Goldberg On Kicking Back

The former wrestling star talks kickboxing, how the NFL has ruined tackling, and his Passover plans. 

Bill Goldberg burst onto the scene in the late nineties simply as “Goldberg,” a mythical warrior adorned in nothing more than wrestling trunks, handing out spears left and right. Since he left the ring in 2004, Goldberg has rekindled his love for kickboxing, which he credits with making him feel alive. Now, Goldberg has partnered up with GLORY kickboxing to showcase a sport he believes is about to become the dominant fighting sport in America. In the lead-up to GLORY 20 in Dubai, Goldberg showcased his ten favorite knockouts from the burgeoning sport for Spike.

In between sessions at the gym, Goldberg spoke to Maxim about the beauty of kickboxing, the shoddiness of NFL tackling, and how religion played a role in his wrestling character.

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Your connection with GLORY kickboxing is pretty cool in terms of you coming from a completely different sport. How did you become involved in GLORY and kickboxing in general?

In 1999 I came to San Diego and I wanted to get more prepared for a wrestling match that I had over in Japan. This match, even though it was professional wrestling, was going to be an extremely stiff match. It’s very physical over in Japan – they have a different style of wrestling and my opponent was a former silver medalist in the Olympics for Judo. Sometimes with the language barrier it’s hard to set up exactly what’s going to happen in the ring so therefore a lot of it is left to your preparation. Things can go wrong and sometimes people try to take advantage of you, so, long story short, I wanted to have more tools in my toolbox. I fell in love with kickboxing instantly. Last September, I was prepping for a movie and I rekindled my love for it. My son is 8 years old and he goes three times a week to kickboxing classes, which means I’m in the gym three days a week watching him work – so why not kill two birds with one stone and, while I’m there, get some good training in? 

What attracted you to the sport?

I’m very competitive still and I still don’t like getting hit in the head.  But it makes you know that you’re alive. It’s very fun. I’m very analytical, very detail oriented so if I’m given a task that’s difficult for me to perform I’m going to sit and work at it until I perfect it. I don’t like the pain of it as I sit here with an ice pack on my toe and my wrist but it doesn’t stop me from going back in the gym this afternoon.

What does GLORY offer that UFC or other competitive fighting sports don’t?

I truly believe that the GLORY product in 20 times as exciting as any MMA organization, the fact is within three minutes round, you get a ton of action. Within nine minutes, which is the entire match, you get two guys who are swinging for the fences, you get them staying in the pocket and trading blows, these guys are amazing at what they do. These guys perform the techniques that I’m working on day after day after day and the fact that this is second nature to them just shows the work that has gone into their training. I just appreciate that and I want to do everything I can for GLORY and these guys at the end of the day to bring it to the forefront of combat sport.

What advantage do you have coming to this sport later in your career that maybe some of the young guys don’t?

 I would have to say the only advantage that I might have at this accelerated age, would be the smart training technique – not running yourself into the ground, working around injuries, making every time you step into the ring count and using your head more so than using your body. It’s not all about power – it’s a lot about technique, when you concentrate on that technique and the power comes. Hopefully.

Leading up to Dubai what’s the match that you’re most excited for?

The Simon Marcus and Wayne Barrett no question about it, Simon Marcus is an absolute machine. Barrett is a kid with not much experience by any stretch of imagination, but his movement is unbelievable and he’s got a great boxing background. I’ve never seen anybody fight backwards the way that this guy can fight.

You haven’t wrestled professionally since 2004. Why did you walk away from the WWE?

You know at the end of the day you want to be able to enjoy going into work, to be able to look yourself in the mirror and be proud of what you do. There were a lot of things at the WWE that I was not a fan of, and at my accelerated age I was at a point in my life where I just didn’t want to go to work if I’m going to be miserable. I’d rather dig a ditch because I’d have more fun doing that than putting myself in that kind of situation purely for money. I’ve said it several times over the years that I would bury the hatchet and do something with WWE again, because it’s a great business and it would make some people happy. But right now, we’re not on the same page. 

You got out of professional football around the same age that some newer players are voluntarily leaving the game over worries about concussions. What are your thoughts on guys who play a year in the NFL and might have a career ahead of them and just say “you know, it’s just not worth it?” 

When you’re taking your life into your hands, who is anyone else to make the decision for you? I have nothing against anybody because of their desire to lead a healthy life. Who can say anything negative about that? It’s a totally different game than when I played. Unfortunately, throughout the years people have not learned how to tackle properly; they’ve not learned that it’s a much more effective way to tackle somebody is to wrap your arm up and drive them four feet into the ground as opposed to trying to hit them as hard as you can and then standing over them celebrating. It’s a trend that the NFL has followed for the past probably five to ten years and it’s brutal. We’re seeing the negative effects of it right now.

Obviously we think of your signature wrestling move, The Spear, as being a good form for tackling.

I heard about the Seahawks bringing the head coach of some rugby team to teach the players how to tackle, and I pat them on the back for doing that. You have to tackle 100 percent properly in rugby or you’re going to break your neck. Hats off to Seattle for doing it trying to be proactive. 

As a young Jewish athlete growing up you were definitely somebody I looked up to, do you have any Passover plans or any special traditions that you follow? 

Not really, we just go along with the normal tradition. Nothing special here at the Goldberg house. As a wrestler, I had a goal and a purpose out that and a lot of it was religion-oriented man. I wanted to be able to go out there with my real name and be someone that a little Jewish kid could look up to. I guess I accomplished that. 

Photos by Invision / Strauss Extra