1. You're a professional arm wrestler and an outspoken vegan. How did these paths cross? Which one came first and what initially inspired you to begin this journey?
I've been arm wrestling professionally since I was 18 years old and vegetarian since I was 24. I converted to vegan a few years later. Ironically, I was initially inspired at an arm wrestling tournament at the Pennsylvania State Fair. I caught a group of piglets wrestling around and fighting for milk from their mom. They were absolutely adorable and innocent and reminded me of puppies. This was the very first time I ever connected innocent beings with food. Like most people I have been completely desensitized to the process. When you see perfectly packaged hot dogs and hamburgers with clever advertisement, its quite easy to forget that those were inhumanely butchered animals that never had a chance.
Photo by Candy Bigwood
2. How does one become a "professional" arm wrestler? Are there amateur competitions, or does one join or club or a team as in many other sports that lead to professional status once you reach a certain level?
Generally winning 3 novice tournaments qualifies you as a professional. Most tournaments host amateur divisions and even they can jump into the professional classes. The World Armwrestling League (http://www.walunderground.com/) is hosting a huge tournament in Las Vegas, June 7th. Most of the guys from Game of Arms will be there competing!
3. How do opponents and fans react when they learn that you are vegan?
Doesn't bother or even phase any of my opponents. All of the negative comments I get are from ignorant fans of the show.
Photo by Candy Bigwood
4. Do you have a day job in addition to arm wrestling, or is it a full-time career?
Yep. I'm an Interactive Art Directer, meaning I design for mobile apps and websites. My latest project was the Comedy Central App (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/comedy-central/id799551807?mt=8) and it's pretty bad ass!
5. How popular is arm wrestling in America in comparison to the popularity it has in other nations?Arm wrestling is an underground sport here in the United States but It's extremely popular in some of the European countries. Game of Arms is changing everything though, we are already seeing a lot of new faces coming out to test themselves.
Photo by David Moir
6. Do you have any sponsors or brands you represent?
I wore a PETA shirt to an arm wrestling competition before but nothing officially.
7. You're on a current TV show on AMC called Game of Arms. Tell us about it. How did you get involved in it?I was initially really hesitant. I thought a reality show about professional arm wrestling would be stupid. A producer from Undertow Films asked to come to my apartment and tape my wife and I cooking a vegan dinner. I spilled an entire thing of pepper all over the counter and the rest is history. The only reason I decided to do the show was to prove that vegans can be strong.
8. What is the typical daily or weekly training routine like for a professional arm wrestler? How much of your success relies on your strength vs. other aspects such as leverage, reaction time, mental focus, nutrition, and so on?
I work out almost everyday unless I'm injured. The very best thing for arm wrestling is to actually arm wrestle with a group of guys. Technique and speed are both extremely important but when two pullers are equal strength plays a huge part.
Photo by Marc Janks
9. What is your most memorable experience in your arm wrestling career?
Being part of New York City Arms Control (https://www.facebook.com/NYCArmsControl) and Game of Arms (http://gameofarms.com/). This show has been mentally and physically extremely exhausting but worth every second and effort. I wouldn't change a thing.
10. Outside of arm wrestling and veganism, what are some of your other interests?
I originally went to The University of The Arts thinking I'd major in illustration. I love metal detecting, bet you didn't see that one coming!? I also love visiting old graveyards and the paranormal fascinates me.
11. Who were some of your role models growing up? Who are some of your role models today?Nobody in particular. I have a hard time trusting many people and never put anyone on a pedestal.
Photo by Wendy George
12. What is something totally unique about you that not many people know?
I played poker for a year in Atlantic City, New Jersey with out working. Poker was my only income.
13. How can readers learn more about Rob Bigwood? How can we support your role in Game of Arms?