Meeting John Gooden
The world of MMA is vast, many people help to gel the coverage and backstage work, from camera crews, corner men, promoters, MC’s and commentators. John Gooden is the latter in the list. A commentator for Kayo and Cage Warriors, John absolutely loves the job and originally got into commentating after seeing the Kayo MMA show presenter doing a hideous job. He literally asked David Lee and Sunil Rathod who are Kayo Promoters if he could give it a go. To his delight and indeed ours, they agreed. During a research visit for Kayo a few years ago, he met Graham Boylan who offered him the opportunity to commentate on his show which is something John jumped at without hesitation. Since that time, Graham has taken over the Cage Warriors production and John is thankful that he kept him on board for this.
I wondered if John had a favourite production that he works for but he says it is difficult to answer because he basically loves MMA. He watches it, trains in it and talks about it all the time, so being in a position to broadcast his views is in John’s opinion, the most awesome position to be in. He loves Kayo as it is loaded with local fighters, his team mates and also new developing mixed martial artists. He feels this gives him the opportunity to get to know them better and he can see them developing from show to show. Of Cage Warriors, John says that a lot of people say it is the biggest show in Europe and as John points out, it has a huge international footprint. The shows are live and the world is watching which means a lot of responsibility for everyone involved in the production. He says it is very rewarding when he hears positive comments and appreciates the stakes are always getting higher.
John is competitive though so this motivates him to always strive to be the best. He loves representing the sport and the most important thing to him is illustrating the positives around MMA including the fighters and others involved in it. He wants to do well for the fighters by providing commentary that means the viewers are getting the best insight into the fighters mind, training and lifestyle whilst also getting all the facts across.
When John started out he was writing, and having such strong views about some aspects of combat sports, his writing was aimed at getting people to understand and recognise his views in the hope that he could help create change involving certain safety issues. Of his writing, he says that not a lot was getting published despite him writing quite a bit and he wasn’t getting a lot of exposure so it is now something he is less involved with. He works hard to ensure he stays on top of his career, researching fighters for shows and also balancing that with work and married life. A few recent articles have been published in a local paper which mainly concentrate on the career of his very good friend and champion fighter Denniston Sutherland. But do not despair; John is soon going to start a blog so you will be able to catch his musings on there.
With all the writing, I assumed that John would have a favourite story and he tells me it was another article that, once again, no one got to see. It was about impaired vision in combat sports. Being short sighted and knowing thousands of other sufferers John researched the possible ways around it including looking into a revolutionary lens that a person sleeps in at night which corrects the vision. After wearing the lens, the person would not need lenses or glasses the next day, allowing them to train with perfect vision. John advocates this 100% and knows it works as he has used the lens himself. John says it was an interesting story and something that had not been covered before, which is one of the reasons he puts it as his favourite story.
With regards to fighting, I wondered if he had a single favourite fight that he has commentated on but he tells me it is a difficult one to call because when he is commentating he is concentrating so hard on what he is saying and ensuring it is right, that he doesn’t have time to enjoy or analyse the fight. He says he is so focussed that before he realises it, the fight is over and he is on to the next one. But with a little push he says he remembers the Vlad Malko v Tom Sullivan fight on Cage Warriors. He says it was a bloody war which consisted of heart and skill. He also says Joe Duffy of Cage Warriors is extremely entertaining to watch as is anything involving Scott or Carl Hunt. Of these he says they are both massive talents and always put on a great fight each time.
John used to compete and has an amateur record of 2-0-0 but tells me he won’t be fighting again. He lost his friend and training partner due to a KO during a kick boxing bout which in turn has left his family and circle of friend’s largely anti fight sports. He feels it would be selfish of him to step into an MMA bout now. The amateur fights John fought in were no head shots so his wife reluctantly let him compete but he tells me, if he so much as trains in head shots now that she would leave him! Although he had aspirations of being a fighter, injury prevented him taking it further at the time but at 6 foot tall he competed at Welterweight and represented Team Crossface (David Lee) and Hemel Martial Arts which is owned by the previously mentioned Denniston Sutherland. Although John no longer fights he looks back to when he started out in the world and says he had a thirst for high level competition. He competed in judo as a youngster, got a green belt in Shotokan karate and later competed in the novice ABA’s. He took time out of martial arts and played football but after seeing Leigh Remedios fight in 2005 he decided to start training in BJJ and Thai Boxing. After finding the Hybrid Fight Team in Harrow he was trained by Mark Chen and also shared the mat with Denniston Sutherland, Luke Dalmedo, Hayden Critchfield, Lola Bamgbala and Dave Waters, to name just a few. Of the guys, he says they made a great team despite the gym being horrendous! Raw sewage flowed through the place but it became a home to John.
Of other fighters he says he has respect for anyone who dedicates their life to the fight game but ultimately he says the ambassadors of MMA have to be George St Pierre and Randy Couture at the top of the game but closer to home his respect goes to Denniston Sutherland who started MMA when he was already into his thirties. He also respects Dave Lee for his outlook and crazy style and Rosi Sexton as she always does the right thing by the sport and is a world class fighter. I asked John if he still remembered his first fight and he says in terms of MMA it was a long time coming. He says he was meant to fight years before but it never happened for him. He was always helping others train or as a corner-man so when he eventually got his turn he knew what he had to do. It was important for him to win as he felt being around for a while he wanted to show his team mates what he was made of. He remembers making a mistake in the fight and having his neck cranked but this made him recall losing his first boxing bout and he didn’t want to relive that feeling, so braved the pain, got through it and eventually won with a darce choke.
Obviously John no longer fights as we have previously mentioned but he says time is a healer and one of his ushers who was also a close friend of the friend they lost came to the last Cage Warriors event. He feels that with the help of education and well-run promotions, people will see that the fighters are competing safely. In turn, John hopes this means people will be able to spectate more comfortably. He says his wife will never like it but she is very proud and supportive of his commentating.
I heard on the grapevine that John was also an actor but he tells me this isn’t entirely true. He worked in programme production for the BBC and he wanted to be a presenter, as once again he had seen it carried out badly by some people and thought he could deliver information in a more entertaining way. He put himself out there and things were going well but he never accomplished his dreams and gave up on them entirely until he found himself presenting for Kayo MMA and Cage Warriors. A lesson for us all, never give up. Things may not happen when you want them to, but they happen eventually when the time is right. So with all the talents John has I had to ask what he enjoys the most out of writing, commentating and presenting. He points out that the shows he works on allow him to do all three. He and his cage side partner for Cage Warriors, Josh Palmer, write all their own scripts, do all their own research and write all the voice overs. They also present and commentate everything. Hours are spent commentating on a single event so John says he gets lots of practise, especially as no two fights are ever the same. The presenting is live and a few minutes long either side of the show so he has no chance of a re-run which John says makes it exciting but also nerve wracking because he doesn’t want to make a mistake that reflects badly on the whole show.
Hmmmmm……I am loathe to put the next bit in but other than working, I asked John what other hobbies he has and he tells me he is an Arsenal season ticket holder. Although not a fan of premiership football due to what it stands for and how it is run, he attends matches with his Dad who he also works with. He says it is time he gets to spend with his Dad that isn’t work related and that he likes Arsene Wenger’s principles and the Arsenal style of play (obviously those aforementioned lenses don’t work on a match day)! Other than football, John says he likes to relax with Mrs Gooden, see his friends and develop new business opportunities as outside of commentary he also helps to run three businesses.
I often ask people for something about them that no one knows just because it is always good to find that little something out. Some are happy to offer the information and others not so. John however has blown me away with his answer and I am still trying to process it despite having read it three times now and I wonder if I have to accept I have been had over? I’ll leave it for you to decide. John tells me before he trains, he goes into his shed where he has a Buddha with Rampage Jacksons face and whilst sipping on an expensive pre-workout shake, he prays for the speed of Jose Aldo, the technique of Georges and the power of Liddell all the while listening to ‘eye of the tiger’. He says he knows it is a little clichéd but it’s just how he rolls! I don’t think there is anything I can add to the end of this paragraph so I shall move swiftly on!
At the moment John is injured so he is at the gym for rehabilitation at 6.30 every morning. He then goes onto work which is installing electrical, solar and home entertainment systems. He gets back home around 4/5pm and walks his sausage! He has a mini sausage-dog that he quickly points out is not his first choice, even though the little pooch is funny. He then goes onto doing paperwork for the day job or fight research for a show and this is repeated six, if not seven days a week.
John has an extremely busy life so it is no wonder he has so many people he would like to thank. He firstly would like to thank his wife as she is very tolerant about his life and knows how passionate he is about MMA. The first time they met his lips were busted up and his nose slightly twisted but she supports him and John is very thankful. He would also like to thank his Dad who isn’t a fan of MMA and constantly worries that John will chase his dream more than the family business. He then wants to thank Denniston Sutherland as without him calling him through his injuries and encouraging him to get back to training; he says he may well have walked away a few years ago. Mr Hollywood, Bret Freeman is next and John wants to thank him for all his help at the shows, for being his confidant and for giving valuable and honest advice. Dave Lee, Sunil and Priya Rathod for giving John the chance and sticking with him. Similarly, Graham Boylan for keeping him on board, Josh Palmer for tolerating him and all the Cage Warriors crew who are actually awesome and make the process a whole lot easier. He also wants to thank the Fight Lounge for listing him as a nominee for UK MMA Commentator of 2011 and John says just being recognised by your peers is a big compliment.
All that is left for me to do is say thank you to John for such an entertaining interview. I don’t think I have laughed out loud this much when typing up an interview, so my thanks to him for brightening my day. I hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it. If you want to vote for John Gooden in the Fight Lounge nominations please visit http://www.thefightlounge.co.uk and click the UK MMA Awards 2011 button.