Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Nichole Castillo Interview

Photo Credits:
Photos 1: ISO Photo Studio
Photos 2-3: NAAFS

For many, the highlight of the year for Ohio MMA is the NAAFS Fight Night in the Flats card. For Fight Night, the NAAFS pulls out all the stops putting together a card with many of the top pros in the area and many of the top amateurs. This card features two title fights with Hector Urbina taking on Nick Duell and Terry Blackwell facing Torrance Taylor as well as a main event featuring possibly the areas most popular fighter, Jessica Eye facing Carina Damm, not to mention several other of the areas most popular fighters in action. As per usual, I got to talk with Matchmaker Nichole Castillo about the card. Also, for more on this event, check out Pro WMMA Now and their interviews with both Nichole as well as main event participant Jessica Eye.

Q: For people not familiar or newer fans, can you just explain the significance of Fight Night in the Flats for the NAAFS?
A: This is number nine we are going on now. It was the biggest event to hit Ohio when it first came out. Nothing that large had hit Ohio on the MMA stage. The venue is bar-none the most amazing venue when you walk in. It has that atmosphere where everyone walks in and says "wow". It is right on the water, it is lit up, there is a stage, a cage, bleachers that when you are in the cage, it seems like the bleachers go to the sky. They hold back on nothing. For the fighters, they are all excited when they get in that cage, the sounds, everything is more amazing. Let alone the card we put on for Fight Night in the Flats. It is one of those cards that we want to be spectacular. I think every year we proved ourselves to do that. It is funny, our March 30th card people said it was a Fight Night in the Flats card. People don't even refer to amazing cards as great cards, they call it a Fight Night in the Flats card.

Q: The amateur fights alone would make a big show. is it fair to say the winners of the amateur fights will take the lead as far as rankings for Night of Champions?
A: Oh yeah, it would definitely be fair to say. Look at them, no one with a minimum of three fights on this one. I had to scale back on how many amateurs we have on this one because of all the pros and two titles, we don't wanna drag it out for two long. A lot of these amateurs were former title holders already and coming back from winning it. It makes it fun to have them come back and make a statement that "this is my weight class, this is my house." I like to see the new kids coming in and trying to beat them to. Everyone who walks out with the win is walking out with the top rankings.

Q: One fight I am psyched for is Sammy Callari against Izzy Williams. I bring this one up because it is the opening fight and will be very exciting. Does this fight give everyone that incentive to make sure you are there on time?
A: Yeah! That is actually my pick for amateur Fight of the Night. Both of them are very explosive fighters who love to strike. It is going to be fast paced and keep moving however long it goes. Sometimes you get a feel that a fight isn't going three rounds, you get feelings. You don't know who will win but you know if it will end, but with this one, I have no clue what is gonna happen and that excites me the most. The love to strike and are wild on their feet. With both having fights with us, they are definitely front runners for the rankings in their class.

Q: The amateur Main Event is R.J. Buck and Darryl Davis. R.J. has to me been so impressive of late. How impressed have you been with him?
A: R.J. kind of hit a slump there. I think taking time off from the sport and getting with a new team kind of re-energized him. It's the same R.J. Buck that I remember seeing when we first brought him to the NAAFS. I think we are seeing that out of him now and his level of talent is progressing. He is getting so much more technical with what he does. I think this year we will see him keep progressing and see how far he can really go now that he has a good team behind him. he trains hard. On the other half, Darryl Davis, I have been interested in bringing him in for four or five months now and it hasn't worked out. I am really excited to bring him into the mix, he is very talented. The NAAFS fans will enjoy having him on our card.

Q: To show how stacked the pro card is, George Comer and Brian Camozzi is the opener. George has looked really good since the loss to Clint Musser and while Camozzi may not be as known around here, he is very skilled, how big is this fight for George?
A: I think this is a huge fight for George. That fight could main event any lesser show. George being a two time amateur champ for NAAFS and doing very well minus the blemish in the Musser fight. That fight was a close fight, it isn't like he got killed. It is huge for him. It is that "where am I at in my career now, am I ready for the next tier of fighters or am I here where I should be." Same thing for Brian, like you said, he is very skilled and fought a lot of talent, but never traveled this far to fight. Him coming here is a great thing. Everyone knows the name Camozzi, between him doing well and his brother Chris being in the UFC. Even though are fans may not know Brian, they are familiar with name. It is gonna be an interesting fight.

Q: You also have Max Grishin against Ray Lopez. Max was super impressive in his NAAFS debut and Lopez is a good fighter who we have seen is hard to finish. If Max were to get a finish, how big would that be?
A: I think it would be huge. Ray has been around and fought the whose who list. He has a great pedigree. The John Hawk fight, he could not be finished, no one knew the first exchange, Ray broke his hand. he fought that entire fight with a broken hand and couldn't be finished. Yeah, he lost, but he only had one hand and couldn't be finished. Max was very impressive. He is an electric fighter. Max is not in there to play, he wants to knock you out and get out of the cage. They are both nice and funny guys. A win for Lopez would jump start him back to getting towards the top, a win for Max and we probably wont see him around here anymore, I think he would move on to the next level.

Q: A lot of times promotions bring someone in to fight the hometown guy and then he's gone. You are bringing Ray back quick, is that a sign everyone was impressed?
A: I knew who Ray was from back on the King of the Cage circuit. I had a good feel for who he was. We signed him to a two fight deal instead of a one fight deal, he is talented and I wanted to see him come in and do well. I don't think he got to show the skill he had because of the broken hand. It will be nice to see him come in and show what he can do.

Q: Also, we have Jason Dent against Andrew Osborne and Forrest Petz against Chris Curtis. Forrest and Jason go way back with NAAFS. How happy are you to be able to get them back in an NAAFS cage?
A: it is nice the see the NAAFS veterans come back. Not just NAAFS, but both of them are multiple UFC vets. It isn't just a name NAAFS fans know, but vets the entire world knows. For the NAAFS fans, you get some old school fans that don't come out as much for the new blood. They see those names who started out with us and get excited. It brings the old school and new school fans together. Everyone wants to see what these guys are still doing and it is great to have them both on the same event.

Q: On the flip side for Chris and Andrew, those are nice names to put on a resume, how big would wins be for them?
A: For either of them it would be huge. For Chris a win over a UFC vet would be something huge. A win for him is even bigger than for Osborne over Dent. Chris is also bumping up a weight class to fight Petz. Him winning would be a bigger thing for him. Osborne keeps getting better. His fight with Joe Heiland was a close fight that he took on short notice. I would have loved to see if he didn't take it on short notice with a quick weight cut what he could have done. It is part of why when we have guys come in and get injured right away or take it on short notice, I wanna bring them back. When they show all that heart, I wanna see them come back.

Q: We have two title fights. First Terry Blackwell and Torrance Taylor. I explained this fight to someone as a potential striking clinic, is that accurate?
A: It is for the interim title. Daniel Strauss still has our title at 155. As of now, he will be at the event and commentating this fight. It is a little haiku that people didn't know he was coming. We are excited to have him back as a guest. He gets to come watch who he will be fighting. With that said, he knows who both are and if fans don't they should look them up. It will be a clinic of all things. Both are traditional martial artists. They have known each other and fought on the same circuit since the beginning. They are friends, they know each other. Not best friends, but been on the same shows, they send fighters back and fourth. Terry just did an interview and is a corrections officer, a kid was getting out and served his time and wanted to get into martial arts and Terry called up Torrance and sent him there. They will have respect for each other but both want the same thing. They have a great pedigree on the ground but both like to stand and bang so it will be interesting to see if either takes it to the ground. Terry is more classic with his standing and Torrance has more of the spinning, shock and awe moves. This is gonna be electric.

Q: The other is Hector Urbina against Nick Duell. Everyone will be screaming for Nick, but last time that happened, Hector kind of spoiled the party, so wouldn't it be foolish to think this is just an easy shot for Nick to get the title back?
A: Since Hector fought for us in West Virginia, a lot of our Ohio fans didn't see it. He was our middleweight champ, he stole that title from Travis Clark and did it within sixteen seconds. It was so fast, there was a guy screaming behind me, I looked back because they were starting a fight, I looked forward and the fight was over. Hector is no joke. I have known him awhile. I met him helping with Bellator. I got to see him fight and we talked of bringing him here. He said "if you ever bring me in, I will not disappoint" and he did what he said he was gonna do and he won quick. Anyone overlooking Hector, you might wanna do your homework. Hector has been around a long time. He has gone to American Top Team now and I think we will see an even better Hector. I am excited to see how he does at a lighter weight. Nick is an NAAFS veteran. He has had this title before. He feels he is on right now. Nick knows, you can tell when you talk to him, I have spoken to him and he sounds ready to go. It will be a great fight for the fans.

Q: The Main Event is Jessica Eye against Carina Damm. Jess has been on a roll but this could be her toughest test couldn't it?
A: I think this is her hardest fight to date. If you look Carina up, she has fought the whose who list. She has fought everyone. There aren't that many left. Jessica is just one that is left. I am a fan of Carina's. She is from American Top Team also. I am honored and happy to have her come out. Jessica is Miss. NAAFS. She started with us. I am so proud of how far she has gotten. I love watching her fight. They are both amazing and we couldn't have a better headliner. The entire world is watching this one. We are thankful to Bellator for letting us do this, this is my dream fight come true.

Q: At the end of the night, what is fight of the night?
A: I cant pick one, there are so many good ones. I think for amateurs it will be Sammy and Izzy, I don't know why. For the pros, there are so many, I cant pick one.

Q: Anything I missed?
A: Nope, I think you got everything.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Stephanie Skinner and Cassie Robb Discuss "Inappropriate" Communications with MMA Writer

Photo courtesy of Fightfan.net

In an interview conducted today, female MMA fighters Stephanie Skinner and Cassie Robb discuss what they feel is inappropriate communications from writer Eric Holden. Holden, known for articles playing up the "sexy" side of female fighters, had, according to Robb and Skinner, several contacts with both fighters focusing on their openly gay relationship, including stating that their kissing photos gave him a "boner", that they should post more "PG-13" photos and inquiring about their openness to "threesomes". Some of those communications have been saved and screen shots will appear at the end of this interview conducted with both fighters. At the conclusion of the interview is a brief statement given by Racheal Blaze that she gave when contacted about questions that were asked of her by Holden in an interview he had sent her. Mr. Holden is welcome at any time to refute the allegations made by Robb and Skinner.

Q: Let's start with Cassie because he talked with you first correct?
CR: Yes!

Q: How did you initially come into contact with Eric?
CR: He just asked me to do a couple interviews for him. He sent me a personal message on Facebook and after that he wrote me daily.

Q: He put you on some of his top ten lists to correct?
CR: Yeah!

Q: At the time, was that something you were o.k. with?
CR: It didn't really bother me I guess. He hadn't started being that flirtatious with me yet. I always felt that any time he talked to me or interviewed with me, he was more worried about the sex appeal aspect of the sport, he didn't really care about my talents.

Q: When did he start with the flirtatious stuff?
CR: A couple weeks after he started interviewing me, he would say really inappropriate things like talking about me and my girlfriend and saying things he shouldn't have said. I wasn't rude back, I just said "you're weird, stop."

Q: Can you give an idea of the inappropriate things he said?
CR: He was telling me that my kissy pictures with my girlfriend gave him boners. He asked if we would be interested in threesomes. Really sexual questions about me because we have a lesbian relationship. Just putting in his two cents about how hot he thought it was and felt a need to tell me about it.

Q: Stephanie when did he start contacting you?
SS: He started messaging me probably the same time he started messaging Cassie. A couple weeks after those articles came out where he made his top ten sexy lists. He messaged me about Cassie.

Q: Did he give you the same kind of inappropriate messages?
SS: Yeah, his weren't as inappropriate to me because of the role I play in our relationship. His were to me were that "Cassie is such a sexy little lady" and the same comment that our kissy photos gave him a boner and then that "you guys should post more PG-13 stuff for us to see." Telling me that Invicta had him obsessed, not just because of the talent, but because of all the hot girls on it. I was like "dude, you should be there for the talent, we are not her for our sex appeal, we are here for our talent."

Q: You guys saved some of these messages correct?
SS: Yes!

Q: Did you save them to eventually make him stop? Was there a purpose in saving them?
SS: For me, it was saving so I could be like "Cassie, you should hear what this guy is saying and making these lists." I'm the type of person that I save stuff like that cause one way or another it can come back around. If someone says you said something, we will know, and know what I said in return.

Q: Did either of you at some point tell him he had to stop?
CR: Yeah, both of us did. I ended up blocking him on Facebook and Twitter so he would stop contacting me. I just had to bring up the messages today so I could screen capture them and he wrote me today trying to apologize and I just ignored him.

Q: When he was first told to stop, what was his reaction?
CR: He just played it off. He thought I was kidding around. I gave short answers like "I don't know why you are asking me that, that's weird." He played it off like it was some kind of joke.

Q: Did he ever seem mad that you asked him to stop?
CR: No, he just thought I was messing around with him. He was constantly sending messages. Half the time he would send five messages before I would write back.

Q: Did you ever tell anyone else about this?
CR: I contacted Janet Martin about it. I told my coaches and teammates.

Q: When is the last time you had any communication with him?
CR: For me, it was today. Like I said, I had to unblock him and pull up the messages. He wrote me an apology and I said "karma is a bitch and I don't accept your apology."

Q: Before today, when was the last time?
CR: Probably a month or two ago.
SS: For me it was when he interviewed Jordan Gaza about cheerleaders in MMA. He made comments to me in a message, I told him my comments and then ended up blocking him because I think he is ignorant.

Q: Everyone knows he focuses on the sex appeal side of fighters, as fighters, how do you feel when that is what is focused on?
CR: It really upsets both of us. It's not what we are trying to get known for. There are fighters who use that, but neither of us is that kind of person.
SS: I am with Cassie on that. We are here for our talent and not our sex appeal. For someone to focus only on sex appeal, I don't like that at all. To see my girlfriend on a top ten list of some guy who is a creeper? This dude is not good, her is a pervert. All the messages he sent to me and Cassie, just proved it more. I wish someone would make him stop and tell him to go away.

Q: We saw Brett Atchley and all the thigns that came out, if Eric was at an event that one of you fought on, would it be hard for you to be there and fight if he is around?
CR: Yeah, it would be really difficult. I wouldn't be comfortable being around him in person. For how much he hurt Alyssa (Vasquez), how he was over the Internet, I cant imagine how he would be in person and don't wanna meet someone like that.
SS: I am in the same boat. If he was ever to be at an event I was at, I feel I couldn't hold back from saying what I want to him, that "that is my partner and you were saying inappropriate things to my partner and telling me inappropriate things about my partner." It would be hard to refrain from saying things and being confrontational.

Q: Some fighters are o.k. with his articles, are you o.k. with others who don't see a problem with his types of articles?
CR: I feel like maybe he didn't personally attack them like he did us. Maybe he flatters them without stepping over the lines. For us, I don't think any of what he did is o.k.
SS: I agree with Cassie on that. Maybe these are girls who will use their sex appeal to get a little further, and nothing is wrong with that, but some of us don't want that spotlight. We don't want it for our looks and bodies, we want it for our talent and hard work. Overall, it is inappropriate, regardless of pro or ammy, big name or little name. Like Cassie said, maybe he hasn't said anything to these girls like us. Maybe it is because we are an openly gay couple that he felt it was o.k., but I don't.

Q: So do you think maybe being an openly gay couple played any part in why he would say things to you that he wouldn't say to others?
CR: I think so. I don't think he would randomly send the messages he sent to both ends of an openly gay couple and make those comments if it were a heterosexual couple. I think he would think the man would step in and say something and he thought with two girls, they would be to scared to come forward. This guy writes articles that people read, what can he say about us that is bad? If we tell, what will happen? Will anyone care or believe it?
SS: I agree with everything she said.

Q: If you were not as open about your relationship, do you think he would have said these things?
CR: I don't think so. I think it is because we are so open and comfortable with who we are. We don't hide anything about us being together. I think he felt that was us opening the door for him to ask or say anything he wanted.

Q: You are talking now, did you debate ever talking?
CR: Yeah, I didn't take it to heart at first. At first it wasn't horrible things. It started just being a little flirtatious. Just a fan being friendly. But then after awhile it was more.
SS: For me it was harder to take because his messages to me were about my girlfriend and how hot she was and that he is a fanboy. I wasn't gonna say anything till Cassie felt a need because it is more involved than me. When she told me she told Janet, I felt at ease. Then when the whole Don't Click movement started and hearing things he said, we needed to prove that he is a perverted minded person, here is proof, the cherry on the top to try and end this.

Q: With all this stuff with Brett Atchley going on, does it put a bigger emphasis on speaking out about things like this?
CR: Yeah, I think it does. It shows this is a community, a family of people willing to step forward and protect those in the family. The more people that come forward about people doing things, we realize we are a huge family, let us support you, here is how we can help. It makes it easier knowing you are not the only one, that he has done this to other people, it makes it easier that it wasn't just us. That was the thing we worried about.

Q: Do you in any way look back and wonder if there was anything you could have said that gave him the impression that this was o.k.?
CR: I don't think we could have done anything that would allow that action at all. That is never o.k. to say those things to somebody.
SS: When he started off with me, it was just "I am a fan of your girlfriend" and worked his way into saying he was a fan of me and then started taking about our looks. I just said "thanks for the compliment." Maybe by being thankful and humble, he got the wrong impression. BY nature I am a humble person and until you push me, I will not be confrontational. When he made those remarks I said "that is my girlfriend you are talking about" to try and put a halt to it. He took it as a joking manner.

Q: Anything you want to add?
CR: I don't think so. We said what needed to be said. You have the screen shots of some of the things he said and I think that is enough.

Racheal Blaze statement: I did receive questions for an interview of which I declined due to the nature of the questions. As The Ambassador of Combat Sports, I felt it was not positive or would reflect a positive outlook on our sport.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cassie Rodish Statement on Addison Sports Management Contract

I personally have not had any issues with Brett or ASMM management team. My relationship with Brett was strictly business. While with him I became an invictaFC contracted fighter and had multiple sponsors. With that being said I’m outraged by his attitude in the past and present. In no way should a manager bully, pressure and exaggerate his power over a fighter. My contract with ASMM expired yesterday May 21th of 2013. With all the allegations I have chosen not to re-sign. No worries this is going to be another amazing year of fights. I’m still an InvictaFC fighter and I plan on climb my way to the top of the ranks. We are a strong community and have a bright future ahead of us. Let’s focus on the amazing journey ahead of us.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Alyssa Vasquez and Sarah Maloy Interviews

By now the accusations against MMA manager Brett Atchley have been widely reported. One of the first to step up and make her claims public was amateur fighter Alyssa Vasquez. She went very in-depth on the PRO WMMA Now radio show hosted by Gina Begley and Emily Bartee. Also going public was Sarah Maloy. As I had interviews scheduled with both fighters I decided to combine them into one post. First you will read my interview with Alyssa and after hers wraps up you will then read my interview with Sarah.

Alyssa Vasquez

Q: You were on the Pro WMMA Now radio show last night and you said your first interaction with Brett Atchley was after you spoken about Fallon Fox and had clicked like on his status and he contacted you. What was the basis of his what he was saying?
A: Initially he reached out to me to my understanding, was to make sure there was no bad blood between myself or him as Fallon's manager.

Q: Had you ever had any interaction with him before that?
A: No sir. None at all.

Q: After that he kept trying to communicate with you correct?
A: Yes sir. As a matter of fact, that same instance where he had wrote me after I liked the status, instantaneously he shot me a message with his phone number. I was assuming he didn't like the back and forth Facebook message thing and he sent me his number and said "when you get a chance to talk I would like it if you could give me a call." I sent a text and said "here is my number, call when you are free."

Q: From those first interactions did he come across as a good guy? Was there any hesitation talking to him?
A: Not in those first conversations. My initial reaction was he was a boisterous and cocky figurehead, which wasn't a bad thing considering his job. Just a typical cocky manager thing.

Q: That led to him asking you to go for a beer at Invicta correct?
A: Yes sir. He said he had known about me for quite some time and he thought I seemed like a cool chick and he would like to get to know me. Not like wanting to date, but just as a person. I had mentioned I was going to Invicta and he said we should get a beer together.

Q: Was there any part of you who saw this as with him managing so many girls, that it could be good for your career to be friendly with him?
A: Initially I thought it was just a friendly conversation, but then during the talk he went out of his way to tell me what he thought of me as a fighter and my game and the holes in my game and if I fixed these things he would be interested in managing me. That is when it was like "hey that's cool", it was that moment where it was "wow, I'm a real fighter" kind of thing.

Q: Then you met him at Invicta, can you share what happened?
A: Initially I got to Invicta and he was shooting texts asking if I had arrived and I told him I had and was watching the fights. He doesn't know this and I told one or two people before and I didn't say it on the radio last night, and he doesn't know that I know, but the entire time he was texting me, he was standing right next to me. It is more troubling now considering people have mentioned he had fighters on the card and he was spending the majority of the night texting and watching me text him back. I thought it was weird at the time but I didn't want to let him know that I knew he was watching me so I played along and acted as if I thought he was in the back with his fighters. Right before intermission he asked if I wanted to grab the beer and I said sure. When intermission started I waited till he left cause I didn't want to lock eyes. He shot me a text telling me to grab the beer. I walked out to that area, like walkway and we went to a local restaurant and ordered a beer. Soon as we sat down, he grabbed his stool and pulled it right up next to me. For lack of a better term he was in my face. It was uncomfortable but not enough to say "get away from me guy." Initially the conversation is all about what he is dealing with and clients and fights his fighters have lost, and what is going on with Fallon and Tito Ortiz. He just stopped and said "you are real cute, I think you are awesome, you are a cool chick." No matter who it is, I get real uncomfortable when people give me compliments so when he was saying that I was like "shut up, you're crazy", just playing it off. It kept going and I knew intermission was over and I was missing fights, I missed Bec Hyatt's fight. I was trying to wrap it up and I think he got the hint. I went to pay for the beer and he said he had it and I thanked him. We went to hug and part ways and when we hugged he went in and kissed my neck. Soon as he did that, we pulled apart and he kissed me on the lips. Any normal person should have pushed him off, and I didn't, I just ended it and pushed back and wrapped it up. Soon as it ended, I could tell he was flustered and almost embarrassed.

Q: After that, he was still trying to get you to the after part correct?
A: Yes sir.

Q: At that point are you wondering if you maybe gave him a wrong signal?
A: I felt that I had let it get out of control. It is like an internal thing where anyone would have to question themselves at that time. You wonder "what did I do to make him think that was appropriate." I would have loved to do the after part thing because all of my idols in the fight game would be there, but I had to call it a loss. I didn't wanna go knowing he would be there. I could foresee bad things happening and him being all over me. I didn't want to feed into this feeling I assumed he was having. I didn't want o offend him but he needed to know these feelings were not mutual.

Q: Are you scared at that point if you do offend him, it could hurt your career?
A: Very much so. That is why I had kept a good relationship with him the whole time. It wasn't that I felt if I was friends with him that I would get something out of it. I never wanted to be managed by him because I could tell he was a sloppy individual and could tell he had a problem with alcohol. What I did want was to not have any problems or to get on his bad side. That was one thing I was afraid of, by the way he spoke about the power he had and these friends in high places who would screw over fighters on his behalf. I never wanted anything from him, I didn't want to be in a bad situation and screw myself over before my fighting career got started.

Q: So after that Invicta you were still being friendly with him correct?
A: Yes sir. We didn't really have any actual phone conversations. he would shoot me a text out of nowhere. It would usually be following a dramatic Facebook post of his. He would text me out of nowhere and I would say "Is everything alright, I noticed you seemed kinda pissed." From there he would vent about whatever was going on in his business dealings. That was the extent of it, a text here or there until he did call approximately two weeks ago.

Q: What was said in that call?
A: He was spilling his guts about something happening with him and a very young client of his. He was being sued for something along the lines of sexual misconduct or inappropriate behavior. His stance was that this person was a horrible client and he sent her two thousand dollars of sponsor money and she blew three it, refused to get medicals prior to Invicta 4 and he had to jump through hoops to take care of it. He was getting ready to drop her and she caught wind of it so her and a famous training partner of hers decided to make up this big bullshit story to get him in trouble. He was telling me all that and said Shannon Knapp called and asked what was going on and he told her it was bullshit and Shannon said "you don't have to say another word, I got you." Next thing he knows he gets notification from the former clients lawyer saying "we are sorry Mr. Atchley, we are dropping everything." Making it seem like Shannon wrapped it up in a pretty little bow. He also said how he lost Jessamyn Duke and negative things about her mother and I know for a fact her mother is a very loving and supportive woman. He painted her as a monster. After that, he brought up Invicta and apologized and said he knew I wasn't looking for anything like that. Then right after that he jumped on Facebook and shot me a message that said "I love you." I didn't respond and he sent another that said "I love you" and it had an exclamation mark. I responded with "you are gonna regret that one in the morning" and he sent another that said "why don't we just fuck." At that point my jaw dropped. I tried to defuse it and told him "I would give anything to see your face when you read that one in the morning." In my mind he would read it and see he was running his mouth and would stop but that is not what happens with Brett. He wrote another that said "I guess I am all in" with a wink emoticon. You know how you can read a Facebook message without opening it? I read he wrote it and left it there and didn't open it till a couple days ago. I think he realized he overstepped his bounds.

Q: Did you plan to keep it to yourself or did you know that at some point you would have to say something?
A: I wanted to keep it to myself. I assumed this was a one time only thing, that he was like this to me but not other fighters. I wasn't gonna say anything. After that "why don't we fuck?" message, that really fired me up, I felt insulted and disrespected. That coupled with the fact that his conversation telling me the names of fighters I knew he had lost their contracts were honorable stand-up people. So I figured I would throw something out there, dig around, not a witch hunt, just needed to know what I was dealing with. Then I felt obligated so say something for others who may fall in his path.

Q: Tara LaRosa finally named him. Does someone with her name value being willing to speak make you feel more comfortable talking about it?
A: Very much so. It is a normal reaction, anybody would look at a nobody and it doesn't substantiate the claims when no one knows who the person is. My story, you can read it and read it a hundred different ways. My story coupled with what she wrote and her interview with you and others, it is powerful. For anyone who is teetering, wants the courage to say something, her and Jessamyn, that is power.

Q: Janet Martin wrote something on Facebook and mentioned you and showed support, how does that make you feel?
A: Relieved and thankful. It is an honor to share the same sport with these people. To be afraid of how the public will view you and be received by people I have so much respect for. There is no other way to describe it other than phenomenal.

Q: Brett has said none of it is true, when you read him say people are lying, does it upset you or do you even care?
A: I guess the answer is no and no. In my mind there is no back and forth. I have laid everything out truthfully even if it made me look like an idiot. You cant compete when it is truth you are battling. I think the best thing is to fall on your sword and accept that is is fundamentally screwed up at this time. The only thing that would upset me is if he makes personal digs at people. It is a barking dog that is cornered right now.

Q: Anything you want to add?
A: Just along the lines of what I said on Gina's show. I really appreciate you and her and everyone that is willing to push this out there. Everyone who built this behind the scenes, it was a long time coming, even if people think this is new, it was brewing a long time.

Sarah Maloy

Q: Share your story of what happened with Brett, it sounded like he tried to get touchy-feely for lack of a better term?
A: Yeah, his appearance seemed pretty intoxicated. He was really handsy. I am thirty years old, it's nothing I haven't experienced, in college I bartended and have been in that kind of situation before. All you have to do is be a little stern and it will go away and if it doesn't you just go to the other side of the room.

Q: So he did seem intoxicated?
A: Oh yeah!

Q: can you describe what he did?
A: A little too in my comfort zone, in my area. Hands on the hips kind of thing. He didn't touch any of my private parts but a little too handsy, too close for comfort.

Q: And I assume you just said no and pushed him away?
A: My Sensei teaches you how to get people to move where you want them to move. I adjusted my stance and got further and further away without having to say "stop, leave me alone." Really kind of "I gotta go" and moved away from him.

Q: Did he seem to get the point?
A: I did it subtle enough that there wasn't really a point to get. Just got my distance and kind of got away from him. Being intoxicated you are not gonna realize someone is nervously trying to get away from you.

Q: Have you ever had any interaction with him before this?
A: No, I had never met him in person before the Invicta event.

Q: After that, was there any contact with him?
A: No! I am real fortunate to have an awesome manager. He was talking to me about managing me and the contract situation. I let him know I have an awesome manager who does everything I need him to do. That is when he did the whole "I don't have to be your manager to get you a three fight contract" thing.

Q: Some people have said he would blackball them, did you have fear of that?
A: To be honest, I did. He made sure you got the point that there wasn't gonna be an Invicta contract unless it was through him. It was very subtle, but he got his point across. Initially I didn't think he had any clout, but I fought on the first Invicta and haven't since so there was always that worry there. But I am pretty close to Janet and I don't think he had anything to do with that. My weight class is one that has been a little slower to build. There has been few fights in my class and I know when they are ready to sue me, I will be back in there. But it is hard not to have that in the back of your head. That is why I fought two boxing matches, I was struggling to get fights. It is hard to get big show fights and small shows want local girls. It was either do something other than MMA or be completely inactive.

Q: There had been rumors for some time, had you heard any yourself and if you had, did it make you think what he said was true?
A: I hadn't heard any sexual harassment type rumors. I had heard things about him not doing everything he could as a manager and possible financial shadiness. From the first time Shannon said something about a manager saying "you cant get a contract without me", I knew it was him. I experienced it. He had said that to me before Shannon said her first warning. I was kinda shocked and kinda not shocked about the sexual side of it. I cut it off as fast as it started, I nipped it in the bud and got out of there.

Q: Did you at first tell anyone?
A: No, I didn't even tell my husband the whole story. At the time, I was annoyed and a little offended, but he was managing high caliber fighters. I had an awesome manager, but it was flattering. I didn't know that he was doing all this.

Q: Why did you decide to go ahead and talk now?
A: I saw something where someone said that a couple people coming out can be dismissed. I knew what he did to me and I knew it was really wrong. If someone isn't held accountable for their actions that it will escalate. I worried that if only two came out that nothing would be done so I decided to tell my story, as small as it was so that other girls would come out as well. There is not much backlash for me, he is not my manager or in charge of my fights so I have the least at risk and hopefully that will help.

Q: You are a pro, people know you, they know Tara and Jessamyn, do you hope names like you coming out will encourage others who aren't as well known?
A: I have a fight career and things to fall back on. I know how it feels to be coming up as a fighter and wanting to make a name and not want to make the wrong people mad. Dealing with promoters and sponsors, you walk on eggshells and don't want to mess up. Let girls in that position know that this is not o.k. and the women's MMA community will take care of it and will be behind you. You don't have to keep this under wraps, no one should treat you this way. You can talk about it.

Q: With Shannon coming out give you motivation that you can talk without backlash?
A: If I knew it was that widespread, I would have talked regardless. I am very thankful Janet and Shannon and Sam were outspoken and supported the girls it happened to. Girls don't have to be scared to tell the truth. It is awesome they did that.

Q: Anything about this you want to add?
A: I just want the truth of the situation to come out. It is o.k. to talk about it. You cant get punished for telling the truth.

Q: You were injured in your last boxing match, how are you doing?
A: I am really good. My therapist is pleased with my progress. It isn't fast to me, but fast for all the damage that was in my arm and shoulder. Last Wednesday he gave me four weeks maximum till I am a hundred percent and maybe faster than that. I am doing lots of exercises have full motion except struggling to the back. It is getting better.

Q: I also want to mention a certain sixteen year old girl who had a big accomplishment recently, can you talk about that?
A: That would be Jussely Canada. She qualified for World's at the U.S. team trials in Pankration. We had two girls qualify. Jussely competed down a weight class cause there were no girls in her class but she also competed up four classes. The girl who beat her had her bu forty pounds. We are super proud of her. Since it is in Croatia and not Canada, we are gonna forgo World's and use the money to compete in the U.S. I promised her a trip to train with Liz Carmouche at Team Hurricane Awesome.

Tara LaRosa Interview

There had been rumors in the women's MMA community of a manager making threats to blackball female fighters and keep them from fighting in big promotions as well as other rumors. While many knew the name of that manager, no one wanted to go public. Finally Tara LaRosa did go public and named Brett Atchley and it became a firestorm of talk. Amateur fighter Alyssa Vasquez came forward and did an interview for PRO WMMA Now talking of her issues with Atchley and it got more talking going on. Thus far Atchley has denied any wrongdoing. I was able to talk with Tara and get her story of what happened.

Q: You said on Facebook that Brett Atchley tried something with you at an Invicta's he tried something with you and then again at a Seattle airport. Can you give your side of what happened?
A: When I came down from my room to the elevator and then the lobby, there were several people standing there, Brett being one of them. I don't particularly remember who else was standing there. He grabbed a hold of my sweatshirt and my wrist and said "oh, were are all your sponsors at? What a great manager you must have." Referring to Monte Cox, my manager. I was starting to say something nasty, but my coach at the time Ivan Salaverry pulled me away and took me to the door. That was that incident. After the show ended, Brett had been on my flight, I didn't realize it. I was grabbing my stuff and walking through the airport. He comes up next to me and grabs my bags and tries to take them from me as if he is gonna help me carry them and shoot the shit. I flipped out and said "get away from me, I don't need your help." That caused a commotion. Nobody was down there , I am sure security cameras caught it. He stormed off. That is that.

Q: Had you had contact with him before that?
A: Yeah, I met him at RFA. A show I fought on on march 20th in Nebraska. He had Jessamyn Duke, Elaina Maxwell and Maurice Smith on that show. Jessamyn was patched up like Nascar, she had so many sponsors. I asked how much she was getting for that. Brett said seven or eight thousand. I said "that's crazy, I have been fighting for eleven years and never came close to that much." It seemed like bullshit to me, I didn't take him seriously. For him to say that stuff to me, it doesn't make me want to sign with you and be one of your girls, I know better. Shit like that is usually false. Later on after the show, several months later, I was hanging out with Jess at Invicta and asked "how much did you get for that show? He said you got seven or eight thousand." She said she never got any money.

Q: Some people have said he threatened to blackball them and keep them off shows like Invicta, did he try that with you?
A: Yes he did. When he had the falling out with Ivan Salaverry and Ivan kicked him out of the gym. I have the messages he sent Ivan that say "none of your girls will ever fight for Invicta or Strikeforce, I had them blackballed." Ivan showed that to me. I sent it to Monte Cox and Monte got everything straightened out.

Q: You said he called Monte and threatened to sure you if you talked, what was your reaction to that?
A: I laughed. He called Monte this afternoon and said "I don't know what Tara's problem is but she is saying some stuff that is not true and if she continues to say it I will take legal action against her. maybe you can get her to stop talking." Monte lit into him. He said "Brett if you said some stuff that happens to be true, you can't sue Tara because it's true, it's not slander. Tara is not gonna let this go. When she gets on something, she is persistent. Me talking to her is not gonna do much." Monte was basically just laughing at him.

Q: There has been rumors and girls saying stuff off the record, why did you decide to put his name out there?
A: Because this was the third time I had read these big serious posts in this private forum that is for us, that warns us of dangers in the sport, of people with bad practices or shady people. It has been posted several times and and I know several other people who have been affected. I figured after the stuff last summer that "this guy is an idiot, he is not gonna persist." He is still around and still doing bad stuff, worse stuff than I even knew about. I had it. I am hearing the names of people he does it to, these girls are brand new, they wont do anything, they are serious about the sport and don't wanna jeopardize what they can be. They don't realize Brett Atchley is not anything. Everyone is afraid to speak out and he has threatened them that he will expose them and that people wont put him on cards. That is complete bullshit. He is scaring people saying "I am friends with Shannon Knapp, Janet Martin or Sean Shelby." Bullshit, bullshit. He is full of hot air and all about stealing money from people. He does not let the fighter talk to the sponsor, Brett is the middle man, he controls the action. He talks to the sponsor and says "hey, can we get this much money and maybe some gear, maybe a watch." Then he goes to the fighter and says "they are gonna give you a watch worth $2,500." Then if money is involved, Brett keeps the money.

Q: Alyssa Vasquez has come out and shared her story, you are a big name in the sport, do you hope that with you coming out that it will make these girls not afraid to come out and share their story?
A: That is why I came out about it. So people would follow my lead and feel comfortable knowing someone else had come out and I didn't get instantly struck by lightening or blow off on the spot. This shit needs to stop, someone needs to step up and say something. I didn't think what happened to me was the worst of it so didn't think my story was as pertinent. Whatever it is, I hope it helps and does the right things.

Q: You just moved to Albuquerque, how has it been there for you?
A: Wonderful, absolutely wonderful. My life could not be better right now. I am surrounded my amazing coaches who have no problem teaching me, awesome training partners, always people to train with my size and ability, a strength and conditioning coach, do cardio swimming, sand dunes to run on, it is wonderful. There are so many options for training here. Plus we have Greg Jackson, and Coach Winkeljohn, it's incredible.

Q: Anything coming up for you?
A: No, nothing. Just playing it all by ear.

Q: Anything you want to add?
A: No, I think that is all. I hope the girls are listening to me and know it's o.k. to come out and he cant hurt you. He cant get to you, there is nothing he can do to you, just tell exactly what happened. Even if it the most mundane instances, they matter, just tell what happened. It doesn't have to be some crazy wild story, just tell your story, get it out there so he cant do this to other people.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Haven Hennessey Interview

Photo Credits:
Photos 1 and 5: MAC Portraits
Photos 2-4: NPC News Online/Dan Ray

Haven Hennessey originally got into the gym to lose weight after giving birth to her second child. With urging from her coach Belinda Hope, Haven gave competing a try. Needless to say, Belinda's urging that Haven could do well was proven correct as Haven has done well on stage, most recently a third place finish in a tough class at the Orlando Europa. She will be back on stage in June. Not much time for major improvements, however I expect we will see the best Haven Hennessey yet.

Q: Can you talk about how you got started in the gym?
A: It was after the birth of my second son. I realized the baby weight was not coming off. He was five months old and something had to be done. That got me looking around for gyms and got me in the doors.

Q: At the time was it just to lose the weight?
A: At the time I was about thirty pounds over my normal weight. I knew I did not do the right things during the pregnancy. I ate too much and didn't work out enough. I wasn't a gym goer before the baby so I figured joining a gym would give me discipline and an outlet to burn off the extra weight.

Q: Obviously you stuck with it, was there something specific that kept you going?
A: I think it was just seeing the changes in my body so quickly. The adrenaline rush afterwords and the endorphins kicking in and the energy it kept you. Mostly just seeing my body change and become a body-type I was liking.

Q: What made you decide to compete?
A: The trainer that I ended up with at the gym, one of the trainers I looked up to and admired, Belinda Hope. I started training with her because I got a discount as an employee cause I started teaching at that gym. As I was training with her she kept telling me "you have the perfect physique for figure." I kept pushing her off "yeah yeah right." I believed her but I didn't believe her. I though maybe she was right but didn't see it. I couldn't see it but she could. Eventually I decided it was something I wanted to try to do and set a goal for myself. With her help, we started preparing for my first show last year.

Q: That first time, right before going on stage, were you nervous or excited or both?
A: I was both. I was so naive, I was up there like "Oh my gosh, I can't believe I am even on the stage." I went into it not knowing anything about that sport, just went in trying to present the best me and came out in first place in my class.

Q: A lot of people I interview say that after the first show it becomes addicting for them, was that the case with you?
A: Yeah, I think it was the thrill. In the past I was involved in dance, ballet and modern and directed a dance company. I was used to the stage and performing and I think it gave me that adrenaline rush again of being on stage, almost like acting in some ways. It got addictive, I saw the changes and wanted to create more changes. I looked up competitors and started combing the Internet looking at competitions and competitors physiques and wanted to be more like the pros out there.

Q: How much has it helped working with Belinda, a pro who has done this many times and have her guide you through it?
A: It is priceless. She is not only my coach and trainer, she is also a good friend. her expertise, knowledge, experience and even her ups and downs have helped guide me through the whole process. She has been there, she's done it, she knows how I am feeling when I am feeling it. She helps me through the tough times and the good times and directs me where I should be going.

Q: You just took third at the Europa, how happy were you with what you brought to the stage?
A: I was very happy. I was the leanest I have been since competing. I saw so many improvements in myself and was so excited to see those improvements in the pictures. I was really happy with where I was at the Europa, it was my best yet.

Q: You had teammates compete at the Europa to, does it help make it easier to have people go through prep with you and be there with you?
A: Definitely! Last year I did have one friend compete with me at one show. That was fun but having a whole team with the same goal, same prep, same vision and method of getting there and being there supporting each other was a huge difference. I had a blast this show, it was the best one yet in every aspect and made me look forward to when we do this again all together.

Q: With having two kids, how hard is it, especially during prep to balance the training with being a mom?
A: Very hard! You have to as a mom not beat yourself up too much when you slip up. You are preparing their meal cause clearly they can't always eat what you are eating. A competitors diet diet tends to be monotonous, same thing day in and out and of course as clean as possible. As you prep their food you are sitting there being tempted. So if you take a bite or two, you have to be like "o.k., stop, regroup, let's focus" and be aware it is a competition, you are doing this as a hobby and not be too obsessed to where it affects your emotional state towards your family. You tend to be grouchy when you can't have things and wanna sit and have an ice cream with your family or whatever. You have to balance your emotions, still have fun with it and not make it an obsession so you are still a decent mom to your family and kids.

Q: Europa is a pretty big show so you gotta be happy with third, but does part of you walk away wondering what you have to do to get first?
A: Yes! I am an analyzer, you can talk to my coach. I sit there combing through pictures and analyzing "what put me in that placement, what did I do right, what did I do wrong?" I look back at my physique versus the two girls who placed over me and say "o.k., I can kinda see there are areas I need to work on." I am definitely the one to go back and say "these are things I need to work on." As my coach would say "a few more tweaks and fin tuning and we will get those things situated for the next show."

Q: Do you know when you want to compete next?
A: Yes, at the last minute I decided to compete at the Tampa Bay Classic in June so I went right back into prep mode. Originally I planned to not compete until July at the Southern States. So doing the classic and then Southern States.

Q: It's not a lot of time to make major improvements, but is there anywhere you are hoping to be better?
A: I am hoping to tighten my waist. I notice a lot of figure competitors have that smaller waist, more v-taper, so I am trying to improve that. Shoulders are always a must for figure, so always trying to get them fuller. That will help with the illusion of a smaller waist.

Q: Having been a dancer, would you ever consider adding size and trying physique where you can do a routine or are you happy with figure?
A: I am happy with figure. I have never been into gymnastics or tumbling so I don't know that I could offer too much in fitness. I guess I could do physique, I have never watched the routines so I don't know what's involved in that, but I just like the look figure brings to the stage as opposed to physique.

Q: When you are at the gym, do you get the stares and attention from people?
A: I do yeah. It happens. My husband doesn't like it, but it happens. I am a woman and working on my body so it's bound to happen.

Q: If you could spend a day training with someone you have never trained with, who would it be?
A: At this point, I am thinking Candice Keene. She is emerging as the star now so I would pick her brain and train with her for a day.

Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: Definitely Belinda, she is an amazing friend, coach and trainer. I look up to her. My husband, and God for leading me down this path and into this season.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Leslie Jones Interview

Photo Credits:
Photos 1-2: Rico Allende
Photos 3-5: RX Muscle/Dan Ray

After trying out the physique division last year, Leslie Jones realized bodybuilding was where she belonged. Just recently she won the Charlotte Cup to regain her National qualifications for bodybuilding. In fact, she went out and won while doing her routine to a different song than she was supposed to, something that could throw some competitors off. Her goal is a pro card, but she herself states she doesn't know if she can get it. I however will say that her obvious hard work ethic and physique that she definitely has what it takes to walk away with a pro card at some point.

Q: Can you talk about how you got started in the gym?
A: It wasn't till after college. I got my first real job and a girl said "do you wanna go to aerobics?" and I said "o.k., sure!" I got completely addicted. I was your typical 80's aerobic instructor. I became a teacher and taught five, ten twenty classes a week. Then I moved to Germany and continued to do that but met someone who asked me if I wanted to lift weights. I had never done that before but that was the end of my aerobics career. I never left the weight room after that. That was twenty-something years ago.

Q: When you first started with the weights, did you ever imagine adding the muscle you did? Was it a goal?
A: Oh my gosh, no! I just did it because I liked the gym. When she got me started I was hooked. I never had that vision.

Q: What led you to competing?
A: That came much later. I remember I used to watch when they put the fitness stuff on ESPN. I was always fascinated by it. I didn't know how to go about it till a few years ago I found somebody to help em take that first step.

Q: Were you nervous the first time?
A: That is an understatement. I was honestly looking around in my suit thinking "how can I get out of here, where can I go?" I was so nervous.

Q: A lot of people I interview say after the first show it becomes addicting, was that the case with you?
A: Absolutely! To the point of a little too much, but I didn't realize that at the time.

Q: Was there something specific or just the whole experience?
A: Nothing really specific. Even though I was so nervous and generally a modest person -my friends that were there couldn't believe I did it- but the first thing I did on the way home was ask when the next one is.

Q: Last year you tried physique, was there a specific reason?
A: I tried physique but I'm not doing that anymore. The reason was because in the NPC I felt like I would fit better so to speak in physique. But in the end, it's not really what I love.

Q: For physique, compared to bodybuilding, were there any big differences in your training or diet?
A: There weren't. I think the only thing I did differently was maybe that last week, I manipulated nothing, no sodium, water, anything, because I wanted to come in fuller because they don't want that dry, cut, ripped look. Other than that, my training and diet were about the same.

Q: You just took first at the Charlotte Cup and had a fun music experience, how did they lose your music and did it make you more nervous using a song you didn't even know?
A: I will say that this is the second time this has happened to me. The first time I had a Brittany Spears song and they couldn't get it to work or find it or whatever, but they gave me AC/DC, at least I knew AC/DC. I am an aerobics instructor, I am a count girl, so when they played the music and it wasn't mine I turned around and they said "just a minute." They played the girl's before me and it was slow and I looked and said 'I cant do slow." I understand that promoters tell you that if your music doesn't come on you go out and make work what you get. I was very nervous and felt it was a complete disaster but the people in the audience didn't notice. I didn't know the song, my whole set-up and counting went out the window. I just made sure to hit the mandatory poses. I know the night show is for entertainment.

Q: Music aside, how happy were you with what you brought to the stage?
A: I have to be honest here, not really very happy. I needed a few more weeks but I wanted to re-qualify for bodybuilding for the national level. I did physique and the time that has gone by expired. I wasn't a hundred percent happy. I was happy with what I got to but I most definitely could have done better if I had a few more weeks. I didn't wanna wait to our next state show in June.

Q: So will you do a National show this year?
A: I hope to do nationals in November. That is my plan anyway. I'd like to do Masters Nationals but I couldn't turn around and diet another twelve weeks. I am thinking Nationals in November.

Q: If you do Nationals, from this last show, is there anywhere you want to be better?
A: My back has been a work in progress for some time now. I work very hard on that. My back and glutes. Really, you cant make a whole lot of improvements in six months, it takes longer, but I will continue to work on that. My conditioning and amount of leanness I attained was not enough for bodybuilding and most certainly a National stage. I think the older I get, my prep needs to be longer, it takes longer to get where I need to be.

Q: When you are at the gym, do you get the stares and attention from people?
A: No because I go covered head to toe ninety-five percent of the time. Except I do live in North Carolina, so when it gets a hundred and fifteen degrees outside, when I do take my hoodie off because I am hot, yes I do get stares. But I have been there so long that most people know me or make comments like "wow, I didn't know you looked like that under those clothes."

Q: Is the pro card the goal or if it happens it happens?
A: I want it and would love for it to happen. I don't know if I can hold my own on an NPC stage as a female bodybuilder but I am certainly gonna try because I love doing it. It is the ultimate goal.

Q: If you could spend a day training with someone you have never trained with, who would it be?
A: Dana Linn Bailey. There are many physique I admire, but I have watched her videos and tried her workouts. The intensity she has is something I love. She doesn't just go and do four sets of ten, she really pushes and I admire that about her.

Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: I need to thank J.J. Henry from J's Fit Factory, we are a team. I have had a lot of help from Ruben at Fit To Be In Your Kitchen, he is wonderful. My son because he is the only person who lives with me and deals with everything that goes on. He is eleven, but he is a great and a great reminder, I love him to death. My sponsors, Bill Porter at Max Muscle, Fayetville, Vermont Peanut Butter and Cape Fear Aesthetics.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

IFPA Pro Candice Scott Interview

Photo Credits:
Photo 1: Hammer Bells
Photo 2: Tre' Lynn
Photos 3-5: RX Muscle/Dave McIntosh

I became aware of Candice Scott upon seeing her photos after she won the overall at the Max Muscle contest. That was her warm-up show for the show she just did, her IFPA pro debut, in which she took second place. Very impressive for a pro debut. Rarely have a seen someone seem to be having so much fun on stage, as she brings a great stage presence to go along with an incredible physique.

Q: Can you talk about how you got started in the gym?
A: I have always been an athlete. I ran track in high school and in college I didn't really do much. After college I was like "I like working out, I like looking good", so I started lifting. Not seriously, but just to look good. I played football, full contact, semi-pro football, and that required me to be in the gym as well. One day I decided that I wanted to compete because people always said "you have the physique for it, why don't you do it?" One day I decided to take that off my bucket list and took everything in the gym seriously, including my diet. Before that I would workout and eat whatever I want and look like I competed. I have pretty good genetics. Working out for me is a lifestyle, I don't feel like not going to the gym.

Q: Where you nervous the first time?
A: I was completely nervous. It is putting yourself out there to be judged by people who don't necessarily know you.

Q: A lot of people I interview say that after the first show it becomes addicting,w as that the case with you?
A: Yes, it is. I originally said I wasn't gonna do another show, was gonna do that one show and get it off my bucket list. My first show was October of 2010 and my second was February of 2011.

Q: You started in figure, why did you switch to bodybuilding?
A: I actually never wanted to do figure. I only did figure because my first trainer told me I couldn't do bodybuilding. He said my legs would never get to where I needed to be to do bodybuilding.

Q: When you made the switch did you change anything about your training?
A: I kept doing what I was doing, just heavier.

Q: When I first saw you was when you won your class and overall at the max Muscle. There were so few girls, as a bodybuilder, does it upset you to see so few do bodybuilding?
A: Yes! I'm not discouraging figure, because I think figure is hard. I think there are two trains of thought. I think some women think female bodybuilders are gonna look like men and I think the other route is people want to workout but don't want to workout as hard as a bodybuilder.

Q: You just did your first pro show yesterday and took second place, how happy were you?
A: I'm very happy because I heard the placement between first and second was very hard. It wasn't a blow-away.

Q: How happy were you with what you brought to the stage?
A: I was very happy.

Q: One thing I noticed is when you are on stage, I rarely see people look as happy as you, is that you being you or just trying to portray?
A: That would be me. For me, I feel like all the hard work that I put in the few months prior to being on stage that I should be happy and enjoy the time on stage because there is so little of it, a small time frame.

Q: Judges really notice that, for people who may not follow as closely, can you explain how important stuff like that is?
A: I think it is very important. I think judges generally do look at that and take that into consideration. All in all, it is a business and they want to be entertained. When you put a little personality in it, it makes you stand apart from everyone else.

Q: How many shows did it take for you to be able to present that or was it natural?
A: I would say it took about three shows.

Q: Do you know when you will compete next?
A: At Nationals in October.

Q: For nationals, is there somewhere specific you need to be better?
A: My legs. My legs are my weak area for sure. They have improved tenfold but they can always get better and that is my goal.

Q: Nationals being such a big show, do you expect to maybe be more nervous?
A: Yes, I do expect to be nervous. I was completely nervous yesterday. The thing is, I have won these other shows overall, I won three shows overall, so I am used to winning. That is why I don't post photos on Facebook, I don't want the pressure of people knowing and asking questions.

Q: When you are in the gym, do you get the stares or attention from people?
A: Yes! I tend to cover up in the winter time and in the summer it gets really aggravating because I get stupid questions from people and then I come off sounding bad. People ask "do you workout?" Obviously I workout because who walks around like this?

Q: Is it hard to not go off on someone sometimes?
A: I tend to ignore people and it makes me look like I'm not a nice person.

Q: When you go out in public are you more cover up and avoid attention or show it off sometimes?
A: I tend to cover up until summer. In the summer I cant cover up.

Q: Long term, you have the IFPA pro card and are doing Nationals, is an IFBB pro card a goal?
A: My goal was never to be an IFBB pro because I feel with IFBB I would have to take some type of illegal substance to get the size to be an IFBB pro in bodybuilding. I don't think that is the case in figure or bikini. My goal is not necessarily to be an IFBB pro, it is more the IFPA. I did Max Muscle as practice for the show yesterday. I had no goal in that show to win or even place.

Q: If you could spend a day training with anyone, who would it be?
A: I have actually had the opportunity to train with Kai Greene before and I would have to say I would train with him again.

Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: I would like to thank my best friend Kathleen. She has supported me from day one and has tried to make it to every show, wherever it is. Bodybuilding is such a weird sport, not many people understand it and why you do it so for someone to support you and not totally understand everything you are doing is awesome.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Meghan Schwartz Interview

Photo Credits:
Photos 1-5: RX Muscle/Jeff Binns

Growing up in a bodybuilding family, Meghan Schwartz initially was negative on the idea of competing herself. Luckily for us, she eventually embraced the idea. Recently at the Europa she brought a very impressive package to the stage, a physique that immediately reminded me of Nathalia Melo. So much so that I even texted her coach, Belinda Hope, and said "you have your next pro on your hands." Meghan truly does have that potential and is someone to keep your eyes on.

Q: Can you talk about how you got started in the gym?
A: It came from my parents. Both of my parents were competitive bodybuilders in the late 80's and early 90's. I would go to the gym with my mom when I was a teenager and she showed me how to properly lift weights and train. Ever since then I have been in the gym.

Q: Did you know right away you wanted to compete?
A: I was actually completely anti competitive everything. For awhile there I didn't want to be like my parents, when you go through that teenage stage where you are anti parents, you don't wanna do anything like them. I was very against competing. It took me a long time to process that this is something I could actually be successful at.

Q: With them both being bodybuilders, did you ever consider that route as opposed to bikini?
A: My mom kinda keeps pushing me into doing figure, but I like bikini. I don't think I would ever want to get into physique or bodybuilding.

Q: The first time competing, before you went on stage were you nervous?
A: It's a combination of nervousness, adrenaline and excitement. Nervousness because you always wanna do your best and don't wanna forget your posing and where you should hit and who you shoulder look at and what kind of facial expressions to make. Once I hit the stage, the excitement and adrenaline take over and the nervousness leaves.

Q: A lot of people I interview say that after they do the first show, it becomes addicting, was that the case with you?
A: Absolutely! As soon as I got on stage I was like "why was I fighting this for so long, this is what I am meant to be doing." Not only is it such an adrenaline rush, such a high, it makes me happy and I love every aspect of it. Even though it gets extremely difficult with the dieting, but I love exercising so much and challenging my body in different ways. Being able to transform yourself just by your own willpower and strength is so addicting. I definitely got hooked after the first show.

Q: Was that first prep easier coming from a family that went through it before and knew what you were going through?
A: Absolutely! I could call my mom at any time and ask if I should buy this or eat this or do this. She would give me specific answers. I will so blessed to have the parents that I do to help me move through this process. The nutrition and mental and emotional support.

Q: You just took eight at the Europa, how happy were you with what you brought to the stage?
A: I was thrilled. I could not have been happier with the way my body looked. I added some stuff to my suit that I didn't have for the first show, my posing we worked hard on, I was thrilled to be on stage and extremely happy with my presentation.

Q: Speaking of posing, you have a great stage presence, is that something that comes natural to you or something you put a lot of work into?
A: It really comes naturally for me. I feel extremely blessed with having that. I was classically trained in ballet for sixteen years. I did tap and jazz and all the other styles so for almost twenty years I have been performing on stage, whether it is recitals or little shows here and there. Having that natural stage presence gives me the extra benefit on stage. I am lucky to have that natural ability on stage.

Q: The Europa is a big show, many pros there, is it hard to not get star struck?
A: I keep my head down most of the time. I follow a lot of people but when I am at the show, my coach's great advice was "keep your head down, stay focused, stay in your game. It is when you start looking around at other competitors or famous people, that is when you start to doubt yourself." So I tend to keep my head down, stay focused, stay with my team and try not to look around.

Q: Do you know when you will compete next?
A: Southern States on July 12th.

Q: From the Europa is there somewhere you want to be better?
A: I am gonna try and squat my buns off, bikini is all about the butt, you gotta have it. I am really gonna work on my waist, make it a little tighter and smaller. Keep working on posing to try and appeal to the judges.

Q: Is the pro card the goal or more if it happens it happens?
A: The pro card is the goal.

Q: When you are at a show like that, you do the keep your head down, but do you look at pros and try and study what they are doing?
A: Absolutely! If they are the pros then they know what they are doing. They work their butts off to get there. I think it is a little foolish not to study the pros because obviously they are doing something right. It is smart to study them. I look at pictures after the show and study the pictures, the posing, critique their musculature and learn from it.

Q: Do you feel bikini competitors are getting more respect and not viewed as just T&A?
A: Absolutely! I think it will continue to grow in that way. I had a lot of friends who when I told them I was gonna start doing bikini competitions, they would be like "where you going? Down to Clearwater Beach?" I would say "no, it is a professional sport within bodybuilding and is taken seriously." Once they see my pictures and results, they realize that is is an actually sport and how much you have to work with exercise and nutrition to create that perfect package. It is educating the masses that it is more than T&A and how hard we work. We are not just born this way, we get in the gym and work out and focus on our diet. It will get there as long as we keep putting forth the positivity.

Q: When you are in the gym, do you get the stares and attention from people?
A: Absolutely! I ignore it honestly. Most of the time my boyfriend is there to and it makes me feel comfortable. If I feel too many stares or feel someone is looking too much I will just walk over to my boyfriend or ask him for a spot. Usually that causes heads to turn away. Or I go into the group fitness room and set up a little circuit and nobody bothers me in there.

Q: If you could spend a day training with someone you have never trained with before, who would it be?
A: Nathalia Melo. Now just because she has her pro card, but I feel like we have kind of a similar body type. She is a little more muscular than some of the other girls and I can relate to her more with our body styles.

Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: Definitely Belinda Hope, my coach and the rest of Team Hope, my parents and my amazing boyfriend Tony.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

IFBB Pro Jennifer Dawn Interview

Photo Credits:
Photos 1-3: LHGFX
Photos 4-5: Muscular Development/Dan Ray

Jennifer Dawn's resume speaks for itself. She began competing in 2010 and immediately was a success doing well at shows on a consistent basis before winning her pro card at Nationals in 2011. She continued doing well on the pro stage leading to competing at the Olympia in 2010, putting her in the elite Best of the Best class. Most recently she brought possibly her best package to date to the Europa and will next step on stage at the Toronto pro. With Jennifer's penchant for constant improvement, you can very well expect that after Toronto we can again say she brought her best package to date to the stage.

Q: Can you talk about how you got started with training and competing?
A: I got started in the NPC in 2010. In 2009 somebody asked if I competed and I didn't even understand what that meant. I started researching and found that had amateur shows. I figured there was no way I could be an IFBB pro but I felt with the amateur side I could challenge myself. For my news years resolution I decided I was gonna compete.

Q: Was there something specific about it that appealed to you when you researched it?
A: I was an athlete in college and for me it was another way to have a goal, an event to go to. I felt like the training before the competition was my training for the next event and a way to display all my hard work.

Q: A lot of people I interview say they do the first show and it becomes addicting, was that the case with you?
A: You know, my first show was so small. I got fifth out of seven girls and thought that was amazing, I walked away with a trophy. They gave me really great feedback, tighten my legs and things here and there. I felt I was ready for the next big show. The next one was way bigger, there were twenty girls in the class and six classes. It was amazing to do a small show and then go to a big show and feel more comfortable. It became addicting because I enjoyed it, not because I felt I needed to win or wanted to do better. I just enjoyed everyones company and training to get to that point.

Q: At Nationals in 2011 you won your pro card, when you realized you were a pro, do you remember what went through your head?
A: That show was so awkward to me because when they called my name for top five I went to the center of the stage where I was not supposed to go. I was supposed to go up the steps to the platform and get there with the girls. I walked to the center and was by myself and was like "oh man I messed up." I walked where I was supposed to and they moved me to the outside. In the middle you assume first place so I knew I had messed up. Then at finals they were calling numbers and didn't call mine and I was like "man, I must have got sixth", then I was there by myself and I was called for my pro card. It was so exciting and unexpected. It was just a really good feeling.

Q: Obviously the next show is a pro show, where you any more nervous for a pro stage?
A: Well the good thing was that it was the same stage where I won my pro card. I felt comfortable on that stage and it must have shown through because there were high quality girls at that show and I took fourth. Usually only top three get money and I got some award money. I couldn't believe it, I was really comfortable on that stage. I had no expectations, that is when I do my best. When I challenge myself working out and then just have fun at the show.

Q: Last year you got to compete at the Olympia, would you have ever thought you would be on stage with the best in the world?
A: Never! I started doing shows early in 2012 and it was shows that were out of my comfort zone, Arizona, St. Louis, I was by myself. It was strange to do a show and place top five and with the point system, there was a chance to go to the Olympia. So I did the next show and the next show, and I kept doing well. It was such an honor and I wanted to keep my numbers high to get there.

Q: When you are on that stage is it hard to not be in awe and focus on what you are doing?
A: Yeah, you really have to have tunnel vision, focus on judges or someone in the crowd and enjoy being up there. If you have personal issues going on, leave it behind and showcase what you worked so hard for and not worry about anybodies opinion at that time. At that moment you are up there to do your pose, stand there and look beautiful and feel confident. It is your moment to shine.

Q: One person I interviewed said during her Olympia prep, it didn't sink in right away what she was prepping for and she had a moment where it hit her, did you have that moment?
A: Not at first. At first it was "whats the next show" and I had all my shows lined up. For me, I was training for the Olympia, I wasn't training for the show I was gonna be in. It was "Olympia is my goal, it is within reach and I want it." You go to a show and everyone competes and wants a heavy cheat meal, I ate marinated steak and mashed potatoes and the next day was back on it. I felt I was given an opportunity and couldn't waste it.

Q: Just recently you did the Europa, how happy were you with what you brought to the stage?
A: I was very happy with my physique. I felt I had a good balance between my upper and lower body. I felt I brought my waist in more so than any other show except maybe the Olympia, but the Olympia I was a little too over-trained because I had done so many shows. I felt I brought a nice, solid package, hair and makeup, suit looked good, tan was spot on. I felt comfortable and my presentation was relaxed and showcased what I worked hard for. There is a lot of good competitors in the industry, everyone was on point, you have to do something different or stand out from the crowd.

Q: When are you competing next?
A: I am doing the Toronto Pro. Last year I took second at that show and it was a huge show. I am hoping I can bring a well-balanced athletic physique and have fun.

Q: For that show, is there anywhere specific you want to be better?
A: I will continue to work on tightening my waist up and maybe a little more in the glutes, with bikini it is never enough.

Q: Do you feel bikini competitors are getting more respect and not viewed as just T&A?
A: I think so as long as the competitors keep it classy on stage and stay positive with social media and have a good work ethic. A lot of bikini girls have professional jobs. It is a matter of balance between the two. Showcase the hard work they put in. We do train even though some don't lift as heavy as figure or physique girls, you have to have a different kind of balance for bikini. A lot of girls that do bikini could do figure or physique if they wanted. To do bikini you have to have less muscle and more athletic looking instead of the separation or striations.

Q: When you are in the gym do you get the stares or attention?
A: For me, going to the gym, I don't pay attention. I have my hair up, the shorter the shorts, the harder I work sometimes. The gym I work out at, there are other competitors there and they understand the process. When you get guys there to just get fit and healthy, they are the guys who are there and ask questions. Everyone has opinions, some think I don't have enough muscle, some think I have too much muscle, I don't even pay attention, I am just there to workout.

Q: If you could spend a day training with someone you have never trained with before, who would it be?
A: I would probably train with Nathalia Melo. She has a great physique. She has always been my goal girl. I did an interview in 2010 and mentioned her, I love the way she looks.

Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: I am so thankful for my team, Team Bombshell with Shannon Dey and Rob. They have been there to push me through and always check up on me. My family that supports me one hundred percent. My sponsors, Dymatize and Pro Tan and I work with Muscular Development. Competitors who have pushed me and made me work harder.