John Gooden

Presenter. Commentator. Writer. Producer

John Gooden is an international presenter, sports commentator, voice over artist and writer

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An Englishman in Turkmenistan

If Turkmenistan was to feature as a classified, it might be worded something like this:

‘Do you like all-year-round warm temperatures of 30 degrees or higher?

Do you have a penchant for all things white?

Do you subscribe to the saying that cleanliness is next to godliness?

…then Turkmenistan is for you!'


And like many brochures and creatively worded advertisements, it would not technically be wrong.


So you might be asking, what is this place Turkmenistan you speak of and what's with the clean white references?  Well, it just so happened to be my place of work for two weeks in September and boy was it an experience!  Let me tell you more…


I count myself lucky to have a job that I love which allows me to indulge in my passion of martial arts and also travel the world visiting new places and meeting incredible people.  In my work with the UFC, I have stayed in some beautiful hotels in some of the world's greatest cities including the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, The Crown Melbourne in Australia- the list goes on.  All wonderfully cosmopolitan cities, rich in culture and never suggesting a requirement for a hepatitis vaccination.  But before I reached the lofty heights of the world's most prestigious combat sports organisation, I would join a troop of MMA-loving enthusiasts and travel to far less welcoming and much more heavily armed destinations like Beirut, Lebanon, and Grozny in Chechnya.  And you know what, I missed it.  There's nothing quite like departing for a trip, never knowing what lies in wait at the other end.  Will I make it across the border with this folder of stamped paperwork and 3 copies of my passport?  Will my very specific dietary requirements be catered for?  Will my delicate Hertfordshire-born immune system stand up to exotic bacteria? Last, but not least, will I live to write to tell the tale on my personal web site???

The things you are guaranteed on any trip are memories and stories.  From passing armoured vehicles mounted with machine guns in the Beirut rush hour to facing flash lights and Kalashnikovs (I can't be sure they were Kalashnikovs, but it sounded cool, plus they were also weapons of destruction) in the small hours somewhere in Dagestan.  What stories would the Asian Indoor Martial Arts Games give birth to?  Well, read on!

Like any worthwhile destination, there needs to be multiple stop overs. Tick: London to Frankfurt to Baku to Ashgabat.  And then the immigration queue needs to be gnarly and intimidating.  Nope.  My first taste of Turkmenistan was marble, more marble, lots of lights and volunteers in multi-coloured uniforms with what at first appeared to be propeller hats, but then wasn't.  It was late and I was clearly jet-lagged. 

The drive to our Olympic Park residence was more of the same really.  Lots and lots of white buildings and even more lights that changed the colour of the buildings, like a super-charged Griswold's Family Christmas in 30-degree heat.  Just to remind us of the far away world we had just entered, we did experience multiple security checks, scanners, questioned about why we would possess a laptop and were warned to never forget or lose our credentials, which we were to wear around our necks. We were bar coded accordingly and the much desired laminated pendant would determine which doors and gates we could cross.  It would also bear a sought-after code that would allow us to access the internet and even social media, something the Turkmen people were not typically given access to.



My first impressions were that a whole lot of money had been spent on building the airport, roads and Olympic park where the games would shortly commence.  Turkmenistan is a wealthy (although was wealthier until they lost some energy contracts) country with huge natural gas reserves which indirectly explains the lights.  The Turkmen people don't receive electricity bills, so they fiercely indulge in thousands of lights.  Basically, all those moments we spend chasing family members around the house turning lights off and switching off the stand by lights on our television- completely futile when you consider how ‘turned on' Turkmenistan operates 24 hours a day.

On my first day, I was given a quick run-down of local etiquette including the correct hand shaking method (far easier than the masons), no hugging of the local ladies and no public displays of affection.  I was cool with the latter as my producer, Rob, and I had only just met.  Also on the first date agenda was Turkmen tummy; an unfortunate, but amusingly named term to describe frequent loose bowel movements and cramping.  Another important gem of knowledge was that the US dollars I had travelled with were to be changed at the place which sells the cleaning products on the first floor of the mall.  Apparently, they give the best rate, but you have to be discreet, perhaps in the same way you might be if you were trying to procure a little bit of blue off the top shelf!  

My role in Turkmenistan was as an announcer for the Muay Thai and Kickboxing competitions within the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG).  Pretty straight forward right? Well, it was until I saw the names of the athletes.  Thai, Turkem, Tajiki, Chinese and Uzbekistani names had me tripping over myself worse than the first time I drank a bottle of Thunderbird at 15.  After a few days, I started to get a feel for the symbols and patterns.  I began rolling my ‘r's, coughing into my ‘kh's and tuning into my inner Russian!  Some of these pronunciations were actually helped by the onset of a rubbish cold which was just lovely in the 30-degree heat. Even better for my new colleagues who kept slipping past me on my freshly discarded snot-filled tissues.

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That said, I love a good challenge and I was blessed to be working with a great team in two disciplines of combat sports that I loved.  There was, however, a continuing theme that irked me on a regular basis; barriers.  I have never seen so many barriers and gates in my life!  I think Warren Buffet made another couple of mill out of the steel sector given the metal fabrications supplied to Turkmenistan.  They were everywhere; blocking, funnelling, confusing and frustrating AIMAG attendees every damn minute.  Despite this massive expanse of land whereby you have to cross 12 lanes of carriageways to get from one side of the road to another, you are dropped into an ever-changing maze of galvanised steel and tall white gates, narrowing you into much more modest lanes of human traffic.  It got so bad I once wore my Garmin Forerunner to measure the additional steps I was taking due to what seemed like a human experiment of orientation.  The result- 1,000 extra steps every day, before we even got to the Olympic Park.  Add that to the daily walk of 16,000 steps to just get to and from work.  (I've just realised how much of a geek I sound, but that was how angry I got).  One day the gate nearest my hotel block was open (still meant I was travelling in the opposite direction but it would have saved about 600 steps, as a rough estimate-hee hee) to allow a dust cart through, so I made a bee line for it only to be met by a local security guy imitating Dr Dre in Xzibit's X video. Not one to be intimidated by fake rappers I dropped the shoulder, went the other way, sold him but was quickly faced with his mate…the middle-eastern-looking muscle to the fake rapper. Typically, if I had been in the WD (Watford) postcode for those unawares I would have continued my quest for freedom through the gates, but I was in full view of numerous cameras, in a country which I had recently learned had an appalling record for human rights and had just sentenced a local to life imprisonment for stealing a packet of cigarettes.  So I abandoned the more direct route and continued further in the wrong direction from anywhere in order to abide by the rules and stay out of jail.

I didn't get much free time over the couple of weeks I was there, so I can't report back on the nature of Turkmenistan.  Although, a couple of colleagues had managed to venture out beyond the gates to actual Turkmenistan and checked out The Gates of Hell!  They came back with fascinating photos of huge craters in the earth that were alight after geologists decided to set fire to the natural gas that was emitting from them back in 1971.  They even managed to get back to the compound before the 11pm curfew. Yes, that's right there is a curfew in place.

Photo by darkydoors/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by darkydoors/iStock / Getty Images

What's even more bizarre than a curfew is what takes place when the President decides to leave his residence.  I'm not sure if he is a sociophobe, but it would seem he doesn't like to be seen as we were all ordered to basically lock down in our rooms, close the curtains and do not look out!  I actually heard of people being stuck in subways (lots of them due to the huge roads which have absolutely no traffic on them) for a couple of hours because the President was out and about. Madness!

While we’re on the bizarre, let's talk about significant fines to any car owners if their cars are considered dirty. Any entrepreneurial types reading this might consider importing second-hand vehicles from Turkmenistan as they are kept pristine!  On the same theme, I noted local women scrubbing the white lines on the road each night.  Down on their hands and knees in the middle of the road swashing the hatched lines etc! Maybe less weird, how about serving beer out of teapots and teacups?  I'm still not clear whether this was to hide the fact that alcohol was being consumed or whether this particular establishment was trying to be cool.  A bit like how my wife now drinks from old marmalade jars and through metal straws.   

Another strange bit of info was to learn that the President gives a significant gift to any families that have 8 children or more!  That's right, 8 kids. Apparently, Turkmen folk tend to marry at between 16 and 18 (not arranged), move in with the husband's family and get to work on creating a mini tribe.  The woman who told me this also spoke of her neighbour who has 10 children and was given a new apartment by the President as a reward.  You can imagine her response when I told her I was on my third marriage and had no children!  FYI, that was a lie to get a reaction from her. Definitely worth it too!

Finding vegan food was a bit of a challenge for me.  I'm pretty sure they don't even have a word for it in the Turkmen language, but I was lucky to have Russian friends who could explain the requirements (most Turkmen speak Russian too).  Plain pasta, plain rice and some salad were pretty much my staples for lunch, but that was better than the gluten-free oats I was having in boiled water served in what seemed like infant cups and toy miniature spoons.  Dinner was similar to lunch, but I might find a tomato based sauce for the pasta or some fries.  I actually found a place where they did a pretty good vegan burger (by accident), so you might say I almost had a gastronomic experience!  The biggest challenge for food was that the place was so vast that it was nearly 30 minutes to walk to the supermarket and mall where restaurants would be.  The onsite café had a buffet and very limited options for The Bloody Vegan.   Tough at times and I lost 3 kilos by the time I came home.    


But this trip was made good by all the people I met.  The local people were really lovely.  The volunteers that we worked closely with were so happy and willing to help.  They were all trying to picking up the English language and get something out of the crazy experience of the Olympic Games.  More than that though was the team I worked with.  There’s somethingabout a bond created when you’re really in a bizarre environment.  At one point I actually thought that we might all be trapped in this Truman Show, type world.  One of oppression, routine, limited freedom and cleanliness.  I say cleanliness,  however, I was only given one, triple XL polo shirt for my stay, so my relative cleanliness wasn’t up to my usual standards.  But the roads…well you could eat (and cook) your tofu off them! I should also mention I mentioned UFC fighter Valentina Shevchenko’s mum whilst on a trip to a restaurant to celebrate the end of the Muay Thai competition. What a lovely lady!

From singing Daddy Cool loudly in the back of a cab somewhere in Ashgabat, to gate crashing the posh hotel to use their gym and spa facilities, Team Muay Thai had great Ashgabants (see what we did there, merged Ashgabat with bants).  We laughed, we nearly cried and we sometimes feared for our freedom, but we’re all home safely now to tell the tale. It was a trip I probably wont repeat in a hurry, but I have satisfied my need for a trip to a shady, foreign land.  Rob aptly described Turkmenistan as Dubai meets North Korea. Brilliant assessment.

Oh and before I go, some of you might be interested in the fight results?  Well, I was most impressed with Turkmenistan.  I’d never even heard of the country before going there and they had a very high standard in both Muay Thai and Kickboxing.  Of course the Thai fighters cleaned up in the Muay Thai with the Iranians doing best in the Kickboxing.  The fighters from Kazakhstan were ferocious and did well and the fighting spirit of the Afghan representatives shone through too.  There were also a few stand-out fighters from Iraq.  I’m confident we’ll see more high level fighters transition to MMA from the region.





Meal options to EASILY become plant-powered!

The Bloody Vegan lays out a bunch of really easy breakfasts, lunches and dinners to help you eat a more plant based diet. Also check out the accompanying videos on The Bloody Vegan YouTube channel. Oss

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My lasting sentiments from Vegas

mgm It’s funny what some people’s take away are from historic events. I decided to write this sat in the MGM Grand in a fairly open spot to observe all the people recovering from the monumental week that peaked with UFC 194. There are a lot of glazed eyes, lazy feet and hoarse voices. Even on Monday afternoon, there are suited men with green, white and orange cloaks.

I originally thought I’d write this post as a bit of a fight week report, but as I recount the events of the week my hangover is being surpassed by high levels of adrenaline as I recognise and process the unbelievable achievements of my employers, Luke Rockhold and Conor McGregor. Dreams, hard work, smart work and ambition are prevalent in my assessment of the week that has been.

Mixed martial arts is still comparably young to ‘big sports’ and the UFC are the trailblazers. They continue to push boundaries and make huge gains on their mainstream cousins. I work with a lot of these people and I see, first hand, the effort they put in and the results. In fact as a presenter, commentator I see my role as a lucky representative of the many people behind the scenes and a secondary voice for the fighters. If I make errors, I haven’t delivered something that others have worked on for probably a significant time. If a fighter confides in me and I misrepresent their story, I have failed them. For me it’s so much more than calling a 1-2, single leg takedown, pass to side control sequence. I write this because attending as a spectator this week, I took time to watch others at work, considering their styles, pressures and success. I saw the stress, the joy, the effort and the scale of the operation. I have been inspired, I have taken notes and I’m excited to get back in the foxes dojo (my office) to start complimenting these efforts.

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A little about the three events then: After hanging out in a few bars and clubs (for purely research purposes) it quickly became apparent that I was in the company with not necessarily UFC fans, but Conor McGregor fans. It was a little bit like going to a local MMA show- people there probably don’t even know what the event is called, but they are there to support a friend or family member. My hopes in such situations is that they are drawn into our beautiful sport and invest in other athletes. A small side note, a benefactor of the McGregor effect was clearly Uriah Faber. I’ve been a fan of his since his WEC days. I’ve loved his ‘Californian ways’, business acumen and “Hi Mom” shout-out before his introductions (not to mention his fighting ability). The Irish fans like him as he was Conor’s friendly foe on The Ultimate Fighter. Correction, it wasn’t the Irish fans, it was the McGregor fans. They are made up of many different nationalities. I was with a couple of Geordies and also some Americans who were mad about The Notorious one and now Faber.

194 billboard

I am a neutral and I maintain that the best man or woman must win regardless of allegiances. However, it’s no secret that Conor’s success will benefit the European region. In the short term, it will probably cost Dan and I a show as when Conor returns to Ireland, it will of course be a PPV event. (One day, Dan, we will be Octagonside on a hallowed ‘numbered’ event!!).

It has been a pleasure to watch his rise. I wrote an article about this for ( For a fella that hasn’t picked up a degree in communications, Conor really knows how to deliver a message. I’m fascinated to know what his reading list has been over the last 10 years. He has inspired me both professionally and also athletically. Why should we settle with mediocre goals? And in terms of training, I was once told to stick to one thing, not diversify as it will have negative effects on my goals. They were wrong and I’m now enjoying a much more open relationship with my jiu jitsu and MMA!

Shortly, I will leave the desert with another planeload of McGregor fans and Vegas will miss them. Sure, the MGM Grand security staff will sleep well after a week of over time, but the soundtrack of the Irish fans was epic. Their colourful presence was seen up and down the huge strip. They have spent their hard earned on the gambling tables, in the bars and apparently at the mobility scooter hire centre (watching fans race round red perimeter carpets of the MGM like sin city Mario Karts was pure comedy gold). Their stamina for fight week was ridiculous- they most certainly out-worked any of my respective capabilities!

194 arena

To sign off, I must salute all those involved in this unbelievable fight week. Well done to all the fighters and teams who were involved. Finally, congratulations to Luke Rockhold and Conor McGregor. They deserve all the plaudits they receive. The history have been rewritten.

Becoming competitive again! Part 3

Becoming competitive again! Part 3. The longest part of a triathlon is the bike ride. That means a lot of time in the saddle and cycling is actually pretty damn technical. I made a few rookie errors and some wise decisions.

I was in a bit of hurry to get my ‘bike legs’, so I decided to buy a cheap ‘fixie’ or single speed bike. I bought a Quella single speed and thought this would help me get used to life on 2 wheels until I properly researched the best race bike for my budget. My Quella in baby blue came within a couple of days and after a few minutes work with a spanner and allen key, I was road-ready.

bike 3
bike 3

Now although I looked cool with my funky bike, Bern lid and wild face hair (or at least I thought I did), the realisation hit home pretty quick that I lived on a hill and bikes tend to have numerous gears for a reason! The notion of swapping the car for the bike to pop to the shops was quickly dismissed as my maiden voyage to the shops ended with what felt like an inferno in my lungs and stretched ankle ligaments from poor form and incorrect bike set up. Brilliant. My first set-back and reminder that injuries are always lurking around the corner. Oh and no one looks like cool in any guise when you’re panting in distress, grimacing and barely moving forwards.

I don’t regret buying the Quella and I now enjoy going out on gentle rides in the opposite direction to the nasty hills.

After some decent research and taking advice from an old pal and new GB triathlete, Paul Suett, I bought my race bike. I went for a Specialized Allez Elite. It’s an attractive and slightly aggressive road bike. I was never going to know the difference between this bike and another, but I would certainly notice a hole in my wallet if I had gone shopping for a bike to use in a triathlon. A proper triathlon bike will set you back the cost of a tax’d and MOT’d VW golf with a decent service history! With my wife’s company discount I got kitted out with the bike, lid, gloves, bottle, repair bag/ kit, pedals and triathlon cycling shoes. I opted for cleats as it’s what the pros use and it is the correct choice, though they take some getting used to and things get interesting during transitions!

With a newly purchased 2-piece tri suit in my ruck sack I collected my new bike and accessories and rode back from Hendon, North London down a notoriously fast and, as I nearly discovered, treacherous stretch of road. Apart from my hipster cruises on the Quella I had not been on the open road since I was a teenager and self-titled fastest kid on the block. It was a dicey ride home to say the least. The thin tyres and lightweight frame are not very forgiving and neither is the light padding of a tri suit (proper cycling shorts are far more cushioned but running in them would be like watching a man baby learning to walk again). What are also not very forgiving are other road users. I must apologize to any cyclists that I have not given adequate room to when passing. Now I have been known to get a little hot under the collar when using the road, but my first trip on the bike had my blood boiling. I also realised why cyclists don’t always like to stop at lights etc…it’s those damn cleats. I didn’t exactly fall off when clipping my shoes in and out, but it wasn’t an elegantly executed procedure and had me take to the pavements on a few occasions to get straight before tearing up the tarmac again.

bike 2
bike 2

Once again I learned the lesson of a poorly set up bike. I aggravated my ankle ligaments on both sides. After taking my bike into the Giant store (not just a big establishment, but a bike manufacturer) I had the bike set up including the cleats on the shoes which had been wrongly fitted putting extra force through the outside of my ankles. Money well spent and now I’m happily powering through without injury.

The last and most recent piece of cycling kit I purchased is a turbo trainer. It’s a means of transforming your bike into an exercise bike so you can watch Netflix and get a work out in simultaneously. If Netflix wasn’t worth the subscription before, it sure is now. I think you get what you pay for with these, but they can be noisy, hot and difficult to store so chose well. It’s a tough work out and you get a good sweat on whilst giving you the feel of the bike you’ll race with. Plenty of towels are needed to mop up and make sure those bottles are filled up. I chuck a NUUN tablet in there too in order to replace salts etc.

These days I look forward to riding my bikes. I really want a mountain bike now so that I can go off road and properly hurt myself on uneven surfaces and bang into trees! Bikes are a very eco-friendly way of getting around too, so you’re ticking that box. Peace!

As for biking in triathlons, it gets more technical. The transitions are tricky and the actual motion of peddling needs attention. No longer are you pushing your foot down, you are apparently wiping the shit off the sole of your shoe and trying to transfer equal(ish) power through the 360 degree motion of that big ring. Since being aware of this I have noticed an improvement on the hill climbs, but more work is needed. A watt meter/ wattometer/ wattever…a device that can help you monitor how much power you are pushing through the pedals will help you work this real time. Apparently this should be tried using just one leg (and probably best to stick to the turbo trainer) and then swapping over to the other leg. Then when you have two legs working in perfect balance, you’ll be ready for that yellow jersey!

bike 1
bike 1

As regards the swim to bike transition, I watched lots of YouTube stuff and thought I’d do what the pros do at this early stage of my triathlon journey so that I’m not learning new stuff later on. This involves climbing onto the bike with the cycling shoes already clipped into the pedals and suspended by elastic bands that keep them level rather than grounding out as you run to the mount/ dismount point. On the bike to run transition, once again you leave the shoes clipped in and remove your foot whilst in transit and pedal on top of the shoes to the dismount point. If you are following this, you will understand that you are therefore running barefoot from through the transitions. Now the YouTube clips I watched were in Australia, Hawaii and the States….places where the sun shines and the ground is favourable. Not in the UK where it’s cold, it rains loads, the ground is muddy and then there are lots of stony paths! I should have taken Paul’s advice and got mountain bike cycling shoes (and pedals), which have enough grip to allow you to run in. My experience so far has meant I have tried to squeeze my size 12 foot into a cycling shoe, covered in a cocktail of mud and stones, which renders it a good size 13. This has made for a rough transition and dirty cycling shoes. And lets face it, if you can’t race well at least look the bollocks whilst competing!!

bike 4
bike 4

I’m yet to suffer a dreaded puncture during a race (or even a ride for that matter), but I have got a pouch with 2 spare tubes and a CO2 canister to keep me going. There would be nothing worse than not getting to the finish line, so the added weight and even the added time if a puncture occurred are a small price to pay. When looking for self-improvement, you could always pause the stop watch and minus off the repair time to see where you might have come if the universe were more kind on that day.

Becoming competitive again. Part 2

With part 1 describing the why, the following few paragraphs are possibly about the what, how and largely the lessons I learned.  

My mate, Jamie, with whom I have largely been encouraged into this type of training, suggested a triathlon. It sounded challenging enough and much more than ‘just running’ 10k or something. Something that would require training. Oh, and a bike!

Now, Jamie operates on a different time schedule to me. I had slowly started to adjust my body clock to be a little more…nocturnal. The fight game doesn’t tend to get out of bed really early in my experience. In the UK we battle heavy eyelids to watch the finest fighters do battle at 3am. Also, most martial arts classes are in the evening. However, it turns out Jamie has a few friends who also follow the sun rise and on a Saturday morning at 6:30 they descend on various lakes around the country ready for the plunge into the often murky water to grapple with reeds and dodge duck shit.

lake 1
lake 1

So armed with a set of goggles, flip flops and towel, I jumped in Jamie’s car and headed to the lake. Now, I once promised myself that I would only ever get up around the 5am hour to go on holiday. And y’know when you are on the way to the airport really early, but there are quite a few cars on the road? Likelihood is they’re going to the lake! It wasn’t even 7am and the car park was full. A fantastic range of different measured water babies circled the 1000m course. I joined in but not before I squeezed into a hired wet suit (tip: other people have definitely pissed in them- get your own), covered my neck in Vaseline (tip: I later learned not to use Vaseline as the petroleum corrodes the wet suit! Use Glide and apply it to your neck, wrists and calves so you can pull the suit off without looking like you are resisting arrest whilst on speed) and pulled a thin piece of rubber over my carefully coiffured hair.

Despite the early mornings, I actually really enjoyed the swims. It was the summer, so that helped. Also, you can swim the 1000m in about 20 mins and be home with an 8 still showing on the clock. Plenty of time before jiu jitsu at 11am! I didn’t however enjoy swallowing the lake’s water or dealing with leaky goggles. I didn’t particularly enjoy being smoked by old people either, but I was and am getting very used to this. I actually now prefer the open water swim as you can establish a rhythm and you can’t possibly quit after say 20 laps as you’d still be another few hundred metres from the jetty and in the way of super gran and her buddies on their second lap. I just now accept the environment, concentrate on breathing and make sure I look out for traffic ahead every 6 strokes. The next stage is to the tailor the swim for triathlons which means being conservative with the use of your legs as you need them fresh for the bike and run. I am looking to enlist some training for this next season.

I also discovered that lots of cans of Coke are sold at the club house as apparently it kills all the bad stuff you may have just swallowed from the lake (we’ve all seen the video where Coke is used to clean up the chrome car bumpers, right?). I confess I have once partaken in this heathen activity. Jamie telling me about worms, illness, poo and other such things tipped me over the edge whilst I was in a susceptible state i.e. sleep deprived and exhausted. Coca Cola are a frightening, evil company and I can’t recommend this, specially at 8am. It’s a slippery slope, kids! There are concentrated citrus additives that you can get from health stores for cleaning food etc. This could be a better bet.

lake 4
lake 4

I’m yet to do proper interval training for swimming, but I’m keen to give it a go next season. For me, getting into cold water and smashing out 1km will do for this year. I got my own wet suit, but didn’t go mad with the budget. They can be expensive pieces of kit. Also they are not very forgiving in terms of sizing so beware. Mine is still so tight it’s like swimming with a resistance band attached to each arm, but its orange and looks sick!

UFC Berlin highlights

Well I told you I’d be back, so I thought I’d start right away with a personal recap of my Berlin highlights. Now, the fights pretty much take care of themselves and I guess you’ve heard enough from me about them on the night! However, lots goes on during fight week so I thought I’d let you in on a few secrets.

  • Now this is a bit of a ‘sick in the mouth’ moment, but I gotta start by saying joining up with the team is a huge highlight. I’ve never been part of a team like the one we have at the UFC. To feel supported, inspired and creative are all really important. To also work with essentially a bunch of mates is very cool indeed.
  • The Guest fighter Q&A was a little different this time. It was media only and was set in a brand new and very cool cafe which was adjoined to the cross fit gym where the open-work outs were being held. So in much more intimate surroundings I sat down with Brad Pickett, Alexander Gustafsson, Ramsey Nijem and Luke Rockhold. It was the first time I had met Luke and he was a very cool guy. Getting to chat with these athletes and seeing them interact with one another is rare as the UFC is such a big international organisation and their paths don't always cross.
  • I met Georges Saint Pierre for the first time.  I've always been such a fan of his inside and outside of the Octagon, so to meet the man was brilliant.
  • Interviewing the fighters is always interesting and enjoyable, but sitting down and chatting to Mark Munoz was a special one. The man is so much more than a world-class mixed martial artist. He already has a career as a motivational speaker and he will continue to be very successful at that. I took a lot from our conversation and felt really inspired. Mark does so much for the sport and he is one of the world selfless human being…the type we need more of.
  • A slightly weird one, but during breakfast I introduced myself to Magnus Cedenblad, his team-mate and UFC debutant, Niklas Backstrom. I had actually commentated a Backstrom fight so used that to kick off the conversation, which kind of back fired. You see, a lot of fighters are avid students of the game and really assess every detail of their own performances. It would seem Niklas is one of them after he recounted the exact words I used in commentary when he fought Adam Edwards a log time ago. Apparently when he took Edwards down (a BJJ brown belt), I might have suggested it was a questionable strategy. Well it transpired that Niklas was a bit of a good grappler and took the win that night. Niklas playfully reminded me not to doubt him again! I immediately liked the guy.
  • Meeting Sean Shelby.  I'd had a couple of email exchanges, but I finally got to meet Sean.  I have so much respect for the top match makers.  These guys have to know the world scene in detail and on top of that they are the guys that the fighters speak with about their careers etc.  I imagine its a very emotional job at times, so it was good to sit down with Sean and get the inside track.
  • Getting a hand shake and message of good luck from Dana White. Enough said!
  • The last highlight is a bit self-indulgent. On my way to gather my stuff after the show I was walking past Gegard Mousasi, so went to congratulate him on his win. Whilst doing so he congratulated me on what a great job I was doing with Dan in commentary! It was totally unexpected. Apparently, he had been listening throughout the evening. I get a real sense of pride when fighters support my commentary. And when a truly world-class athlete gives you a thumbs up, its great reassurance that you are along the right lines.
  • Special mention highlight - great iron and ironing board at the hotel.  Friends of mine that I have traveled with will know I stress over quite a few things, but a good quality ironing board and iron is right up there.  I mean...we're going on camera and no matter how good your hair is, no matter how well you tie the tie or arrange the pocket square...if your shirt looks like Iggy Pop's torso, then the look turns to sh*t!  So thank you Hilton Hotels.

Berlin was a great event and it was good to connect and re-connect with some great people. Can’t wait for UFC Dublin, it's going to be off the bleedin’ hook!!!


BT Sport UFC Blog - TUF Cut

BT Sport Home Seeings as I haven't been in front of a camera and a mic for a couple of weeks, it was great to get back to a bit of writing...and for BT Sport!  Give it a little read here:

I'll be back blogging for them in about a month!

Cageside Podcast 6 BONUS : Cage Warriors 57 - Jack Mason

I managed to catch up with fan favourite and one of the most active and talent mixed martial artist on the scene, Jack Mason.  We spoke about how he juggles the many aspects to his life and also some specifics about this camp.  Little hint; he doesn't sound happy!!

Cageside Podcast 6 - Cage Warriors 57

Ahead of Cage Warriors 57 at Liverpool's Echo Arena, I caught up with some of the fighters:I found out about  Dan Rushworth's love for golf (1.25 to 27.17) Mr Social Media, Leeroy Barnes and I spoke about his new motivation and aspirations (27.15 to 1.08.00) WolverDean Reilly or is it Hurricane Dean Reilly?  We talked mental preparations and renewed love for fighting (1.08.00 to 1.47.00) International star Ronnie 'Iron' Mann talked about his career highlights and getting the job done on Saturday (1.47.00...)

Let me know your thoughts and who you'd like me to speak with next time.


My night out at Too Much Talent 2 for Addicted MMA

Check out this little movie courtesy of Indigo Fox Production and Addicted MMA.  It was great to given the opportunity to report on the show and I'm really pleased with the final results.  Let me know what you think:

October shenanigans


October has been a roller coaster ride for me with beautiful highs, moments of frustration and absolute confusion, but Gooden's glass likes to be half full and October has been marked with a whacking great big tick!  On a personal level I feel I have moved forward with my ambitions in MMA by getting together a podcast and consolidating relationships within the sport.  Bigger still, the introduction of SAFE MMA is such positive progression for UK MMA and to be involved fills me with pride and purpose.  I will be blogging about SAFE  MMA after the launch on November 1st.

Just as an aside, as I write this I am being slightly put off by a middle aged lady sitting opposite me on the train that has rocked up and is currently using the table as a beauty salon.  That's ok as it actually smells pretty good, but she has definitely over done it on the moisturiser and has been rubbing her wrinkly face since we left Newport...we are now in Bristol and she still looks like a clown.  Whatsmore, the excess cream is being worked at so furiously that the back of my ipad is starting to resemble a plasterer's radio!

Anyways, so about my (very raw) podcast; its nearly cost me a PC and a door after repeatedly crashing and thus creating an inner rage that hasn't consumed me since Willy B clocked me in the back of the head with a rock hit by a hurling stick- upon reflection great tekkers, but you don't shoot your pals in the back ;o).  After failed attempts to upload to soundcloud, youtube etc, I managed to get episode 1 uploaded via videopress on this here site.  I have plans to educate myself in better ways of delivering this so thats its downloadable, so bear with me!  I'd like to think my podcast is a little bit different to the others out there as it quite simply stitches together interviews that I would normally conduct with fighters, coaches, promoters, referees, managers etc.  I hope it will give access to these people to help with honest insights into the true lives of these individuals.  Thanks to all those that have lent their time to feature.  I am now set for episode 4 with the first 3 covering Shock n Awe 12, Rosi Sexton's VADA experience and Cage Warriors 49.

Shock n Awe 12 then.  I loved working with the whole crew at this show.  From everything around the show and man love with Gareth Johnson, commentating with Ben Cartlidge, the fighters, Addicted MMA, Ricky Wright, Little Red, David Swann, the guys at Boom Boom productions and of course Brian Adams- that straight talking big hunk of a man!  Consistent with my misdemeanour trends I arrived at Portsmouth and realised I had no belt for my trousers.  This might not seem too terrible to most, but I have a ridiculous ape-like structure with short legs, massive arse and no waist.  I therefore end up buying 36 inch trousers that require a handful of material to be lost around the waist.  My successful Paul Chek/ wholefoods diet has accentuated this and I could be seen mostly walking around the venue like a yoot wearing his strides around his arse or generally holding up my trousers with a hand constantly in my pocket which always arouses suspicions when you are in the company of beautiful rings girls!!   The biggest problem was the worry of being mid flow of a post fight interview, celebrating with a fighter fresh from a hard fought victory only for me take a breath between questions and causing a trouser slippage to reveal my milky white pins to a sell out crowd!  Thankfully my worst fears were never realised and David Swanny Swann came to the rescue after the show by lending me a spare belt.  Now thats an organised man right there- cheers buddy!

Highlights of the show were being cageside to commentate Luke Dalmedo's fight.  I've trained with Luke since he was 15 and its great to see him realise his talent in cage competition.  Well done bro!  Also seeing Jack Mason and Mike Ling turn a corner in their careers was great particularly after spectating their fights from close quarters at Cage Warriors and obviously being a big fan of theirs.  I'd also like to shout out Sam Ford and Jack Currell, 2 young semi pro fights who have bright futures ahead.  It was a great contest!

Another memorable moment was being heckled as I entered the cage to interview UFC fighter Phil Harris and TUF contestant Brad Scott.  As I stepped onto the Shock N Awe apron, wearing my light grey shoes with contrasting brown soles, tweed style jacket, bow tie and slightly fierce quiff I'm happy to say I was greeted by what I can only assume is a fan by a loud cry of 'GAY'.  Brilliant! It put a bigger skip in my step as I pranced to my position in front of the camera.

Onwards to Cage Warriors. Another podcast and a speed typing exercise explaining and defending SAFE MMA.  The Welsh MMA fans seemed really excited to be hosting CW which is such a great feeling for anyone associated with the promotion.  We are all so committed to doing the very best job that we can for the good of the show and positive reaction like that is great for the team.  St Davids Hall is a great venue right in the heart of the shopping district in Cardiff.  The layout is also really good for MMA and the noise in the hall was excellent when the Welsh fighters appeared to start their ring walk.  In all, it wasn't  the best night in terms of results for the Welsh contingent and perhaps a little bit of the gloss was taken off of Tim Newman's win with the arguments over the tap.  There was much debate over the tap and its terrible for all concerned when a situation like this arises.  Lots of angles have been examined from different cameras and Marc Goddard got it right.  I have so much respect and admiration for Greg Loughran and I eagerly await his return.  Congrats to Tim, I know that this win will mean so much to him.

I'll probably get told off for mentioning this, but its pretty damn obvious if you listen to the commentary...I have no desire to be an MMA judge.  I'm not actually in the greatest position to analyse a fight around the MMA scoring system.  I personally have to consider certain production items, read notes, listen to my producer and work commentary with my partner.  Scoring at the same time is just too difficult.  You of course get a flavour from the fight, but that isn't how the 10 point must system works.

On a lighter note and a bit of gossip. I was amused to be told that a flamboyant member of the Cage Warriors crew had a suspicious incident with a glitter bath bomb that caused their Davina McCalls to sparkle like a bit of camp disco furniture.  It is not, however, the same team member that enlisted the help of Brooke and her make up.  Just sayin!  Oh and a big shout out to the 30 or so handsome bow tie wearing fellas that were staying at the same hotel. Its a movement y'know!? Respect ;o)!

The morning after the show there was an alarming complaint surrounding the suspicion of performance enhancing drugs.  The complaint was lodged by the Cardiff Central pigeons about their winged counter parts, the sea gulls.  The pigeons can get near to the rich picking of the platform food.  In fact, even I had politely ask Mr C Gull if i could squeeze past at the top of the platform stairs.  WTF are those guys on?  I know one thing, Halloween is fricking scary in Cardiff with those raptors on the loose trick or treating!

That's October done.  I'm keen to see what happens to the UK and European rankings next week.  Thanks for reading.

Oh and for those worried about the lady opposite me on the train, she managed to lose the cream in a couple of her chins and did a much better job with the lippy. Beautiful.

Cageside Podcast with John Gooden Episode 3 – Cage Warriors 49

[wpvideo 60pMHjuO] DOWNLOAD HERE:

With Cage Warriors in Cardiff this weekend I speak with main event fighter Cathal Pendred.  I quiz Tillery Combat’s Richard Shaky Shore about his coaching methods and his young fighters appearing on the card.  Following this is a chat with fighter manager Gary Cross of G4 MMA who have signed a number of Welsh prospects including Tim Newman.  And lastly, Wales' own Ricky Wright gives me his thoughts on Cage Warriors visiting Cardiff and the Welsh fighters that will be making a statement.

0 - 21                  Cathal Pendred

21 - 47               Richard Shaky Shore

47-1.04             Gary Cross

1.04 - 1.25        Ricky Wright

Cageside Podcast Special - Rosi Sexton

In the second edition of the Cageside podcast I speak with Rosi Sexton, who learned that her tournament final opponent, Shiela Gaff has been forced to withdraw from the contest.Any conversation with Rosi is always fascinating and in this podcast she speaks about performance enhancing drugs, the testing processes, her feelings about rescheduling a fight with Gaff, fight camp sacrifices and the future.

I must thank Rosi for her time and I hope this podcast helps spread awareness about PEDs and how the sport can move forward in ridding their usage.

[wpvideo E5h7jydQ]

Cageside Podcast - Episode 1 Shock n Awe XII

[wpvideo qXMnVLva] Well has taken about 15 attempts through various different means to get this out, but we're finally there.  Apologies to the guys who featured and were waiting ton hear it back and to Shock n Awe as it would've complimented the show's build up.  However, the wider idea of this podcast is to bring you live recordings of fighters, coaches, referees, promoters and many other interesting people from the world of mixed martial arts, so all is still relevant.  Episode 1 focuses around top UK show Shock n Awe and welcomes Addicted MMA's Ben Farrelly (1-33), promoter and coach Brian Adams (33-1.04) along with fighters Phil Else (1.04-1.33), Luke 'El Nino' Dalmedo (1.33-1.51) and Alexei 'Boom' Roberts (1.51-2.3).

Ben speaks about Addicted MMA and his take on the SnA card

Brian Adams talk frankly about the South coast scene, Phil Harris at the UFC and his motivation behind SnA

Phil Else gives a very honest account of his worrying injury and how he has prepared for SnA

Luke Dalmedo talks us through his training and his regrets about the aftermath of the Callum Jones fight

Alexei will entertain you with his fine way with words, his confidence and his admiration for his coach. Enjoy and let me know your thoughts Thanks, John

Amman Jordan, CWFC Fight Night 7

20120908-112416.jpg It was always going to be the case, as we got deeper into the year my holiday allowance was going to disappear and it was going to make my trip times a little tighter.  Gratefully, Pat Vickers (Cage Warriors Head of Talent and co-main event match-maker) managed to arrange a late afternoon flight to Jordan so that I could join my CW MMA brethren for Fight Night 7.  Oh, and the middle weight title will be contested- big smiley face!

Heathrow Terminal 3 - so you can polish a turd!  This terminal used to be horrible but now there are high-end retailers, posh shops and even minor celebrities- though the celebs were probably just passing through, rather than making an 'appearance'.  I wanted to experience some of this high life so I touched some fabrics in Paul Smith, got attacked by at least 4 attractive women all spraying me with various effeminate fragrances (got knows why?) and I even ordered the seared tuna at Yo Sushi- you better believe it!

The 5 hour plane ride was a great opportunity to put in a solid 4 hour shift which really helped get my research notes in order.  Even with 4 unruly children playing musical chairs next to me, in front of me and behind me.  "Hey kids how do you like the UFC 10 greatest KO's of all time"...yeah, that'll learn ya!  Also on the plane was a respectable looking,young Jordanian girl reading an MMA publication.  I still find that kinda cool.  Evidence that MMA is becoming more mainstream!


After a disappointing wait at the airport I was finally in my hotel room at 2.30am, much to the relief of my on air partner Josh Palmer who was seemingly waiting up for me like a concerned parent!  At 8am we took on breakfast and I tried to get round to as many of the fighters as possible.  The GYM01 guys are always a laugh, but my stand out encounter was with Pavel Kusch and Combat Dobro.  Now I hope the following wont sound too cliche.  Kusch and his team are obviously Ukrainian and if you haven't had the pleasure of mixing with Ukrainians they all carry a kind of poker face.  Actually, they are all big and scary.  I approached their table with caution, introduced myself and was then told off by Kusch's manager for not sending across questions that I had promised- not the best start! "But I am here to make it more personable" was my rebuttal.  Kusch and I exchanged our views over the fight, his training and his background.  I particularly enjoyed our debate over what is a 'better' discipline; sambo or brazilian jiu jitsu.  I'll keep those thoughts to myself for now!  I tried to add a flavour of comedy in some parts, but much like a lot of my attempts at comedy, they weren't met with raucous laughter- tough crowd!  With all eyes on me and silence that was only broken by the response to my questions, I wrapped up the interview and stood up.  At that very moment all of the Ukrainian fellows sprung to their feet, which I had to confess was a little unsettling.  But in a twist from my paranoia they all reached for their cameras and I was passed around to have my photo taken.  There were smiles n everything!  It was a little bit like being snapped at my wedding again, only this time I felt like I was the one who should be wearing a dress!  Jokes aside, I think I understand these guys a bit better now.  They are proud competitors, deadly serious about their sport, but also very grateful for anyone who is willing to spend time understanding how they do things and they will listen intently.  For the remainder of the trip I managed to get returned smiles from all of the Combat Dobro contingent!

It wasn't long before the ironing of the shirt and the tying of the bow tie (well clipping, those self-tie ones are complicated and expensive!).  It was the first time for the new production company on foreign soil with CW.  I have to say the producer and director really made me feel very relaxed about the new formats etc, however, this was a little different now we were in the Middle East and it soon became clear that technically it was going to be a challenge for us all.  Without getting all geeky about production, there are certain tools that are required to help with the cueing and communication with the director and producer.  This is particularly important with live TV.  We didn't have some of these tools, but then we rarely do unless we are in the UK and Ireland.  So for the entire show I had to do a bit of guess work over the timing and also had to cue Joe in the cage...that is perhaps why you might catch me flailing my arms around...i'm not waving to the crowd or dad dancing, it is a  crucial, technical indication for the MC and I'm putting it on my CV under skills!!!


The fights were excellent as always.  From bright young things to experienced UFC vets.  There are very few promotions in the world who offer this package and I'm very grateful to be sitting cage side for these shows.  The amateur fights were tuned into by an electric Jordanian crowd.  Look out for young Tunisian Karkad who is developing nicely!

I was sorry to see Mike Ling lose the way he did and it was a stomach turning moment.  I know he has the qualities, mental toughness and team to get back on track.  Equally, Brett Bassett really needed a win to kick start his career on the bigger stage and I know he was struggling being away from his boy.  Not everyone can win in a fight!  In fact, even the guys who didn't get their hand raised fought like lions and that is all that you can ask of a athlete- 100%.  Sometimes, its just not your day, you are beaten by the better man/ woman and certainly in MMA the margin for error is tight.

I'm not proud to say it but the commentators curse struck not once, not twice, but about half a dozen times!  I've called hundreds of fights but it just goes to show the unpredictability of MMA.  I remember having to change commentary style in the Ptasinski vs Bahari fight as that curse just kept rearing its head.  But hey, we all live and learn, mostly by our mistakes.

The main events were very interesting.  Its always great to see Jim Alers and his coach Hank Porcher (pronounced Porché- sorry Hank).  Jim's confidence and more than that, ability, goes to show why we are all so excited to see him fight Conor McGregor for the belt.


The top of the card was interesting for slightly different reasons. Fields got past the combat sambo without too much hassle and then something happened to Kusch were he looked absolutely desperate, but in a debilitating way.  I'll reserve judgement until I find out what happened to him in there, but that aside Fields looked great.  He is now a proud champion who is discovering the fruits of his labour.  I have noticed increasing improvements in his performances every time at Cage warriors since I first saw him against Mario Stapel.  I believe raising the bar each outing will bring the very best out of Chris and I'm looking forward to seeing him defend his belt.

Its always after the fights that the shenanigans take place and Fight Night 7 was no different.  After sharing a burger with some of the team in a cafe opposite the hotel, we got involved in a few sherbets and discussed what we had just witnessed and what was next.  There are a lot of creative minds in the Cage Warriors group and with a few drinks, its good to hear their thoughts.  And whilst I was chewing the fat with Tommy and Brad, a gag was being played on a member of the CW team by members of a certain fight team.  The game went down like this: shots of high proof vodka for 1 person racing against shots of no proof water by others.  The result - 1 spandoogled vodka drinker and a very well entertained group of pranksters!  That is all I am at liberty to say.

The next morning I left Jordan in a little bit of a hurry, the catalyst being a call from Harry Selby telling me I had 5 minutes before the coach left for the airport.  My quiff was flat, my breath was stale and my travel bag was empty.  However, with the footwork of a western boxer I moved around the hotel bed and other obstacles, collecting my belonging in a big bundle using a gable grip and pretty much suplexing them into my bag as I slipped on an espadrille.  I then got back to my feet using a defensive get up whilst reaching for the door handle and escaping to the lift with my luggage.  I then had to retreat when I remembered I hadn't given Josh a kiss goodbye...I didn't really...give him a kiss goodbye. Though I did say goodbye.  Manners cost nothing!



UK MMA Awards

20120805-202557.jpg I've always maintained that getting positive recognition for your work is the biggest compliment. For the 2nd year running I have been nominated in the 'Best Commentator' category, which is amazing. All the others will be embarking on their respective self promotion campaigns, so why should I be any different!! So please support my cause so that I can put an award next to my Bronze swimming badge from 1988 and my 3rd place in go karting from Prague. Thanks so much #kissesforvotes ;0)