In the nearly three months since his last fight, Jeremiah Riggs has found himself back in the national spotlight, and it isn’t because of his MMA career. Riggs is a contestant on USA Network’s Tough Enough, a reality competition where the contestants vie for a contract with the WWE.
The Tough Enough contestants were featured at this past weekend’s Wrestlemania XXVII in Atlanta, as well as on Monday Night Raw. ProMMAnow.com‘s Josh Cross was at the Georgia Dome on Sunday for all the action and caught up with the MMA fighter turned WWE aspirant after the event.
“I never knew anything about the Tough Enough Show until after the fight [with Eric Slocum],” Riggs told ProMMAnow.com. “[My manager] kind of kept it a little bit from me, which we had been having conversations back and forth, but it has been crazy. Tough Enough has just been the ultimate opportunity that I think I’ve been looking for in my whole career or life or whatever perspective you want to put it in.”
Riggs commented on the similarities between pro wrestling and MMA and how having a real fighting background helped in his transition.
“Both sports are very similar but also very different,” Riggs said. “I think the transition really was a good one. Just the pure athleticism that I think I have. I think anything I’ve ever done or grown up doing has helped me transfer over. Having an MMA background just makes it an ultimate transfer over I believe. There’s so much more that you can bring over that hasn’t been done, but why not do it?”
While the transition might have gone well for Riggs, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been challenges.
“I’m not going to say it’s easy,” Riggs said. “Wrestling is crazy. It’s tough, and the show Tough Enough explains itself. Wrestling is by far no fake. It’s bumps [and] bruises. You take a brutal punishment with your body.”
In dealing with the physical aspect of pro wrestling, Riggs also talked about having to deal with a bit of negative feedback with fans asking him why he would quit MMA after fighting for the UFC (TUF), Strikeforce and Bellator.
“I understand that, but why does that make me a quitter, because I look at going into something that’s doing nothing but bettering myself and bettering my career and going into something huge,” Riggs said. “When you say WrestleMania, I don’t even have to put anything else behind that.”
In addition to the Tough Enough premiere this week, Riggs appeared at Wrestlemania and Monday Night Raw. The exposure he has received just in the last week has already surpassed that of his MMA career.
Riggs feels that leaving MMA while he was at the top of his game was the right way to go out.
“Why not go out on the top of my game,” Riggs said. “Five fight win steak. I’ve done everything I wanted to do. You can’t knock the fact that I leave at the top of my game. No one wants to go out with a loss. I’m not saying I would have lost again. My goal was to never lose again, but I turned my career around 180 degrees. I really love the sport of wrestling. I never would have dreamed that I would be doing this in a million years, but this is just the ultimate goal and the ultimate opportunity and I’m just going to make the best of it 100 percent.”
Just because Riggs is making his foray into pro wrestling doesn’t mean that he is turning his back on MMA.
“I would not do away with some of the stuff I’ve learned in MMA because it would almost be like neglect,” Riggs said. “I would never neglect the sport I love. I want to bring some of that MMA stuff to the table but man I’m just a good ol’ country boy. You can compare everybody to everybody but I don’t think there has been anybody in this business that’s like me. There’s only one Jeremiah Riggs and there’s never been one of me in the WWE or the UFC or MMA period, and that’s what I’m going to bring to the table.”
As for what fans can expect from him on Tough Enough, Riggs had no hesitation in saying he is going to bring it.
“All I can say is just watch,” Riggs said. “Because hands down I think I’m one of the toughest son of a bitches in the game, and for those who think not or for those on the other side or the other superstars, all I can say is watch out. I’ll bring it to the table. I just hope they’ve got their seat-belts on.”
Jeremiah Riggs wanted to thank his fans and friends, his parents, his son, God, and the Tough Enough trainers, Booker T., Bill DeMott and Trish Stratus.
You can follow Riggs on Twitter (@JeremiahRiggs) and visit his Facebook Fan Page.
Tough Enough airs Monday nights on the USA Network at 8 ET/ 7 CT in the hour leading up to WWE Monday Night Raw.
You can listen to the interview in its entirety below to find out what Riggs had to say about Stone Cold Steve Austin and what wrestling legends Terry Taylor and Dutch Mantell told Riggs about his future in the business.