Matt Riddle: “I Love Fighting, But It’s Not Paying My Bills”
By Bryan Levick
At 27 years old, Matt Riddle should be preparing to enter his physical prime. Despite his run-ins with athletic commissions and the UFC because of marijuana use, he had really begun to grow into his own as a mixed martial artist. As evidenced by his past few trips to the Octagon, Riddle has learned to fight smarter instead of his original go for broke style which pleased the fans, but didn’t always get him the results he wanted.
Because of his two failed drug tests, the UFC was forced to release him, but he wasn’t going to let that get him down. He immediately signed on with the Texas-based Legacy Fighting Championships, but he never fought for them as his contract was purchased by Bellator who had planned to have him take part of it’s welterweight tournament in the fall.
That whole plan went right out the window last week after Riddle suffered a cracked rib and was forced to withdraw from the tournament. With three kids and a wife at home as well as no guaranteed new date from Bellator, Riddle decided it was time to pursue another career. It’s not a decision he took lightly or made hastily. In fact, it’s something that he’s been thinking about since he was released by the UFC back in February.
“Since I was cut from the UFC and having to deal with Legacy and then Bellator buying me out and keeping me on the bench all summer and finally suffering this injury, to be honest it wasn’t a hard decision,” Riddle told Alchemist Radio. “I love fighting, I do like getting in there, its fun, but at the same time it’s hard to deal with everything that goes along with it. There are injuries and the uncertainty in paychecks, especially once you’re outside of the UFC and having to deal with some organizations that can’t even pay you, I just couldn’t put up with it.”
“I have three kids and the bottom line is whether or not I can fight or not I still have those three kids. I just spoke to Chris Lytle and he was fortunate enough to work full time at the firehouse and get benefits and everything else. Unfortunately I didn’t have a job to back me while I was fighting. I had to make a smart decision, it wasn’t necessarily the choice I wanted to make, but I think it’s the right choice. I think down the road I’ll be happy that I made this choice.”
With fighting in his rearview mirror for now Riddle must decide what he wants to do so he can provide for his family. At this point there is nothing he has in mind, but he is confident something will come along that will allow him to pay his bills and keep him happy at the same time. He’s not worried right now because he was able to save some of the money he made while competing in the UFC.
“The good thing is I did make decent money while I did fight,” said Riddle. “I have a lot of the ground work laid out for me. My wife is going to get a job and I can make money here and there teaching private classes. I’ll probably get a normal job working 9-5 and see how that goes. If it’s that horrible then I’ll start fighting again. I’ve been fighting in the UFC for about five years and its fun, but it’s not worth the uncertainty of not having money. It’s not worth having broken ribs or broken hands. I’ve had four surgeries and most of your time is spent being in pain with no money hoping you can recover fast enough so you can fight again. I’d rather work a regular job so I won’t have all that stress.”
One other option Riddle has is to go back to college. He never graduated, but he is about two years away from getting a diploma. He dropped out of college when he was chosen to participate on the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter. He hasn’t decided if that is the road he wants to take, for now he’s got a job that pays the bills and that’s all that matters at this point.
“I was in college when I tried out for The Ultimate Fighter,” Riddle explained. “I got the call when I was 21-years-old and left school. I got about two to two and a half years left until I graduate if I decide to go back. I could always go that route, but we’ll see how it goes. Right now I’m blowing glass and I’m making decent money doing that. I’m just trying to stay busy. I’m working my way up to the masterpieces, but I can make some nice stuff now.”
A lot of wives find it difficult to watch their husbands compete in a sport like MMA especially when there are children involved and daddy comes home looking all beaten up. Then on the other hand you have the wives who are very supportive and just want their men to be happy and successful. Riddle was more worried about how his kids were reacting to the sport and isn’t upset about the fact that they won’t get to watch him fight anymore.
“The situation that I was put in has caused me not to collect a paycheck since February,” said the Allentown, PA native. “If you think about that it’s no wonder why I quit and got a real job. This is the predicament we’re in and she’s fine with the choice as it’s something I need to do to make sure I can take care of our family. I’ve spoken to her and if I get an opportunity down the road that’s worth me fighting then I’ll take it if we can’t make money other ways. At this rate I feel like we’ll make enough money and we will be fine.”
“I have twin daughters who are three and a one-year-old son and they know exactly what fighting is. That’s also another reason why I don’t want to fight too much either. It’s violent, you know it and I know it. It wasn’t so much that they saw me fight they saw one of my friends fight on TV and he got flurried with knees and knocked unconscious. My kids got worried about him and kept yelling his name. I was like ok, what happened if that was me? I really don’t want that for my kids.”
Although Riddle may not be actively competing in MMA anymore he still has some things he’d like to accomplish. He doesn’t see himself becoming a coach or a full time teacher, but that doesn’t mean he won’t enjoy teaching and sharing what he has learned with others. He will always love the sport and he loves to compete, but he realizes it just isn’t enough to take care of what’s most important to him; his family.
“I still have some goals regardless if I’m not fighting any longer,” Riddle stated. “I currently have a brown belt under (Robert) Drysdale, but I’d rather have a blackbelt. I’m definitely not going to stop doing BJJ until that happens. At the same time I can practice jiu-jitsu at my leisure, but I can’t fight professionally at my leisure and support my family. I accumulated the knowledge from having fought in the UFC over the last five and a half years so I can still train people. It would be a waste if I didn’t teach people what I know. My goal isn’t to become a coach like Duane Ludwig. I’m good at it and I’m going to continue to do it and help people, but at the same time I’m not looking to make a career out of it.”
At the end of the day Riddle bucked the odds and had a pretty successful career. He came on to the Ultimate Fighter with no professional fights and went on to compete 12 times in the Octagon while compiling a 7-3-2 record. Of course the two no contests were wins at one point, but they were overturned after he failed the post fight drug tests. Riddle always came to compete and he never backed off of his stance that he used marijuana because of his anxiety. At the very least he’ll be able to walk away without any serious injuries and his head held high.
“I’m glad I stood my ground and didn’t back down when they told me to shut my mouth and do what they said,” Riddle said proudly. “I stood my ground and fought for what I believed in and I’m happy. I remember driving up to Canada for UFC 149 and at that point I was broke. I had just found out I was having another kid, it was a tough time. I had broken my hand and it wasn’t healing correctly, but I fought Chris Clements on a week’s notice and I hit a standing arm triangle.
“It was awesome,” he continued, “and I thought it was one of the better submissions of the year! It wasn’t on the countdown because of the no-contest, but it turned out to be a great time. I was with my brother and it was the first time he ever cornered me. None of the guys in my corner could fly up to Canada as they all got detained at the border. It was just me, my brother and two guys I met in Canada. It turned out be a great experience and was the most fun I ever had at a fight.”
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