by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
The World Fighting Alliance (WFA) announced last week that former professional wrestler Bill Goldberg would join the broadcast team for their comeback event on July 22nd. Goldberg spoke with MMAWeekly about his decision to sign with the WFA, his background in martial arts, and the WFA’s possible impact on the American MMA scene.
Marc Altieri, who handles public relations and marketing for the WFA, issued this statement: “The World Fighting Alliance has been established in the last month, announced in the past month, but has been long in the works to provide a viable and major national alternative for Mixed Martial Arts fans here in the United States. – Bringing Bill [Goldberg] into the mix as our color commentary does nothing but further underscores the commitment of this organization for the highest level of production and entertainment that we want to provide for MMA fans, viewers, and attendees at our events. We just really feel excited to have somebody of Bill’s stature and credibility onboard with us to really bring this thing to fruition.”
Bill Goldberg has been an All-American collegiate football player at the University of Georgia, a professional football player, a professional wrestler, an actor, and the host of the History Channel program “AutoManiac,” among other things.
When asked what caused him to make the jump into MMA broadcasting, Goldberg answered, “I would say the first and foremost reason is I think I’m too old to be a participant. My interest in the martial arts runs very deep for a long time. I own a martial arts school in Ocean Side, California called Extreme Power, a Muay Thai training facility. I’ve trained [in martial arts] throughout my football career, wrestling career, and my normal human existence just for the entertainment value of it.”
Elaborating on his enjoyment of MMA, Goldberg said, “I find that it’s an area where you can never have all of the knowledge. There is always something more to learn. We all know I had an affiliation with the Pride organization over in Japan. I did a little bit of color [commentary] with them. I’ve always looked to expand that, and when Mr. Lappen gave me a ring, gave me the opportunity to step onboard after knowing his background and the card, I think it was pretty much a no-brainer. It’s about time that in the States there was a viable competitor to the UFC, and I think that we’ve got it now.”
Goldberg added, “As I’m getting older, I’m learning to reinvent myself a little bit more out of necessity, and I have a relationship with I’d say 90 percent of these guys already, whether it be with the WFA guys or MMA guys around the country, around the world. I have been a fan of the sport since the inception of my wrestling career. Like I said, for me to go to the color commentary, it’s the next best thing to being in there… I remember from the first televised event in the States, the UFC events, I became a fan [of mixed martial arts] instantly… I look up to these guys. There’s no question that every single one of them has got a huge set of cahones stepping into the ring. There’s no doubt about that. They’re idols of mine. In a certain way, I look up to all of these guys.”
Several American athletes have made the transition from MMA to pro wrestling, or from pro wrestling to MMA. Dan “The Beast” Severn, Ken Shamrock, and Sean O’Haire come to mind, with Brock Lesnar potentially joining that list in the near future. Goldberg previously stated he was “too old to be a participant,” but the question had to be asked. Is he planning on making the leap into MMA fighting?
“You never say never. My relationship from the beginning with Jeremy [Lappen] is as color commentator, but if I was to participate in the MMA world as a fighter, I guess we figured it out where I’m going to be,” Goldberg told MMAWeekly. “I’m 39 years old, and I haven’t trained for an MMA fight the majority of my life, like I need to fend with these guys. To be in the ring, I would have to be totally prepared, and that takes a little bit of time. To be able to devote that much time to it, I just don’t know at this time in my life if I have that time with the movies, the TV, and the commentary. It’s going to be kind of hard to fit in there, but [that’s] not to say that I haven’t considered it. I’ve considered it over the last four or five years, but the reality is also that I have a hell of a lot more to lose than I’d say 99.999 percent of the guys who would step in there… but I don’t think that would stop me from doing it. I’d have to be totally prepared physically to start thinking about it mentally.”
It is unclear at this time whether the WFA commentating job is a one-time deal for Goldberg, or whether he’ll be a permanent fixture in the WFA broadcasters’ booth. When asked about this, Goldberg said, “We’ll see. You’ll have to ask Jeremy Lappen about that and the WFA guys. I would love nothing more than to continually be a part of it. I guess we’ll have to see based on my performance as a color commentator the 22nd of July at The Forum on InDemand and Dish Network. We’ll see. I guess my performance is up for debate until I actually perform.”
The July 22nd WFA: King of the Streets event at The Forum in Los Angeles will include such bouts as Matt Lindland vs. Quinton Jackson, Bas Rutten vs. Kimo, Ricco Rodriguez vs. Ron Waterman, and Ryoto Machida vs. Vernon “Tiger” White, as well as fights featuring Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Ivan Salaverry, Art Santore, Lodune Sincaid, Marvin Eastman, “Razor” Rob McCollough, and Jose “Pele” Landi-Jons.
When asked which fight he is looking forward to the most on the July 22nd card, Goldberg answered, “I’ve got to be a fan, and I’ve got to be objective at the same time. I’ve got to be the color commentator that is objective, but one of the guys that’s making a return, Bas Rutten… I’ve never had the opportunity to see Bas fight live. I’ve trained with Bas. Bas actually trained me for a little while out in Japan, and we’ve sat together doing color for some of the events over there in Japan. I’d have to say that I’m looking forward to that bout more so than any of the rest.”
The WFA: “King of the Streets” card was put together with a purpose, which is to challenge the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s dominance in American MMA. That purpose is reflected in many of the fighters who have been signed by the WFA. Matt Lindland was the UFC’s number one middleweight contender before he was released by the UFC after his win over Joe Doerksen at UFC 54. Quinton Jackson defeated UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell at Pride: Final Conflict 2003. Ricco Rodriguez and Bas Rutten are former UFC Heavyweight Champions. Ryoto Machida handed UFC Middleweight Champion Rich “Ace” Franklin his only loss.
Can the WFA challenge the UFC in pay-per-view buys? Goldberg commented, “Oh, there’s no question. WCW [World Championship Wrestling] did it when we were the underdog. All it means is you have to put the fighters together, you have to put the production together, and it looks as if by the initial card, The King of the Streets [on] the 22nd, they’ve far surpassed the last couple of cards of the UFC. If that has any indication of the future success of the company, I think they’re off to one hell of a good start.”
Goldberg continued, “The card the WFA has come up with for their inaugural fight [on] the 22nd is an unbelievable breakout card. Any organization in the world would love to have the list of fighters that they have on this card.”
On the subject of his background and understanding of MMA, Goldberg mentioned that it began when he took Aikido classes during his college years to help him as a defensive lineman for the University of Georgia. Goldberg added, “That was the start of it, and I really haven’t stopped ever since. It’s been very, very difficult for me to go into a quote, unquote class and go through the six month, eight month, year period of time, get certified, get my belt. I’m not all about that. Most of my stuff has been private lessons.”
He continued, “When I was preparing for my wrestling/fighting bouts in Japan, I knew that it was a totally different setting. I knew that it was a totally different game, and I knew that I wanted to be as prepared as humanly possible. That’s when I set out to find a Muay Thai training facility here close to me in California. Push came to shove, and I became partners in the business. I’ve been training Muay Thai probably for the last five years. Like I’ve said, I’ve rolled around with Bas Rutten, [Mark] Coleman, and a couple of the other guys. I haven’t actually sparred with many of the guys, which is what I’d love to do to really kind of gauge my abilities with them.”
Goldberg further stated about his ground game, “I’d say that I’d have to be a novice. No question about it. I am much more proficient standing up and kicking people and punching people than I am on the ground with them. You’d think it would be the opposite coming from my wrestling background, but as a kid I never formally wrestled. I am much more comfortable standing up and throwing kicks. I never did the amateur stuff as much as I would have liked to, but during that time I was playing baseball.”
On July 22nd, Bill Goldberg and the WFA will go on trial in the court of public opinion. Whether both succeed or fall short of expectations will be determined live at The Forum in Los Angeles, on InDemand and Dish Network pay-per-view.