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How MMA Influenced Bill Goldberg, and How Wrestling Impacted MMA

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Getty Images

This week, former WCW and WWE champion Bill Goldberg appeared on the Ringer Wrestling Podcast to announce that he’ll be in the new WWE 2K17 video game as a preorder special bonus. On the show, he talked to David Shoemaker about life as a video game character, his in-ring career, and MMA fighters’ love for pro wrestling.

David Shoemaker: Your style was a little bit ahead of its time. There’s so much MMA influence in wrestling these days and when you debuted, a lot of fans didn’t know quite what you were doing when you were putting guys in the corner and kneeing them in the ribs.

Bill Goldberg: Well, here’s the deal, the deal was that I was a professional football player since birth. That’s what I was programmed to do. When I got that taken away from me, I had to reassess myself. In reinventing myself, I like to be the best at everything that I do, I don’t care whether that’s brushing my teeth, whether it’s coming up with new moves, or developing a character. I was a huge fan of the UFC, and of mixed martial arts, back in its embryonic state, when the Gary Goodridges, and the Don Fryes, and the Tank Abbotts were getting paid 100 bucks to smash people’s face for entertainment. I owned the largest MMA gym in the country back in the late ’90s. They used to train — whether it was [Randy] Couture, or Frye, or Kevin Randleman — they used to train at my place. I had a love affair with the martial arts and it very much interests me, and I thought the combination of a guy that weighed 290 that could do a backflip and do these submission moves would succeed. I knew that the UFC and that mixed martial arts in general was going to prosper because I was extremely selfish and cocky, and I thought: "Hey, if I like it, everyone’s gonna like it." Well, it came to fruition, and I chose a character that was not a far departure from myself at all. I do believe that I’m a performer, not an entertainer. I’m an athlete and I go out there and I amp myself up exponentially, so what you see is not a departure from Goldberg, it’s just a magnification of Goldberg.

D.S.: Back when all those guys were training at your gym, or even in the years since then, do the MMA fighters come up to you and say: "Holy crap, it’s Goldberg"? Do they know you as a famous wrestler and get really excited?

B.G.: I’m never gonna answer that question and say: "Yeah man, they come up to me and go: [mockingly] ‘Hey, yeah, that’s the famous Goldberg.’" I was at Jared Allen’s Night-Ops golf tournament, benefiting the military, and Ryan Bader was there two days ago. And Bader came up and asked to pick me up, asked me to pick him up; it’s a completely different relationship. All those guys wanna be us. All the fighters wanna be in professional wrestling, I don’t care what they say. There’s a huge parallel in it and they [the MMA fighters] very much appreciate those guys [the pro wrestlers] and conversely we very much appreciate what they do. Those are the real tough guys, all we do is act like we’re doing it sometimes. Whether it’s being over at Dynamite in Japan in the late ’90s or being at the UFC events, I’m a huge fan of what they do and I thought it would translate well in the wrestling world. I got lucky and less is more — go out there and head-butt a couple people and put your shoulder through their chest and call it a night.