There is a reason why fans chant his name when Ring of Honor World Champion Davey Richards walks to the ring. His world-class athleticism and dedication to becoming the best professional wrestler in the world is evident whenever he steps through the ropes.
But while fans know of his accomplishments in a wrestling ring, they may not be aware of his involvement in MMA.
Richards, who is about to test for his purple belt in jiu-jitsu, trains around the globe with some of the best MMA teachers in the world.
With the help of that training he was finally able to realize a dream this past June when he won the ROH World Title at Best in the World 2011.
But for Richards, the journey didn’t end when he became champion. In reality, it has only just begun.
ProMMAnow.com‘s Josh Cross spoke with Richards earlier this week about his jiu-jitsu training, how being on the road a lot has benefitted that training, and if he wants to step into the cage for an MMA fight.
In addition, Richards talked about winning the Ring of Honor World Championship, his upcoming title defense against Roderick Strong, and what he is fighting for now that he has finally won the championship that had eluded him for so long.
PRO MMA NOW: Starting off can you talk about how you became introduced to MMA and what led you to start your MMA training?
DAVEY RICHARDS: When I first moved back to Washington from Atlanta there weren’t any pro wrestling schools there and I had always wanted to compete. I amateur wrestled in high school and college and there was a Pancrase Gym in Spokane, Washington called TKO Martial Arts. I started going out there, but it was a two-hour drive from my house. I went there by myself a couple of times a week, but then when I started wrestling more and traveling more I stopped going. Then I moved to Charlotte and I started going to a Gracie jiu-jitsu gym and I kind of just feel in love with jiu-jitsu there so when I moved to St. Louis I found Absolute Martial Arts and really dove into jiu-jitsu and I’ve just been plugging away and competing at that ever since.
PRO MMA NOW: What was it about MMA and the jiu-jitsu training you were doing that sort of pulled you in and hooked you?
DAVEY RICHARDS: For me personally it’s just the thrill of competition, but I think why it appeals to people is because it’s kind of the essence of man. Everyone can relate to overcoming odds or fighting. It’s a very primal sport. It’s a very primal instinct that people have. You fight for what you want in life. There are very few times in life where you hold your fate in your own hands and it’s not dictated by a boss or a committee or someone else’s opinion. When two people are fighting for their own fate I think it’s the essence of what makes us human, that ability to be able to fight for what we want. It’s a really pure sport I think and that’s what draws me in.
PRO MMA NOW: Being on the road as much as you are, how often do you get to train and what does a typical training session look like for you?
DAVEY RICHARDS: So I just got back in town today. I’ll do kickboxing from noon until 1 p.m. Then from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. I do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and I’ll go back tonight and do live rolling. When we go tomorrow it will be open mat for jiu-jitsu and kickboxing so we get that in four to five times a week. Then when I’m on the road I’ve just got to make it happen. We were just in Baltimore to sign a contract for TV and I found Crazy 88 Jiu-Jitsu and went to an 8 a.m. jiu-jitsu class there. I’m going to Atlanta to train with Ricardo Murgel this weekend. I go to Japan and when I’m there I’ll go to Tri-Force Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It’s like anything else man, if you want it you’re going to find a way to get it. When we were at WrestleMania last year for the Phoenix shows I found a jiu-jitsu gym there. You’ve just got to make it happen. Whenever I go to New York I always treat myself to go to Marcelo Garcia’s gym. He’s just a top guy in the world and I try to learn from him. The traveling actually helps me because I get a lot of different perspectives on jiu-jitsu that I wouldn’t get just staying at my gym as great as it is.
PRO MMA NOW: You’ve talked in the past about wanting to get a black belt in jiu-jitsu. Is that something you’re still working on, and if so, is there a certain time you’re hoping to have your black belt by?
DAVEY RICHARDS: I’m about to test for my purple belt now. Obviously it’s all up to my coach, and he dictates when I get what. The great thing about jiu-jitsu is that there is no timeline because it’s about the journey itself. It’s the experience, so I don’t really care when I get my black belt. As long as I’m able to do jiu-jitsu I’m happy.
PRO MMA NOW: How would you say that your MMA training has helped your professional wrestling career?
DAVEY RICHARDS: I mean you can tell a real athlete from a pretend athlete in wrestling. I’ve said that for a long time. I have no interest in doing pretend wrestling and being a pretend athlete. I’ve been an athlete since I was 10 when I started wrestling, and I’m an athlete today through Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. That’s something that people can tell. Athletes have a different mindset. When things get hard they work harder. They don’t quit and they don’t back down. You can’t teach someone that. Only if you’ve been out there and you’ve been in deep waters as an athlete can you understand that. So it has helped me a lot.
PRO MMA NOW: Have you ever thought about taking an MMA fight at some point?
DAVEY RICHARDS: I’d absolutely love to compete. I’m traveling so much now between here, Japan, and Europe that I just don’t have time to cut weight and put together a proper camp. I mean I compete in jiu-jitsu tournaments often, but as far as training for a full on fight, it’s hard to put together a proper camp because I have to travel so much now.
PRO MMA NOW: What was it that led you to choose a career in professional wrestling over say a career in MMA?
DAVEY RICHARDS: Well when I started looking at wrestling, mixed martial arts was not extremely popular and I had grown up watching professional wrestling. Those guys back when I was growing up, like Dynamite Kid, were every bit as tough as an MMA fighter. It wasn’t like today where you’ve got a lot of guys who are on there who wouldn’t last three seconds in a real fight. To me a pro wrestler was every bit the athlete that a mixed martial artist was. I have an equal love for both, but I grew up watching professional wrestling. That’s what I wanted to be for a long time, but it doesn’t negate my love for mixed martial arts or martial arts period.
PRO MMA NOW: Now you’ve said before that you really enjoy wrestling for Ring of Honor. What is it specifically that you enjoy about ROH, and what do you think sets it apart from the other professional wrestling companies out there?
DAVEY RICHARDS: It’s the fact that we are athletes and we take what we do seriously, as an athlete should. You know competition is very fierce there. Everyone wants to have the best match and everyone wants to perform the best. It’s that kill or be killed mentality. It’s like when I go to Japan. If you can’t keep up they’re going to smash you. That’s the way it should be and that’s what I like about it.
PRO MMA NOW: You became the Ring of Honor World Champion after you defeated Eddie Edwards earlier this year at Best in the World 2011. Now you two have been friends for a while and have been ROH Tag Team Champions together in the past. Can you talk a little bit about that match and did the friendship you two have make that match any harder for you?
DAVEY RICHARDS: It’s hard because it’s hard to take something from someone you care about. Being champion is a good feeling. Everyone wants to bring you in and pay you a lot of money to wrestle for them. It feels good especially for a guy like Eddie, who very much deserved it, to go from where he was at to straight to the top. It’s hard to get that just taken away. I didn’t want to be the guy to take that away, but at the same time I’m not here to be anything less than the best. If I’m not going to be the best there’s really no point in me doing this. As far as like the physicality [of the match], that’s not really a thing because Eddie and I know what we’re getting ourselves into. We know what kind of style we like and we know what we bring to the table. If someone is going to get hit and get knocked out, it just comes with the territory. If you’re desperately seeking to avoid that or you’re deathly afraid of that or if you’re going to feel bad about that then you’re in the wrong sport.
PRO MMA NOW: What would you say winning the Ring of Honor World Championship means for you personally and for your career?
DAVEY RICHARDS: For me personally it means closure to a lot of personal things. For my career it just means that I’m the top guy now. I’m the best pure wrestler in the world. It comes with the title. The fact is that I have to earn the status of that title. I have to go out there and train harder and fight harder, which I’m more than willing to do because I have something to show for all of that now. To me it’s a motivating factor to go out there and prove to everyone that I’m the best.
PRO MMA NOW: Now your first title defense is going to be against Roderick Strong, who you faced last December at Final Battle. In that match Roderick was the champion, but you weren’t able to beat him. What did you take away from that match that will help you win this time?
DAVEY RICHARDS: Well for one you have to realized that our match at Final Battle I had just come back from Japan after being there for six weeks so I was really jet lagged. Another thing is that I don’t fight with that same heavy burden on me that I have to make this mean something or the last five years of my life has been for nothing. All I have to do is just go out here and be a wrestler. As great as Roderick is he’s just simply not better than me. He’s a great fighter, he’s strong, he’s tough, his technique is good, but there is not a wrestler out there that is putting in the work that I am. Saturday we drove seven hours to West Virginia, wrestled, and I drove seven hours back. I woke up at 5 a.m., went and did an hour of cardio and then did strength and conditioning that night. You’re either going to or you’re not. I choose to put in the hard work more than anyone else. That’s why no one at this point in Ring of Honor is going to beat me.
PRO MMA NOW: Now this match with Roderick Strong is going to be taped on August 13 in Chicago Ridge, Ill. and it will air on September 24 when ROH makes its debut on Sinclair stations across the country. Can you talk a little bit about that, how fans can get tickets to the show, and what makes Chicago such a great place for wrestling?
DAVEY RICHARDS: Well Chicago has always been great. It has helped build a bunch of really important matches throughout the years. We’ve had Bryan Danielson vs. KENTA there and we’ve had Joe vs. Punk. We’ve had a lot of different big matches there and I’m happy to be a part of those big matches and the history of that city. People can get tickets through Ring of Honor’s website and they’ll have tickets at the door. It’s the start of something. Very rarely are you going to pay to see an event where everyone is 100 percent motivated to blow everyone’s mind. It’s going to be a really great night.
PRO MMA NOW: What would you say that someone is missing out on if they have never seen a Ring of Honor show before?
DAVEY RICHARDS: Sincerity. A lot of people pretend to be wrestlers and a lot of people have the persona of a wrestler, but in Ring of Honor we are wrestlers. I know that sounds bland, but that’s the best way that I can put it to you. When you see us wrestle you very quickly will understand what I’m talking about.
PRO MMA NOW: You’ve been chasing after the Ring of Honor World Championship for a while. Now that you’re finally the champion, what’s next? Is your focus now just to defend the title or is there something more?
DAVEY RICHARDS: I want to win the IWGP Title from New Japan. That’s a really big goal for me. As far as Ring of Honor I guess people could say that the journey is over now that I’ve won the title, but really I think the journey has just kind of begun. There is a whole new talent cropping up and the tides of Ring of Honor are really shifting. New guys are coming in like Kyle O’Reilly, Michael Elgin, and Mike Bennett, and these guys who bring something completely new to the table. Whereas when I came in I was the young guy and Bryan Danielson was on top. I’ve flip-flopped and you know I want a legacy. That’s what I fight for now. It’s to have a legacy and to be up there with Joe and with Punk and with Bryan. My goal is to have a legacy.
For more information about Ring of Honor including how to purchase tickets for upcoming events visit their website at www.ROHWrestling.com.