I suppose all things start as intangible ideas floating in space. Sometimes we have the luxury of catching these fireflies of inspiration as they pass or run into them face first through life experiences. I can tell you that I had the gift of feeling both of these as the “idea” for Miami’s Baddest came to me in the physical form of competition and also in the savannas of distant dreams.
The Physical Decision:
After years of competing in shows and always having something to say, wanting to change or desiring to experience, I decided it was time to take things into my own hands. I did not have a clear understanding of how things worked, no idea of logistics or costs, or the basic knowledge of scores and that was a major reason why I needed to take this venture on. You see, sitting there and talking shit, getting angry and going around slamming a show is merely the gift of the American freedom to do what you want but certainly not the path to growth nor legacy. After seeing so many different competition set ups, I wanted to start creating my own ideas.
I understood that sitting around and talking in the circle of Strongman of how things should be was not going to work, I took it upon myself to reach out to my friend Alan and volunteer to make a second show in Florida. At the time the Strongman Corp shows in Florida had dwindled to just our state championship and the chances to qualify or grow the sport had begun to whittle down. It was the perfect chance to not only make a stake in the game but also allow more lifters to have a chance to compete but with this perfect opportunity came an unforeseen challenge. You see, at the time the popularity of Strongman was starting to hit a hard spot. As powerlifting began to explode and the ida of air conditioned meets with screens, walk out music, prize money and matching singlets began to summit, the idea of competing in the sun, in a forgotten parking lot, with shitty warm up times, burning implements, and zero social media traction began to really take its toll on Strongman.
State championships suffered, the sport had just begun to really grow in the female population but just barely, no one wanted to lift heavy objects and more importantly, people wanted to ride the back of the bus with the current strength wave. I loved that powerlifting was growing because as a coach I saw it as a great opportunity to continue to help my lifters emerge in this world but as a Strongman, my heart was breaking. Middle weight and heavy weight classes went from 15-18 a show to barely getting 4-5 to sign up to give us a shot at nationals. Stone lifts, log PR’s and car deadlifts began to sink back into the depths of social media as platform deadlifts and the Crossfit games began to sky rocket. There was no “what did Brian Shaw eat”, JuJu wasn’t doing flips and stone lifts, the Arnolds YouTube stream sucked and we were still being recognized as a really cool circus act behind the Quaker Steak and Lube joint.
Jumping into making a competition at this point was hard, real fucking hard. Alan and Scott Lamb (Vanilla Gorilla gym) would be two experienced Strongmen that would lend me ideas, help me score and judge but more importantly not give up on the sport. You see, the sport was dying in Florida. With such an amazing cast of Strongman athletes it began to become regular faces at shows where 4-5 of us would sit at the bar after a show and talk about how things used to be, should be, or even some stories well beyond my time. I sensed it, we all did… the sport was sinking in the state as most people people would compete once (even qualify) and take it as some shitty badge of honor to say they did it and then disappear. That isn’t how you grow the sport, that is just how you grow your ego, which is fine, but that isn’t me or those around me.
Dreams are a beautiful thing and I said before this intangible cluster of fireflies… but it can be just that, can’t it? If one is to simply dream and dream and dream when will these aspects become a reality? When will the be a real force, a stepping stone to legacy, when will these little clusters of voracious lights actually burn bright for the world to see? When do the bullshit memes, the “back in my days”, and drunken talks about what should be done stop? I’ll tell you when: when you put some real skin in the game. My cousin told me saying once that made me grin deeply, “everyone wants to be a boss ’til its time to cut the check” and that applies perfectly here. When I started to look at what I needed, where, who and when I got that sinking feeling that I had no idea what I was doing. I knew I could create some fun events and would keep it simple to not push my boundaries but that was the easy part. I wanted to create a show that had a warm up area, I wanted sponsors, I wanted people to win money, I wanted a great emcee with good music. I was biting off more than I could chew when it came to image of the show and I was ok with that. I have always had an appetite to excel, despite it getting me more into trouble than anything, I was happy to apply it here.
So I picked up the phone, opened up emails and began to visit. I went everywhere. Warehouses, other gyms, business, shopping malls… everywhere. I began to DM, text, call and email everyone I knew that could maybe, kinda sorta, possible, in a way want to help. I showed up with my tail tucked between my legs, eyes on the floor and pleading to have people not only have a presence but to simply compete. I remember coming home at night beyond stressed, nervous and defeated. You see, this was more than just a competition to me. Not only was this a chance to grow and save the sport but it was THE BATTLE AXE GYM. I was four years into my career as a gym owner and I was SCARED shitless I would bomb this. That I would fail and let down everyone who wore my colors proudly and that this show would simply be another reason why Strongman would never work here, why I should of never opened a gym and stayed in my cubicle. Why giving up the slacks and tie for tattoos was a bad idea and how I would make everyone who doubted me right. These thoughts would skew into my soul every night, allowing fear to be an enemy and not a tool or an old friend.
The result was an overwhelming feeling. As many people as I had looking at me like I was crazy I had an equal amount of friends and family show up to support. We raised close to $800 to give away and to donate to our charity. Logos began to get sent to my email as we would fill up our first shirt with several different brands of local businesses chiming in for support. A small buzz began to grow and despite us being a very small blimp on the radar, it was actually happening. The momentum was building and despite the endless nerves there was a light at the end of the tunnel but there was a lot of work left to be done. I had few capable strongman that could help me load implements, I needed spotter and loaders, hands to get lanes ready, we needed a DJ, and someone to keep score. More importantly what did I want to achieve ? What was the point of all this? When money is not the end game... what were my dreams... what were OUR dreams?