Billy Robinson died in his sleep on March 3, and the combat sports world lost its last living link to an era of catch-as-catch-can submission wrestling competitions that packed rugby stadiums in England in the first half of the 20th century. The hard-charging yet slick grappling style shaped the games of formative Japanese legends like Kazushi Sakuraba and Kiyoshi Tamura, who learned at the hands of Robinson, and a host of famous tough-guy pro-wrestlers. Robinson, who died at 76, was regarded with awe by the small cadre of fighters he trained in an unheralded gym in Arkansas, and he was held in the highest esteem by Josh Barnett, Erik Paulson and so many others.
Trained in the famed “Snake Pit” gym run by catch master Billy Riley in the grim coal mining town of Wigan, England, Robinson brought a decidedly against-the-grain perspective to mixed martial arts and its long enchantment with jiu-jitsu, a style at which Robinson scoffed, in no small part because it renamed what he had known as a simple double wrist lock after judoka Masahiko Kimura used it to defeat Helio Gracie in 1951.
“Listen, before television … Kimura came to Wigan and got beat -- easily,” Robinson told the Sherdog Radio Network “Rewind” show in a July 2012 interview. “Not beat by anybody special, just got beat -- easily.”
In the interview, Robinson told “Rewind” about the roots of a bygone grappling style that has captured the hearts and minds of fighters and wrestlers alike. Excerpts from the conversation are presented below.
Follow the show on Twitter @SherdogRewind.
Sherdog.com: Tell us about the catch wrestlers of the 1920s and 1930s.
Robinson: They were on starvation’s door. They were doing 10-, 15 hour-a-day shifts -- whatever. There was no money. You got a guy that did eight hours in the coal mines; he’d come home and have beans on toast with a fried egg on top, and that would be his major meal of the day. So anybody who became good at any [sport], whether it be in England or Europe, rugby, soccer, whether it be boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, whether it be Cornish-style wrestling or another one, Cumberland-style wrestling, anybody that became any good at any early age turned pro to make money for their family. Until the 60s, there was no amateur world champion [who] had any chance with any professional.
Sherdog: What were the rules of catch as catch can?
Robinson: What you did is the matches were private matches. You’d have just one match, not eight or 10 or 15 matches with television watching out. In my book (“Physical Chess,” ECW Press), it shows you a photograph of a rugby stadium sold out to watch just one match. And the rules would be made; [it would] probably take about six weeks or so for the backers, whoever was putting up the money, to agree on the rules, which could be no chokes, no fists, no elbows, or it could be the heel of the hand, no elbows allowed, chokes allowed, everything else allowed, other than -- oh, I’ll be polite -- kicking in the privates or gouging the eyes. And those could be allowed in certain matches, private matches. Then you would have to agree on the time limit.
Sherdog: And these matches would go on for quite a while?
Robinson: Well, my longest was 2:37, two hours [and] 37 [minutes]. The longest match in the Olympics for your amateur-style wrestling [is] 11 hours [and] 20 minutes. Then they cut it down to one hour, then to 15 minutes, and now they’ve killed judo and they’ve killed wrestling as an Olympic sport. They tried to make it exciting, with power and everything, and unfortunately what they’ve done is, they can get a 220 [pound] guy to come down to 191, and for two minutes, he’s very, very strong. You’ve got three two-minute rounds now, so he can be strong for two minutes, but all the technique’s gone out of it. If you went to 15 or 30 [minutes] or an hour, the lighter guy would beat the s--- out of him if he had the technique.
Sherdog: A catch match in some ways resembles a jiu-jitsu match, but the big difference is catch matches always had pin falls. Was there ever a version of catch with no pin falls?
Robinson: Well, yes, and unfortunately, now you’ve got no-gi; you’ve got the different grappling sports going on, and to me, they’re total bulls---. The thing is this: Everybody now wants to learn how to get an ankle submission or how to get a neck crank. They learn the ankle submission, they learn the neck crank, they learn the armbars and whatever, but they don’t know how to get ’em because they teach them and the guy that you’re practicing with is giving them to you to practice the perfect position; but when you’re fighting, you have to know how to get the perfect position to get those submissions. That’s why catch was better than everything in the world. It was only until the mid-60s, when video cameras came into the world, that they could video every match, private matches or whatever, and they learned. I mean, the kimura. I mean, you’ve got a triangle, which is a figure-four body scissors, figure-four neck scissors; we’ve been doing that for 4,000 years. And another thing that is horrible: Now I go down to the gym and somebody’s going to say to me, “Show me a camel clutch,” or all these different holds that they picture from television. I have no idea what they are, but I know the holds and how to get them. Everything was just a variation. It was a headlock or grovit or front face lock, half-out, single-, double-leg, ankle submission, neck crank, everything else was just a variation of those things. Now with television you have to -- especially the Japanese -- you have to name everything. I learned that when I coached for so long in Japan. It drove me crazy, with the different names.
Sherdog: You say in your book that “even the best of MMA can’t compete with a mediocre catch wrestler of the 1930s or earlier.” What makes you so bold as to say that?
Robinson: I’ve been screaming in America about learning how to stand up. You don’t want to fight underneath, get into the Gracie guard situation, which to me is totally ridiculous for fighting and for a catch man. They want to get into that; they’ll carry my weight until they blow up, and I’ll beat them to s---. I’m 75 now, and still, [if] somebody wants to get me in the guard, I’ll beat ’em, no matter how big. That’s not the point. The point of fighting is you don’t go down; you take a guy down, make him carry your weight and give him punishment and control. Now everybody, they don’t want to be underneath; they stand up. I’ve been telling [them] that for 15 years. Now it’s come about. The problem with MMA now is the promoters and television [executives] want the striking and the kicking to be prominent. Unfortunately, that takes down the grappling on the mat. So they’re pushing the strikers and the kickers, but you go back five or 10 years [and] your strikers and kickers couldn’t beat the grapplers; and grapplers that we are talking about now are not catch wrestlers. They may have been taught by a catch wrestler, but they don’t know the basics of catch wrestling.
Sherdog: Talk about how pin falls change the dynamic of a match.
Robinson: I’m going to say this. To me, catch-as-catch-can wrestling is the greatest martial arts sport in the world. I’m not talking about mixed martial arts, but the real catch, where you’ve got ankle submissions, all the headlocks, armbars, whatever and pin falls. The thing is, that when a man is fighting off his back to not be pinned, then he’s going to have a loose ankle or a loose left arm; he can get around the neck and get the neck bars, the chokes, whatever; but if you cut the pin falls out, you’ve now cut the submissions out, cut a third out of how you can get them, easy.
Sherdog: Was there ever a suggestion in your day that it might actually make sense to consider techniques off your back?
Robinson: Listen, before television, you had the greatest jiu-jitsu guys come over to Wigan. Kimura came to Wigan and got beat -- easily. Not beat by anybody special, just got beat -- easily. And that’s where you learned the double wristlock, but because he beat the Gracies, now they called it a Kimura; but no, you don’t want to be underneath, on your back, in any fighting sport.
Sherdog: You talk in your book about young guys in Wigan and on the docks getting “Shanghai’ed” onto Navy ships for the war and how they discovered different parts of the world and different fighting styles that way.
Robinson: That wasn’t just in England; that was in America and most of your major naval countries, too -- Spain, Belgium, Holland. I mean, shoot, they needed men on board the ships, so to start off with, when those guys got Shanghai’ed, they were basically guys who worked in the dock areas of coal mines [and] steelworks. Wigan is 30 miles from Liverpool -- a dock area. Guys used to go from Wigan to Liverpool for a night out, [have] a few too many drinks, wake up on a ship and they didn’t come home for three years; but they wrestled, so when they went to these different countries, when they got out, they saw wrestling in different countries [and] they would say, “Hey, let me try,” and they’d do very good, pick things up [and] bring it back, and that’s how life was in those days.
Sherdog: Was it just wrestling they picked up from other parts of the world or was it other martial arts styles, as well?
Robinson: No, catch wrestling from Wigan beat all martial arts styles. So you’ve got an argument, whether you have muay Thai from Thailand, a kickboxing art, or you have savate from France, a kickboxing sport, which was the first? You got Thailand. They say they’re the first [and that] the French sailors took it back to France; and in France, they say the Thai people picked it up from the French. And who knows? I can’t name great wrestlers in the ’30s from my town, and they were the best in the world and beat everybody in the world.
Sherdog: You trained in the famed “Snake Pit” under catch legend Billy Riley. Where would Billy have learned catch?
Robinson: You can go back 4,000 years to Greece. No men ruled Greece; there were queens. There was a city called Agon, and Agon is where they had the submission wrestlers, similar to catch-as-catch-can, but that’s where the English word “agony” comes from because when you went there, you were put into pain. And that’s in the history books well before Wigan, England. Wigan came around because of the coal mines and the steelworks and mostly by Irishmen that had come over from Ireland to make money in England.
Sherdog: You say in your book grapplers don’t know to leg ride anymore, that there are no more pure leg wrestlers. What do you mean?
Robinson: I’m screaming at these guys now. They don't even know how to get their legs in, never mind ride. Like with the double under hooks now, the jiu-jitsu guys and the MMA guys that try to get a leg under, they’re getting away with it because the guy doesn’t know how to defend it or beat him from it. I could get in hysterics sometimes when I see these great MMA fighters sticking the legs and the way they’re doing it; and I’m thinking about [Wigan catch wrestlers] Ernie Riley or Billy Joyce, Joe Robinson, Bob Robinson, those guys. They try to put the leg in that way [and] the match would be over in three seconds.
Sherdog: How? What would happen?
Robinson: Well, if you try to put the foot in between, you put your knees together so he can’t get his foot in, and you grab their toe, do a short sit-out, which pulls him on his side, kneel on his shin, pull up on the toe, [and] you’ve got an ankle submission.
Sherdog: We don’t see those kinds of ankle submissions in MMA -- the digging of the knee into the heel or into the ankle and then wrenching upwards. I wonder why that is.
Robinson: Well, most of these guys don’t know how to use it or how to get it. They know how to get it if somebody gives it to them while they’re practicing, but they never learned how to fight for it. I mean, most of these guys now, they’ve got their muay Thai square-on stance because they want to kick, which is great, which cuts out 50 percent of power punching because the legs are too wide. You need to have your legs and feet shoulder-width so you can rotate your hips and your shoulders and use your body to get power punching. You can’t do that with the muay Thai or a kickboxing stance. Two, they stand so square; they’re not like the old fighters. You get a guy like Archie Moore, [and] none of these guys would land a punch or kick on him. Most of them, he’d beat the s--- out of.
Sherdog: How did showmanship pro-wrestling evolve from catch wrestling?
Robinson: What happened was you got two guys that a lot of people wanted to watch. Say in America, so you’ve got, say, me and Karl Gotch. So the promoter would say, well, OK, go to the gym, and we would wrestle to find out who was the best guy; but we’d get hurt doing it. So, say I beat Karl or Karl beat me, whichever way it went, we would say, OK, now we’ll go from New York to L.A. to Chicago to Miami, we’ll do the same match but loose. Nobody else knew if it was real or not, but we’re not trying to kill each other; but we had to beat the guy first in the gym. Then what you had is that you had guys who would try to double-cross you. So even though you were wrestling loose, you’d be wary that the guy wasn’t trying to snatch you at any time. I mean, if you watch the match between [Antonio] Inoki and me when I wrestled in ’74 in Japan, I had a bad knee and the promoters offered money to lose the match and I said, “No, if he wants to beat me, beat me.” So we went in the ring and we wrestled a match, but all the time through, I was watching him every step of the whole hour.
Sherdog: Where was that line when it became majority worked matches?
Robinson: That came when television came into wrestling. I mean, if you go back to Wigan, where it all comes from as far as modern-day catch wrestling, it was basically that you’d have one match in a rugby stadium, totally sold out; there’d be no ring, they would wrestle on the grass of the rugby stadium and the place would be sold out whether the match lasted one minute or three hours. There wasn’t 10 matches or 15 matches.
Sherdog: What did you think of Bruce Lee?
Robinson: Honestly, his bodyguard was a very good friend of mine: Gene LeBell. When Bruce Lee got into problems, they called for Gene LeBell to take care of it. That should answer the question.
Sherdog: When do you first remember hearing about the Gracies and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu?
Robinson: First time I really heard of the Gracies was the first [UFC] in Denver. I had heard from Karl [Gotch] about the Gracies in Brazil. I’ll tell you what happened. Alexei, he was the world karate champion from America; Alexei or Alexev, I don’t know his name. So I was in L.A. and he came out to work out. He was going to have a private match with the Gracies. He had a big bodyguard, bigger than Arnold Schwarzenegger -- don’t even mention his name too many times, because I’ll tell you stories about him that will take his magnificence away from him -- and he said, “Yeah, we’re trying to get a million-dollar match with a Gracie.” So I said, “Well, why are you coming to me?” He said, “Well, you’re Billy Robinson.” I said, “Yeah?” He said, “You’re the best catch wrestler that’s around now.” I said, “Well, I’m injured, I’m old, but I can still handle myself.” He said, “What would you do if I tried to kick you?” So I said, “Get in the ring.” I said, “Try to kick me.” So he tried to kick me, I grabbed the leg, stepped into the leg, took all the power away from it, dropped back into a bridge and spun him around in an ankle submission. It lasted about, oh, four seconds. So his bodyguard got a little pissed off at me and was a lot bigger than I am. So I said, “OK, go in the middle of the ring. Now street fight, kick me, do anything you want to me.” And that lasted about another 10 seconds. So then about a year later, I was inducted into the [Cauliflower Alley Club, a fraternity club for retired wrestlers] and the head of the karate association of America came over to me and said, “Can I shake your hand?” I said, “Sure, yes, who are you?” He told me who he was, and I said, “Why are you shaking my hand? I’m a wrestler.” He said, “Well, before Alexey went to meet you, we couldn’t handle him and you humbled him enough to bring him down to earth.” And I thought that was a great compliment for a catch wrestler.
Sherdog: What was it like training fighters and wrestlers in the Japanese UWFI camp?
Robinson: Completely different than Wigan or America. They have very much like judo and jit-jitsu and the belt situations. If you were a black belt and I was a brown belt and we were sparring and I could beat you, I’d beat you; but if somebody was watching, because you were a black belt, I’d let you beat me. And I couldn’t get that out of my mind. Why? How can you learn that way? And then another big thing that I disagreed with the Japanese teachings: OK, I want to knock a nail into a piece of wood. It’s one, I put the wood into place. Two, I put the second piece of wood into place. Three, I pick up the nail, put it into place. Four, I get the hammer. Five, I hit the nail. But there’s no way they would pick the hammer up first or the nail up first, and that’s what they do in the martial arts training. It’s so rigid and set, and one, two, three, four. It works very good for them, but that’s where, in the old days, you talk about your great bare-knuckle fighters, great boxing fighters, great catch wrestlers [and] even your great jiu-jitsu guys [but] the most dangerous man to fight was a street fighter, because you never knew what he was going to do. All the other sports had a regimen; street fighters just do out of the blue. A good street fighter in condition is a dangerous man.
Sherdog: What was the dynamic in training camp like between Kazushi Sakuraba and Nobuhiko Takada and Kiyoshi Tamura?
Robinson: Sakuraba was a student, and Takada would just play with him, at all times. He’d practice everything he wanted on Sakuraba. Tamura is one of those guys that, he’s very dangerous. Sakuraba was [knowledge-wise] a lot better. Heart [was] equal. Condition [was] equal; but you never knew what Tamura would do, and Tamura beat one of the Gracies, as well. But the thing with Tamura was on any given day, he could beat anybody. If you had 10 matches in a row, I’d bet on Sakuraba for six or seven out of the 10.
Sherdog: What was your reaction watching Sakuraba conquer the Gracies in Pride Fighting Championships, especially submitting Renzo Gracie?
Robinson: Well, I chewed him out afterward because he had the double wrist lock and it took him too long to get into the right position. I chewed him out after the match. What he did was, he grabbed too far up the forearm with the double wrist lock instead of getting lower to the wrist to get more leverage. He would have got the submission a lot faster, but he learned it and did it good afterwards.
Sherdog: How would you rank Sakuraba among guys you trained?
Robinson: One of the best.
Sherdog: What was it about him?
Robinson: Well, his original coach in high school and whatever was [Shozo Sasahara], [an] Olympic coach [and] Olympic champion. So his basics, by the time I got hold of him, his basics were great, and I didn’t have to spend time on the basics with him. Sasahara was one of the great amateurs of all-time. Actually, he reminded me so much of a Wigan catch wrestler, other than no submissions, that I’d ever seen.
Sherdog: Are you aware of how injured and hurt Sakuraba is today and continues to fight?
Robinson: He should have retired six years ago [or] more. He’s got a bad shoulder, a bad knee [and] his shape is so-so, but they’re offering big money; the promoters are offering him big money to use his name to draw people in for the big arena shows. With Tamura, he should have never wrestled. I was there. It was four years ago Christmas or three years ago Christmas, and they said, “We’re going to use your name, and then two days before, you can say that you injured yourself. We’ll pay you, you know what I mean, but say you injured yourself and can’t make the match, and we’ll bring somebody else in to fight Tamura.” But the promoters double-crossed him. They said, “Well, he’s got to fight. Otherwise, he wouldn’t get paid.” But he was not only not in good shape; he a bad shoulder and a bad knee.
Sherdog: Does it make you sad to still see him compete?
Robinson: I am. He should be a coach. He should be the head of a wrestling federation or he should be coaching. He’s got great knowledge and he’s a super, super guy, but he shouldn’t fight anymore.
Sherdog: You talk in your book about being brought to Japan to coach wrestlers in the UWFI promotion and being grateful for that because you were going through a difficult time then with drinking and a divorce.
Robinson: Do I have to talk about that? (Laughs) When my wife left me, I went to pieces. I just started to drink, put on weight, got out of shape. With the knowledge I had, I could still beat most of the guys that I had to wrestle with, but I just lost it after. I was the manager of a gas station convenience store, and that’s when ... actually, Inoki was the guy that called me over to come to Japan for his 30th anniversary [in wrestling] and then paid my way and stuff, paid me good. And then they got a hold of me and said, “Billy, come over and do an exhibition match.” I said, “I’m not in shape.” He said, “Well, please come over.” So I did an exhibition match with Nick Bockwinkel. I think it was ’94 or something, in the mid-90s, and then they said, “Billy, do you want to coach?” I said, “Sure.” So then they took me to -- they opened the gym in Nashville and I coached all the MMA fighters from America, from around the world; they come to Nashville to work out, to get into shape, teach them wrestling, so when they went to Japan they’d have a good opponent, you know.
Sherdog: Do you remember Antonio Inoki versus Muhammad Ali in 1976?
Robinson: Yeah, I do.
Sherdog: What did you think of that match?
Robinson: Terrible. You want to hear a story? OK, the guy that promoted the match was Inoki’s father-in-law [and] put $4 million up in escrow for Muhammad Ali. They already had the money in the bank in America, and then Karl Gotch was in Inoki’s corner. Four minutes or five minutes before the match started, [Ali’s camp declared] you can’t do any submissions, you can’t take him down, and they cut out so many things he couldn’t do. So Inoki had to go 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali trying not to hurt him, and that’s the true story of that match. Otherwise, they would have walked straight out, gone home, and they already had the $4 million in the bank.
Sherdog: Didn’t Ali tell Inoki he would do a job for him (i.e. lose to him) and at the last minute Ali changed his mind?
Robinson: That was Inoki’s story when the real story came out.
Sherdog: So you don’t believe that?
Robinson: No. Inoki was trained, or I was trained, or Karl Gotch was trained, or Danny Hodge was trained [in such a way that] in those days, [that] Muhammad Ali would have lasted about maybe two or three rounds, at the most.
Sherdog: I get a sense in your book that there were some things about the Japanese fight culture and mentality that you weren’t so keen on. You talk about how in Japan everything has to have a God.
Robinson: Well, in Japan, Karl Gotch is the “God of Wrestling.” Billy Joyce and George Gregory used to play with Karl Gotch. I don’t mean beat him, I mean play with him, but Karl Gotch became the “God of Wrestling” in Japan because he trained Inoki. Listen, you never heard anybody in my life say I was the best. You never heard anybody say, “This is a Billy Robinson step-over [hold].” I’ll give you an example: Billy Riley [in] 1957. I won the nationals in England, and everybody was talking about the “Turkish Ride.” So I went back to Billy Riley, and I said, “Billy, everybody’s talking about the ‘Turkish Ride.’” So he said, “What is it?” It was what we called a “top ride” in Wigan, but Billy went to his ... he had a room that was all full of books and teachings from hundreds of years before, and he pulled one out with what he called “The Turk” [from] 1948. So in 1948, that’s when they did the best, in the Olympics. Billy came to me and said, “Look at this.” And he’s got an etching before they had photographs or anything [of] the same move from about 400 years ago. And he said, “That was in England, not Turkey.” Now, Billy Riley always told me, he said, “Billy, people are going to come with things that you’ve never seen before and things that will work at certain times but don’t ever think they’ve never been done before.” Wrestling is such an old sport. What happens is people copy; the young kids coming up copy what the champions are using to win matches, so that becomes very famous, but how they came up to that has been forgotten. And over maybe 60 or 70 years, those things come back and start to win matches again. I was known as a man with 1,001 holds, but there’s nothing I’ve ever done that I believe, really, that has never been done before. I believe that guys [from] 1,000 years, 2,000 years ago were doing my best moves in those times.
Sherdog: You include in your book a quote from your teacher, Billy Riley, that I think well illustrates the nature of catch: “You break your opponent, take him down, get control. Put him in a position where there are four ways to get out of it. You close three of those doors. There’s only one way for him to come out. You just keep those three doors closed until he attempts to come out this way. Sooner or later, he’ll figure that that’s the way out, and when he tries to come out that way, you say thank you and beat him.”
Robinson: That’s it; that’s catch-as-catch-can wrestling. What the people think, everything is power. You know when you do an about-face on the parade ground, that simple move? If you can out-grapple somebody, lock him into your body and do that about-face move, you will take him down many, many different ways. And it’s knowledge; it’s not power. Everybody thinks that wrestling and catch wrestling is ripping guys’ heads off and tearing their ankles and kneeing them and elbowing them. That does happen, don’t get me wrong, but the science of wrestling, of catch wrestling, is how to get into a position to be able to do that. Billy Joyce, his biggest thing he’s ever taught me, he said to me, he said, “Listen, Billy, there’s only two times you use power.” Billy Joyce, he would say “k’n hell.” He wouldn’t say, “[Expletive] hell.” A religious guy, super, super guy. But he’d say, “The only time you’d use ‘k’n hell power’ would be if you made a mistake or if somebody’s done something to you to take you down, you are to explode, use all your energy not to be down, get away and start again. The second thing is the only other time you use power is when you finally got your submission hold, and then you rip it. The rest of the time you’ve got to be loose, relaxed and make the other guy use his energy; you don’t use your energy.” And that’s catch wrestling. That’s why I call it “Physical Chess” -- the book. That’s what those guys did, but it was very hard and it was very hard on the body and you got hurt, but it was mental.
Sherdog: You talk in the book about the role of Father Time and how there will come a time when someone you’re better than will beat you. Talk about that.
Robinson: In the book I say, like, I beat Karl Gotch. I beat Billy Joyce. I beat a lot of guys, but it’s because they had reached the peak and started to go down as I was still coming up. This is why when somebody says, “Well, what would Rocky Marciano do with Muhammad Ali?” I have no idea. I’d bet on Rocky Marciano, but I’ve no idea. You can’t tell. If you get guys when they’re both at the peak, then let them fight and the winner is the best; but it’s very rare you get that. The older guy going down … he knows his body’s not up to what it was five years ago. But you got a young guy coming up that gets beat [and] he can learn from how he got beat. If you come in from that situation where I came in from … you know that on any given day, you can get beat. It doesn’t mean to say the next day you can’t beat the s--- out of the same guy, but you have a respect for the top guys. The way people talk, you hear the promos on pro-wrestling and boxing and the way they’re trying to promote boxing now: total bulls---. I mean, Muhammad Ali got it from Gorgeous George and the Big Lip, the Louisville Lip, which he was called in England at that time, Cassius Clay. He had the ability to back it up, don’t get me wrong. I’m not putting him down, but the mouth and the interviews all come from television. Ninety percent of those guys [in my day] would never speak bad about their opponent. So we fight. After the fight, people say, “Well, what did you think about him?” I want to say, “God, he’s the toughest guy I have ever met, he’s a man that wouldn’t quit, he tried, he really nearly beat me, I was just looking to get out of it.” What I’ve done right there is build you up to be a great opponent that I was looking to beat; but television now has made it, “Well, I can beat the s--- out of him, he’s not worth this, and I’ll kick his feet from underneath him.” So if he does beat the guy, he’s beaten nothing.
Sherdog: Were you comfortable doing promos in your wrestling career?
Robinson: Not really. My promos were very simple: I’m Billy Robinson, a wrestler. I can come out and let you know how good I am, but I’ll have my actions speak louder than my words, so let’s get on the mat or in the ring and see who’s the best guy. That was probably my average interview on TV.
Sherdog: With all due respect, Billy, that doesn’t sound like it would sell many tickets.
Robinson: Well, I was beating everybody, so who gives a s---?
Sherdog: What would you tell an aspiring fighter what the most important to know is about catch?
Robinson: Learn basics. When you learn basics, any time you get into trouble, the basics will get you out of it. Don’t try to do fancy things, don’t try beautiful throws. If you can do ’em, go for ’em, yeah, but always learn. You can do those throws, mess up and when you hit the mat with a guy on top of you instead of underneath you, if you know basics, you’re going to get out and get in control. If you don’t know basics, you’re going to get beat. You’ve got to learn basics. I used to have nightmares of Billy Riley saying to “Do it again, do it again, do it again.” Billy Riley said, “I’m not teaching you how to wrestle. I’m teaching you to learn how to learn.” You need different [sparring partners], maybe the same weight, but tall, skinny, short, fat, heavy, strong, fat, different opponents, because every opponent you come against, the move you’re going for to beat them, they’re going to react differently. You have to understand and open your mind, that no matter what reaction they move in, you’re already ahead of them.