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Goodridge punches his ticket into the Barrie Sports Hall of Fame

Known as 'Big Daddy,' Barrie resident Gary Goodridge fought in the early years of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and also excelled at arm-wrestling, becoming Canadian champion as a teen

Gary Goodridge came to Canada and settled in Barrie as a young boy.

Born in Trinidad, it wasn’t long before he realized that he had physical gifts that were different than other boys. Tall and rangy with immense physical strength, it was obvious to anyone that crossed his path that he was not to be trifled with.

That physical presence eventually developed into a long career in arm-wrestling, boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA), and Goodridge will be honoured on this evening (Oct. 5) when the 56-year-old is inducted into the Barrie Sports Hall of Fame.

Goodridge goes into the hall along with the late Eastview Secondary School football coach Martin Carl and former Barrie Baycats owners David Mills and Paul Marley. Georgian College volleyball coach Reid Saxby is also being honoured with the annual coaching award.

“I was a bit of a bad ass,” Goodridge, a father of two, remembers of his youth in Barrie.

His athletic ability was rough around the edges and he dabbled in team sports while a student at Eastview, but he was never completely comfortable. He soon realized he was exceptional at arm-wrestling. He became Canadian champion as a teenager and held that title for most of his 20s.

He branched out into amateur boxing – and had the timing been right he may have made the Canadian Olympic team as a super heavyweight – and he later became a professional kickboxer

MMA was where he found his sweet spot.

Known as 'Big Daddy,' he fought in the early years of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and was even part of an extensive Toronto Sun feature examining what was then the new world of MMA. After UFC, Goodridge continued in other series and remains something of a folk hero online among die-hard fight fans.

Like peaking a bit too late in boxing for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and too early for Atlanta four years later, Goodridge’s timing was too soon to enjoy the windfall that later became of MMA. Still, he draws some satisfaction from seeing the sport thrive now after he has retired. He last fought 15 years ago.

“I think it’s great what’s happening,” he says. “It would have been nice to get the money those guys are now getting.”

Goodridge is still involved. He’s trying to help develop the AFC – African Fighting Championship – which is debuting in Nairobi in December. The fledgling organization uses Goodridge’s silhouette from his fighting days in its logo.

“We are looking for investors,” he says.

During a recent visit, Goodridge was managing through renovations of his south-end Barrie home and playing with his dog, Congo, who followed him around as a nosy reporter peppered him with questions.

Goodridge has been frank with his health struggles. His book, Gatekeeper: The Fighting Life of Gary “Big Daddy” Goodridge, published by ECW Press, earned praise for its frank description of the early days of MMA and what it was like for a young immigrant Black man growing up in what was then small-town Canada.

There have been plenty of ups and downs, and his career has taken him around the world, but Goodridge is now content back home where it all started.

“I’m feeling good and thanks a lot,” he says, bidding farewell, “I’m happy to talk anytime.”

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Peter Robinson

About the Author: Peter Robinson

Barrie's Peter Robinson is a sports columnist for BarrieToday. He is the author of Hope and Heartbreak in Toronto, his take on living with the disease of being a Leafs fan.
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