Matt Riddle on UFC 154 Opponent John McGuire: “I’m Probably Going to Put Him to Sleep in the First or Second Round with a Standing Elbow.”
By Tom Taylor
UFC welterweight Matt Riddle is quickly carving out a name for himself as a man who will fight under just about any circumstances. In a time when more and more fighters are withdrawing from their scheduled bouts with injuries, fighters with his attitude are useful assets to the UFC. For example, at UFC 149, we saw a welterweight scrap between Thiago Alves and Yoshiro Akiyama transform into a welterweight matchup between Thiago Alves and Siyar Bahadurzada when Akiyama withdrew from the fight with an injury. Shortly thereafter, Alves withdrew from his fight with Bahadurzada, and was replaced by Chris Clements. The reshuffling of the fight continued when Bahadurzada withdrew from the fight, leaving Clements without an opponent. Enter Matt Riddle, who took the fight on short notice and submitted Clements and to earn submission-of-the-night honors.
Now, Riddle will once again step in on short notice for a fight that, like his last, is completely unrecognizable from what it was once intended to be. Following substantial mixing and matching after several injuries, the fight we’re left with is an appealing matchup between Riddle and British grappler John McGuire. Despite the uncharacteristically short preparation time he’ll have for this fight, Riddle agreed to speak with Full Contact Fighter about his upcoming fight at UFC 154, which goes down on November 17, from Montreal, Canada.
As the man who is so frequently called on to rescue welterweight fights, his opinion on the recent rise in fighter injuries in the UFC is interesting. He says the explosion of injuries can be stacked up to the intense training today’s mixed martial artists put themselves through.
“To be honest, MMA is just one of those sports; people get hurt all the time. People are training really hard,” he said. “A lot of these guys take practice just as seriously as the fight, and that’s why a lot of these guys are getting hurt before fights.” Still, Riddle has benefited from the rise in injuries, and despite the hurricane of opponent switches we’ve seen, he says he isn’t fazed by the short time he’ll have to prepare for McGuire.
“The original plan was [to fight] Besam Yousef, I took that fight.” He said. “When Steven Thompson got hurt, I called Joe Silva about it, and asked him if anybody filled in yet because I would love to fight on November 17. He said no, and asked if I wanted it, and then of course Besam Yousef pulled out of the fight. Then John McGuire stepped in. We’re both taking the fight on short notice and he had a fight pretty recently, so it’s all good,” he said.
“If anything, I have less time to think about the fight, so whatever. I just go out there and kind of wing it when I take these short-notice fights. I’m usually the first guy they call on short notice. I’m always in shape, and I’m always looking for a fight as long as I’m not hurt. If I’m not hurt, I’m going to begging for fights so I can hurt you.” Riddle will get his wish, as he’ll attempt to lay some hurt on McGuire on November 17. And while it’s true that he won’t have much time to study his opponent, he is fortunately already quite familiar with him.
“I know he’s got some phenomenal Jiu Jitsu,” he said. “His takedowns don’t look horrible, but I’m really good at wrestling, so I’ve got a feeling that I’m going to keep it standing.” Either way, he is confident of his chances.
“You never know until you step into the cage, but I’ve got a feeling I can probably dish out a little more than he can dish out. And my size advantage will help too. I’m 6’2, I’m bigger than John Hathaway, and he got dominated by Hathaway.”
In his last fight, at UFC 149, In Calgary, Canada, Riddle submitted Chris Clements to earn himself a $65,000 submission-of-the-night bonus. He was a definite underdog heading into the fight, and as a result couldn’t be more pleased with the way it unfolded.
“I really wanted to get a submission in the UFC, because I’ve been doing Jiu Jitsu for a while. If you look at my grappling background, I’ve won a lot of tournaments. I’ve beaten Ryan Hall in grappling; I’ve beat a lot of big names on the grappling circuit, but I’ve never really gotten to show what I had, because most of the guys I fight are black belts in Jiu Jitsu and they’re pretty good at defending submissions. So it was really good to fight a striker and really showcase my strengths in wrestling and Jiu Jitsu.” Riddle’s fight with Clements made headlines for another reason too, however. Months after the fight, the Calgary commission released news that Riddle had tested positive for marijuana, and that his win over Clements would be changed to a no contest.
Marijuana use has been a hot topic in MMA world lately, as Nick Diaz, Jake Shields, Dave Herman, and Riddle have all recently tested positive for its use. Debate as to whether it should even be qualified as a performance enhancer is common. For Riddle, that’s a difficult question to answer.
“I don’t think it’s a performance enhancer, it just makes me relax. It makes me comfortable. I wouldn’t say it makes me faster, stronger, smarter, but at the same time, I’m one of those guys that when I’m happy and comfortable, I’m really dangerous. So I can understand for me how it could be considered a performance enhancer. But at the same time, for Joe Schmo down the street, if he takes a bong rip he’s going to pass out.” Still, at the end of the day, he doesn’t believe marijuana should be included on the list of banned substances in MMA.
“For some reason, marijuana is this big, negative thing. It’s kind of hard to understand why the man is telling me I can’t use my medication, but other people are taking ambien and oxycodone and stuff like that, and TRT, testosterone therapy, and that’s fine because the doctors say they’re behind it. God forbid a man uses medical marijuana to cure his ailments.” Despite his fight against Clements being ruled a no contest, Riddle says he was allowed to hang on to his submission-of-the-night and win bonuses.
“I kept all my money. Even when the Calgary commission confronted me about it, I said ‘I’m telling you guys right now, you aren’t taking a dime from me.’ They contacted me like four months after the fight. So all that money, I’d already invested. I paid my taxes, I did everything with it. So for them to take it from me then, I would have taken them to court. And to be completely honest, I’m still going to take the Calgary commission to court, because they released my medical information to the public when I told them not to. So they’re going to have a nice lawsuit on their hands.” Given all the controversy that surrounded his last fight, it’s not surprising that Riddle is eager to put it all behind and top off the year with a big win.
“It is important to get in and try to get another big win, to try to finish him. I showed some good skills against Chris Clements and then, after I got suspended for marijuana, if you look at the comments, a lot of people weren’t positive about it. A lot of people were like, ‘Oh, f*** that guy, he’s smoking weed.’ Riddle will have a chance to erase the drama of his last fight when he heads to Montreal for UFC 154, and, when it all goes down on November 17, he has precise prediction for the outcome of the fight.
“I’ve been working with James McSweeney on my kickboxing and Muay Thai, and I’ve got a feeling I’m probably going to put him to sleep in the first or second round with a standing elbow. A standing elbow or a left head kick.”