A former castmember on The Ultimate Fighter 7, Riddle decided to get into pro wrestling last year, and has found success, having won his first title in July, and is now set to make his debut in one of the top independent promotions in the country, Evolve, in October.
Riddle spoke with MMAWeekly.com about his decision to get into pro wrestling, the expectations of him in Evolve, and if he feels he’ll ever return to MMA.
MMAWeekly.com: Firstly, Matt, what made you want to transition from MMA to pro wrestling?
Matt Riddle: I grew up watching pro wrestling and always wanted to be a pro wrestler, but I always thought that I wasn’t big enough. Most of the guys I saw on TV were six-foot-five and 260 pounds, so I felt like there wasn’t any real spot for me. That’s why I went into MMA with my amateur wrestling background.
After I got fired from the UFC, I was watching WWE Wrestlemania and saw Daniel Bryan win the main event. Seeing how far the sport has come with guys on the roster that were getting over who were my size or a little smaller, it opened up my eyes and I thought I might have a chance at this.
This last year, I started training at the Monster Factory, and once I got there, I think they realized my potential with my athleticism. Ever since then, I’ve just been wrestling as much as I can and it’s been a lot of fun. This is always what I wanted to do.
MMAWeekly.com: What sort of things have you been able to bring over to pro wrestling from MMA?
Matt Riddle: When it comes to fighting and wrestling, they go hand-in-hand. Of course, in pro wrestling you don’t punch through somebody’s face. I got in the ring at Ring of Honor at a seminar and the way I squared up with the guy and started bouncing, they told me that it wasn’t real and not to kill this guy. I know that. To me it’s like a sparring session in front of a live crowd.
When I started my MMA career, I didn’t have a world-class trainer or anything. I just read books and watched instructional DVDs, and that’s where I picked up most of my jiu-jitsu in fighting, and it got me to the UFC. When I started in pro wrestling, I had to fine tune some things so I could work, but it was easy.
MMAWeekly.com: You recently signed with Evolve for some events in October. What do you feel about stepping up into their company and what you can do for them?
Matt Riddle: Evolve is a bigger indie company that has a lot of notoriety. One thing they want from me, and what I’ve wanted to do, is realism. They asked me to do certain things and it sounded outstanding to me. I’ve been doing things like that for the last seven years, so I want to keep it real. They want me to go out there and be intense – and not hurt anybody of course – but bring that real feel to it.
MMAWeekly.com: With your pro wrestling career in full swing, will we ever see you in MMA again?
Matt Riddle: I love MMA. I’d love to fight. It’s fun. If you’ve seen me fight, I have a smile on my face because I’m happy to be there. But the problem I have with MMA is I got rubbed the wrong way a bunch of times. It started off great in the UFC making money and all that, but after I got cut, I got tossed around from promotion to promotion with fights always falling through; it just seemed like impossibility.
The only way you can make a decent living in MMA is if you fight in the UFC or are maybe one of the top guys in Bellator. Unless you’re doing that, you’re not going to be able to support yourself or a family that way.
MMAWeekly.com: Thanks for taking time out for us, Matt. Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?
Matt Riddle: I’m excited to wrestle for Evolve. It puts me one step closer to where I want to be, where I’m going to end up, so it’s pretty cool. I can’t complain. I’m loving life now.