Catch Wrestling Legend Billy Robinson Dead at 74

By Tristen Critchfield Mar 3, 2014
Catch wrestling legend Billy Robinson has died at the age of 74.

Robinson is believed to have died peacefully in his sleep. He was found on Monday morning, although a cause of death is currently unknown. Robinson was living in Little Rock, Ark., where he taught classes at Westside Kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

“He loved the spotlight. In his life with all the things he’s seen he was a real rock star. I tried to reach him over the last few days, and he didn’t answer,” Westside owner Matt Hamilton told Sherdog.com. “I thought I’d see him when he taught his class on Friday. When he didn’t show up, it didn’t make me wonder because it’s not that uncommon. Needless to say, everyone here is bummed out. We’ll miss coach and his personality. I’ll remember him as a great character.”

Despite myriad injuries from a lifetime in combat sports, including knee and hip replacements as well as neck surgery, Robinson remained an active figure at the Arkansas gym right up until he died.

“He was one of the legends,” Hamilton said. “I met Carlson Gracie at an old UFC event, and knowing Billy, I can say I got to know two of the MMA legends. Billy was a great old guy who was passionate about teaching. Just a week ago he was down on the mat doing stuff. It’s a shame because anytime you know someone and this happens, you just wish you spent more time with him.”

Robinson was born on September 18, 1939, in Manchester, England. He was the British national wrestling champion in 1957 and the European Open Champion in 1958. Robinson later attended Billy Riley’s “Snake Pit,” one of the most respected catch wrestling schools in the world, where he would spend approximately eight years learning under Riley.

Robinson came to the U.S. in 1970, where he made his name in the American Wrestling Association. He also famously competed against Antonio Inoki in a professional wrestling match in Japan in 1975. Robinson was inducted into the International Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2003.

After his professional wrestling career came to an end, Robinson taught catch wrestling to mixed martial arts notables such as Kazushi Sakuraba and Josh Barnett. More recently, Robinson trained three-time UFC competitor Roli Delgado at the Westside gym in Arkansas.

Joseph Santoliquito contributed to this report

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