Matt Riddle is something of a rarity in the modern history of the UFC. While he never won a title of any note or importance, he’s one of the few fighting talents out there to start his career, from day one, as a part of the world’s largest MMA organization.
A contestant on Season 7 of the Ultimate Fighter, Riddle went 1-1 on the show, beating Dan Simmler and losing to Tim Credeur before making his UFC debut against Dante Rivera in the season’s finale. Over the next five years, he’d carve out a record of 9 wins and 3 losses, or he would have if he hadn’t had two of those wins voided due to failed drug tests for marijuana. The second of those ‘wins’ - a split decision over Che Mills - saw Riddle’s time in the UFC come to an end, as he was quickly released from his contract.
Following Riddle’s release, he bounced around from promotion to promotion, all the while working to recover from a rib injury. Eventually he landed in Titan FC, winning a fight with UFC vet Michael Kuiper. And then he retired. Riddle didn’t have many kind words for MMA when he left, saying “The UFC was the best, and even they didn’t treat you that well. It just gets sh–tier on the way down.”
In turn, UFC president Dana White didn’t have many kind words for him, tearing down the former fighter for his inability to pass UFC drug tests. “You have to go to work three times a year, and you couldn't pass a drug test? You're so weak-minded and so addicted to marijuana, that you couldn't stay off it enough to pass a drug test three times a year. Well, guess what dummy, they drug test in the real world, too!"
But, out in the ‘real world’, Riddle has been anything but unsuccessful. Once an MMA fighter on the rise, he’s now one of the brightest faces on pro wrestling’s independent circuit, recently picking up a Rookie of the Year award, and as he told the MMA Hour, making more than he ever did in MMA (transcript via MMA Fighting).
"That didn't hurt," Riddle said of Dana White’s comments. "I was just more disappointed. I spilled a lot of blood and broke some bones for that company, and to be talked down to, that was disappointing. But for me, it was more the fact he said that I'd never be able to earn money being a loser and this and that. And I can honestly say, I'm making more money than I ever did in UFC, and doing it on my terms and loving life. Granted, I'll never be Dana White rich, but I don't want to be. I'm not that kind of guy."
And alongside making more money than ever before, Riddle is working to build his fanbase in the wrestling world, with hopes of working in Japan, as well as continuing to work the American independent and European circuits. Eventually, maybe even the WWE (although maybe not anytime soon). “I'm doing very well. I get to see my family every week. If I was working for WWE, it would be rough. My schedule is very relaxed and I do well.”
All things considered, Riddle has turned himself into one of the bigger success stories among former pro fighters. Especially for someone who transitioned away from MMA into something else more or less unrelated.