Riddle Attempts to Solve Puzzle of What He Has Left in the Octagon

December 21, 2023
2 months

Matt Riddle once appeared to have a promising future in mixed martial arts. But Riddle also didn’t want to give up his habit of smoking weed. Riddle would be cut from the UFC in 2013 after failing two drug tests within a year. After taking on one more fight at a lower-level promotion, Riddle started training for a career in professional wrestling. 

Unlike his MMA career, where Riddle went straight to the world’s top promotion, his ride to the top levels of professional wrestling took a few bumps along the way. After reaching the WWE in 2018, Riddle had a successful run in the promotion that ended in 2013. Ironically, Riddle would be released once the UFC announced a purchase of the WWE to form TKO holdings.

There was another incident that would lead to Riddle among the cuts that TKO made, according to MMA breaking news. However, Riddle didn’t plan to disappear from the combat sports spotlight. He announced that he was preparing to find a home with an MMA promotion or perhaps find another fight in a different sport.

Riddle Took Advantage of TUF Appearance

Riddle, an Allentown native, grew up in the fertile grounds of wrestling-talent-rich Pennsylvania. During his high school wrestling career, Riddle beat current UFC heavyweight champion Jon Jones twice. Riddle’s high school career would result in him earning a scholarship to Division II East Stroudsburg University for wrestling.

Riddle would wrestle for two years in college before moving on to work as a roofer. He would start to study Brazilian jiu-jitsu outside of work and decided to get into MMA. Riddle earned his spot on The Ultimate Fighter by knocking out Dan Simmier in the second round.

It was a brutal fight where Riddle struck Simmier several times while he was on the ground, breaking Simmier’s jaw. While Riddle would be eliminated in the television show’s tournament quarterfinals, he was noticed by the top UFC brass.

Success In UFC Came Quickly

Riddle won his first three fights in the UFC, all via decision. While Riddle would hit some growing pains, he lost three of his next five fights. However, he seemed to have figured things out after consecutive wins over Henry Martinez and Chris Clements.

However, the win over Clements was overturned to a no-contest after Riddle tested positive for cannabis. Riddle would bounce back with a clean win over John Maguire to improve to 7-3, with one no-contest. 

However, after Riddle’s next fight, a win over Che Mills, he tested positive for cannabis again. If not for the failed drug tests, Riddle would have been 9-3 during his UFC career. He would sign with Bellator but never fought due to injuries.

Riddle would have one fight with Titan FC in February 2014. In his last fight to date, Riddle submitted Michael Kuiper in the second round, according to MMA news sites.

Grinding His Way up the Ladder

Riddle didn’t get a chance to go straight from training to the top promotion in the world. Thanks to The Ultimate Fighter TV show, that’s what he got to do in the UFC. But Riddle had to spend four years honing his craft in professional wrestling.

Riddle eventually found a way to land with the WWE in 2018. Even then, Riddle needed time to climb his way up the card. He started the NXT brand, and Riddle started working matches with the idea of becoming a top singles wrestler. Riddle drew praise from various outlets as he developed his persona and style.

In 2020, Riddle would make his first significant breakthrough. After being put in a triple-threat match for the United States Championship, Riddle beat Bobby Lashley and John Morrison at the Elimination Chamber to win the title. His reign only lasted 47 days.

Tag Team Success and Fallout

While Riddle was known as an excellent singles wrestler, he would find a lot of tag-team success. After his run with the U.S. title, Riddle would be paired with Randy Orton. Known as RK-Bro, Riddle and Orton would hold the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship twice. 

Riddle and Orton would wrestle together until 2022. When Orton went out with a back injury, Riddle would break off on his own. Riddle even had a match with Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE University Championship but lost his attempt to claim the title.

Riddle was announced as one of the casualties of the layoffs when TKO Holdings took over the management of the WWE roster. Riddle had an incident at an airport that supposedly contributed to his dismissal. He accused a Port Authority police officer of sexual assault at JFK Airport.

Riddle had been drinking, grabbed the microphone at the gate, and started speaking into it. Riddle was then denied access to the plane for being intoxicated, and the police were called to resolve the issue. Riddle was allowed to leave the airport, and no charges were filed against him.

What Lies Ahead

Riddle is heading back to MMA at the wrong time. With Bellator closing and ONE Championship being on iffy financial footing, Riddle doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to have solid ground for negotiating a substantial salary. Boxing Jake Paul may be a solid option for Riddle.

Paul has fought many former MMA fighters and helped secure them the best paydays of their career. While Riddle isn’t a boxer by trade, neither was Ben Askren or Nate Robinson when they stepped in the ring with Paul. Riddle flashed tremendous potential during his short time with the UFC, according to MMA news websites.

However, the state athletic commissions around the United States have taken a hard line on marijuana use. That led to Riddle giving up competitive combat sports over a decade ago. Riddle’s return would be attractive to see if he could still be competitive in an ever-evolving MMA landscape.

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