to go. That’s what we did, I think it is going to stick out(…).

How do you feel about being left out of the AMBITION tournament this year and was there any conversation to defend your title from last year ?

I didn’t even know I was going to be invited to the event this year. Everybody was getting announced and I was kind of just waiting for the call and then people got pulled from the event and then I got my call and I said “alright, going to defend my AMBITION championship” and then they put me in a “Superfight” with WALTER. The thing with me and WALTER…we really have a feud going, not just here in Germany, not just in England, not just in America, it is a world feud. When we get in there, it is always AMBITION, it´s always a shoot, so I think it made more sense to take me and WALTER and make us the Co-Main Event or whatever it is and have us just fight. And to be honest, I think I would have just won AMBITION again, I know Tim Thatcher is in it and last year it was me and him in the finals. He is án extremely talented guy but at the end of the day… a World Champion in Jiu Jitsu, National Champion, fought in the UFC, I’ve done everything when it comes to combat sports, I’ve done it, so I think I still would have won the AMBITION tournament two-times.

Photo: wXW

How is your mindset going into an Ambition match with WALTER, instead of a regular wrestling match with him ?

The last time we faced each other was actually in America for EVOLVE. And I have a style of matches, it is basically a no-rope break match, which seems basic but you can pin under the ropes, you can submit in the ropes. And for me this is more natural because in a cage or in an MMA fight it doesn’t matter if you get under the ropes the ref is not going to count, I´m just going to stomp you up, you got to work your way out and it is a lot harder. The advantage WALTER has in AMBITION is, there are rope-breaks in this shoot-style match, like Pancrase. So he is going to have a slight advantage in size and power, but also with the rope breaks. I´m going to put him in a submission and he is going to try to get to the ropes and he is a huge guy, it is not like he has to reach too far to grab it. But regardless, i still plan on knocking him out, maybe submitting him but I think a knockout is whats up.

Follow up question: WALTER also has a World Title match scheduled for Night 2, so do you think that he might not be putting 100% of his effort in your match to stay a little bit fresh for the World Title match ?

He could do that. But if he holds back against me, that is probably going to hurt him more in the long way, so if he tries to get by me or take the easy way out… I won´t let people take the easy way out. If he lays down, I´m going to beat him while he is there. And it could be good for Bones (c) because regardless, WALTER is going to get his Ass whooped tomorrow, that’s what I do in the ring. I mess him up, he messes me up too. I got scars on my chest to show and at the same time, I mark him up too. He is going to be at a disadvantage in that title match tomorrow.

What is next for you, since you looked into promoting now (Matt Riddle´s Bloodsport), is that something you could imagine doing more in the future ?

Not at all (laughs). I hate promoting, I hate booking, I hate dealing with all that stuff. I love performing, I love being part of the talent. I don’t like being in that position of control and power because I don’t like being in that spot. But in the future, the place to be is “the Indies”. As you can see, we are allowed to do what we want, say what we want, wrestle the way we want, get over the way we want and be ourselves. While, if you go to the bigger machine, they change you, they make you play a character that sometimes works better than your original character but for somebody like me, I think the Independence is where I belong, it’s where I’m at until somebody gives me an offer I can’t refuse, this is where I’m staying.

Photo: UFC

Would you say that for MMA fighters, who were somewhat interested in wrestling, that would be a natural progression to make after their MMA career has ended ? And what advice would you give someone like Ronda Rousey, who made that progression ?

That’s an awesome question. I think it is an option for some Mixed Martial Artists to make the transition from MMA to Pro Wrestling, but as you´ve seen in the past, just because you can fight, do some submission holds and punch and get punched doesn’t mean you can wrestle. and a big thing that helps me, helped Tom Lawler or is helping Ronda, is they were fans growing up. I loved Pro Wrestling, I wanted to be a Pro Wrestler growing up. I just thought I was way to small, I wrestled amateur because that’s what all the great Pro Wrestlers did and when I got to college I just felt like the UFC was blowing up big, there are weight classes I can fit in and that’s the way I went. But I think for a lot of these people (if you’re a fan of Pro Wrestling) it is easier to get into it. It is still difficult because you go from a world of “No-Selling” and not showing any pain or emotion or anything in that ring to now, somebody barely touches you and now (waving his arms) it’s got to be over the top dramatic and some people have a knack for it, others don’t. I feel like Tom (Lawler) has a great knack for it. Ronda and Shayna (Baszler), they are great, but they are really tough. I feel like they have a harder time selling stuff and especially dramatically because they are so used to just getting hit and still keep on fighting. They are not used to that yet. (…) So I think selling is the biggest thing. Selling and of course match structure, who you´re working with, playing to your opponent’s strength as well as your own. But that’s a whole different ball game. It is a lot that goes into wrestling (…) Professional Wrestling is the hardest thing I´ve ever done. You got to be entertaining, charismatic, athletic, you gotta be everything. While in fighting you just got to be a badass and tough, that´s it. In wrestling, you got to be the full package and that´s what is the best part about wrestling because it is not one-dimensional, it is everything.

When it comes to selling because you were in real fights, do you sometimes feel “that’s not realistic, that’s not how you do it” because you sell differently than people who just done Professional wrestling their whole life ?

(…) If you take a Dropkick you don’t have to take a crazy bump out of it, you can stagger back. Same thing with a European Uppercut. But I think a lot of us are told to oversell and yes, to me, I do find that as a pet peeve, why wouldn’t you just sell realistically. Make that crowd guess, make that crowd think “oh my god, he is really hurting” because that´s what I’m looking for. I want people to think I´m dying when I get hit and when I hit people I want the crowd to think I killed him because I almost did (laughs).

Photo: UFC

Obviously, Japan has a rich history of shoot-style wrestling and mixing wrestling and MMA. Is / was Japan on your radar ?

It definitely is on the radar. It was definitely on the radar this past year (2017). Unfortunately, things fell through, I was supposed to go over to the Tag League with Jeff Cobb. They weren´t fond of my past, so they didn’t allow me to participate. But I like their style and their culture. I fit in there. Everybody from NJPW loves me and I love them, it is nothing personal it’s just what it is, there is nothing I can really do about it, the past is the past. But I think down the line, regardless of my past I will be in Japan, I´ll be headlining shows (…), probably sooner than later.

Photo: Ryan Loco

The big difference between MMA and Pro Wrestling is the weight cut. You´ve said before how much easier it is with no weight cuts in wrestling. You look a lot happier, is that a big part of no-weight cuts and do you find the travel easier because of no weight cutting ?

Yes, honestly that´s the biggest thing, amazing that you brought that up. When I fought in the UFC, I weighed 220 lbs and I fought at 170 lbs, so I cut about 50 lbs over about six to eight weeks. It was rough, I was pissing blood by the last week, really dehydrated, just trying to make that weight and flying… I don´t know why, but whenever I flew overseas, I couldn’t sleep, I was just drenched in sweat, I went to bed and just felt horrible. And it showed in my fights a lot of times overseas. But since I´ve been wrestling I´m not cutting any weight, I´ll be honest, I just feel amazing. I´m like 10-times stronger, faster, happier, life has just been a real treat after the UFC. I´m really happy and travelling now is super easy. I just flew from New Jersey to Florida, Florida to Dublin, Dublin to here and now I´m going to wrestle here this weekend. I fly home Monday, Tuesday I fly to Australia to do a tour there and then I fly back to wrestle all over the US when I get back. But now, I can eat, I can relax and don’t have to worry about having to murder someone in the cage. I just have to work with people. Honestly. I´m really happy, this is awesome, you guys are here, I’m here (..) it is just awesome.

A big “Thank You” to wXw for producing this Media Center and to Matt Riddle for answering the questions of everybody.

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