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An Interview With The Colorado Pro Classic Promotor, Shawn Ray.

Shawn Ray, is now promoting his first IFBB pro show, called the Shawn Ray Colorado Pro Classic featuring pro bodybuilding, pro figure, and an NPC national qualifier. With the show coming May 12-13, Shawn isn't the least bit nervous.

By: Ron Avidan

Shawn Ray, one of the top IFBB pro bodybuilders, is not promoting his first IFBB pro show, called the 'Shawn Ray Colorado Pro Classic' featuring pro bodybuilding, pro figure, and an NPC national qualifier. Here are some questions that we asked Shawn regarding the Colorado Pro show, and some other topics of the week.


[ DR ] So Shawn, how many weeks before the Colorado Pro show?

    I believe we are right upon the 4 week mark right now, closing in on the home stretch.


[ DR ] So are you worried about the show? Do you have any anxiety as this is your first big promoted show?

    No, I was talking to Jim Manion the other day for about an hour on the phone, and he concluded, like I did a long time ago, that maybe I found my calling. He senses that I have the same kind of passion as I did as when I was a bodybuilder, being transferred over to the promotion of the sport of bodybuilding.

    I have been looking forward to this for a long time. I think I mentioned several different times what was wrong with the sport of bodybuilding. I have voiced my opinion over my 20 year career what I thought should be improved upon, and certain areas that I was disgruntled in. I thought, you know what, I have been out long enough, I have watched long enough, I have participated long enough as an athlete.

    Let me see what I can do on my end in the way of doing a show 'Shawn Ray' style. I have always tried to learn from other people's mistakes, and take in the things that are actually beneficial to a promoter as well as to an athlete.

    Through a combination of just sitting on the sidelines, I jumped in with both feet, I partnered up with the best teammates that I could have, by hiring the right people and putting them in the right places, I am fully confident that what we are trying to do here in Colorado, that is not only will have legs, but I plan on being it around for a while.

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[ DR ] Why Denver? You have a partner that helps you?

    The first step was I got was with Jeff Taylor, the NPC Colorado district chairman. I knew for a successful show, I would have to have a strong wingman, and I wanted to make sure that we had a very good amateur division. Hopefully, the amateur side would bring in the locals, and since we do not want to alienate the locals, we made the NPC show a National Qualifier, and we will fly the winners of the amateur NPC portion of the show to the Junior Nationals which will be held in Chicago.

    It gives them an incentive to get ready, and it is way to give back to the winners and rewarding them. So, by getting with Jeff Taylor, with almost 20 years of experience of promotion on the amateur side, I felt like this was a nice start. I chose Denver, Colorado, because it was voted two of the top five fittest cities in America.

    shawn ray
    Click Image To Enlarge.
    I Have Found My Calling.

    Colorado Springs is another one, which is less than an hour away from Denver. Denver has a professional football team, professional basketball team, professional hockey team, arena football, all kinds of outdoor and mountain events. It is a very fit site. I thought that the only thing missing is professional bodybuilding, which they haven't had for a while here.


[ DR ] The lineup of the professional competitor list on the boards and internet? How come it keeps changing?

    Like many contests, this is not an invitational. We are going to have last minute additions and subtractions. As circumstances come up, in preparing for a contest, you have some very good guys drop out and some very good ones added. We out the prize money out there, we build it, and hopefully they will come.

    We had a lot of guys back out in October 2005 make verbal commitments, but of course, after the turn of the new year, and some other competitive plans, like the Ironman, Arnold, San Francisco, Australian show - those shows come up quite a distance away from the May shows.

    If you do well in those early Spring shows, then you get your Olympia qualification, and start getting popular, and guest posing and more business opportunity came up, these guys don't see the need to peak again in May, because they are now qualified.

    I know that Branch Warren and Richard Jones expresses interest as far back as the Olympia along with Jonnie Jackson. Well, you saw what Branch Warren has done at the Arnold - he is pretty much the rookie of the year. As for Vince Taylor, he called me in January coming out of retirement, wanting to compete in my show, decided after the Arnold Classic he needed more time to compare, and wanted to go to Australia to compete against less competitive bodybuilders.

    At the Australia Pro, he qualified in the top three, which wasn't his intention, but after getting back on stage, he realized that the depth of competition in my show was a little bit too much for him after a long layoff. S0 I let some of these guys off the hook. No reason to hold a gun to their heads - bodybuilders compete if they want to.


[ DR ] Do you have them sign contracts?

    No, I didn't have them sign a binding contract. I have written and verbal agreements, but again, this is a situation that I take a bodybuilder at his word. If they want to compete, they compete - if they don't, someone else is going to take their place. I think, on a first time intermin basis - that leniency is in place, because I want the contest to be open to whoever wants to jump on it at the last minute, or whoever wants to jump out at the last minute - that is not for me to decide.

    This is not the Olympia or the Arnold, but hopefully, one day it will be, and I can move into the direction that I can make it an invitational so that I can guarantee first class treatment for all of the athletes instead of winding up with 30 and only having the top 15 perform.


[ DR ] How is it different being a promoter versus a pro bodybuilder?

    A bodybuilder competing - you do it for yourself. As a promoter - you are doing it for other people. I liked the idea and the individuality - it really gives you the control over in the way of getting ready for a contest, and letting the chips fall where they may.

    After the show, I was able to make of it what I could as an individual. There wasn't a team effort on that. Shawn Ray was the product, and Shawn Ray had to market it as a result of what happened on stage. As far as a promoter, I am effecting a lot more people - from sponsors, athletes, and fans.

    shawn ray
    Click Image To Enlarge.
    Shawn Ray.

    I am responsible for a lot more - in the way of courtesy, my social skills, my level of respect and also my integrity for some of these people. It is a lot more responsibility as a promoter - financial responsibility to availability.

    I think at the end of the day when it is all said and done - more people will be affected positively by what I did as a promoter than by what I did as an individual competing on stage.


[ DR ] Does it make you understand what the promoters go through compared to when you were a pro bodybuilders?

    Absolutely not. I mean, I was a promoter from day one. I was putting on seminars around the world, I was guest posing around the world, I had little events and little promotions throughout my career. I wasn't just a bodybuilder, I never categorized myself as simply a bodybuilder.

    I was always a marketing commodity. I was representing several companies at one time, from gym equipment to clothing lines to nutrition companies. At the same time, I was representing Shawn Ray, so I wore many hats. This is just an extension of my time.

    I no longer spend my time buried at the gym, building my body. Now I am out there in the field, rubbing elbows with the athletes, hearing what they need, hearing what they desire, trying to fill a void that in some areas that old school promoters haven't filled.

    A lot of promoters go way back, they have decades of experience in promoting, and some of these guys become distant from the athletes. I remember at one time, Joe Weider went to all of the photo shoots, directing the photographers, checking out the lighting.

    After a while, Joe didn't come to them, and there was a hired gun, and you lost that personal touch. I will be there personally for the athletes. I will answer the phones. I will answer the e-mails.


[ DR ] You, in a Mr. Olympia press conference from the past , talked about three issues that you wanted to change. Are these issues going to be done for your contest? I seem to remember that judges being rotated is one issue?

    As an individual and as a promoter, I have no control of what the IFBB does. It is kind of like a franchise fee. You pay the IFBB a sanction fee, they allow you to put on a show, and they come in and in turn, they run in the way the IFBB runs the federation.

    It still is a concern of mine. As a former competitive, and talking and working with Bob Cicherillo, we continue to try and get motions passed in the IFBB, that you have the situation that you have different opinions, and different judges on a regular basis, not just at individual shows. But as a promoter, I don't even control who the judges are, that is up to the IFBB. I understood that as a competitor.


[ DR ] What about the issue of individual scores from the judges?

    I am the one that brought up the issue of individual scores? But in doing that, Bob Cicherillo is our athletes rep on behalf of the athletes, and he only tries to fulfill what the athletes are concerned about. I am no longer an athlete - I am now a promoter, so my concerns are a little bit different.

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    I am concerned as a promoter that everybody is happy. If athletes come to me after my show, and want to see instant individual judges scoring, they need to see instantaneous scores - I will lobby on their behalf, but you have to remember, now that I have moved off the stage and now being I promoter, I have other things to concern myself with. I still sympathize with the athletes, and stand up for them, but they have to fight their battles.

    They need to pick and choose what it is they need for their own satisfaction and piece of mind. For me now as a promoter, I find ways to make sure my athletes are happy and taken care of. Even leading into the show, I need to be concerned about expenses, hotel rooms, cooking availabilities, mirrors backstage, towels and water and oxygen backstage, medical care - things that a pro bodybuilder doesn't have to take into consideration with regards to all of that.


[ DR ] As a promoter, are you amazed at how many different expenses there are that you could fathom as just an athlete competing?

    Well, I was always a student of the game. I grew up watching John Bailik do the Pro Ironman, talking with Jim Lorimer as he did his Arnold Classic. I knew exactly what went on behind the scenes. Kind of Lee Labrada dealing with supplements. First we worked with Weider all of those years, then going over to Met-Rx, then starting his own.

    This wasn't something I fell into, this is something I have been preparing for, and finally I am getting my day in the sun. I know and have witnessed and watched promoters from scratch build a contest, and participated, either as a guest poser, or giving seminars, or special guests.

    I know the infrastructure in putting on a show which is why I took on this monumental task. I chose a convention center over a high school auditorium, or a performance arts theater.

    I wanted to come on big and strong and make my presence known, and I called upon all my resources. All the people I have worked through all of the years, built relationships with, and formed friendships with. They stepped up to the plate which is the reason I have able to come up with a convention center, and come up with $70,000 in prize money our first time out of the box.

    It didn't happen by chance, which is what comes back to teamwork. Putting Jeff Taylor in charge of the NPC portion of the show and his group of sponsors. Bringing out Steve McAdams who produces his own show out in Maryland.

    Bringing out Pam Betz, who puts on the Junior Nationals every year, with 200 competitors. Dealing with Isaac Hinds on our graphics and posters - these guys are top notch. Bringing on Vyo-Tech as the title sponsor - is a very huge financial responsibility, and everyone else that sponsored the show.

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[ DR ] What other expenses have you realized that most people might now know about?

    The behind the scenes stuff. We are providing transportation to and from the show. Minivans, for example, for the judges and the pro bodybuilders. Some shows that you wind up to, you need to find your own way to the shows. There is the cost of the trophies. The awards alone are over $1,000.

    It may not seem a lot, but I went and got some nice trophies. I wanted some of the pro bodybuilders to have something to commemorate what you accomplished when you get older instead of just a check that you spend it is gone. Also got some great T-Shirts to give away to a lot of the fans.

    I got some special jerseys made for the bodybuilders. And when you hire people to do a job for you, you also realize you have to fly them in, put them up in hotels, and so on. These things you don't normally consider prior to the contest.


[ DR ] Hummer. What made you decide to give a Hummer to a fan?

    Well, that has never been done before, and I wanted my show to be remembered as the first one to do it. But the bodybuilders still had to come first. I could of easily came in as a promoter on my first time out, and had a $20,000 IFBB Pro show.

    $10,000 for first, $4,000 for second, and so on. But I chose to reward the bodybuilders. I did ask the bodybuilders what did they want. And all across the board, the first thing they said is more prize money. So I couldn't rival the Olympia and the Arnold my first year out of the block, so I decided to make it the third largest prize money.

    If I made it the third largest prize purse, I thought that I may not get the very best out there because of the time of the year of the show, but I will get the best of what's left. The guys that are competing in May will have a nice run up with the New York show and Toronto show after mine, so the winner of all three of these shows stands to win $55,000 in prize money.

    $10,000 more if he wins the best poser award at the Colorado show. So I just felt my show gives a bodybuilder out there a chance to walk away with pretty good decent money.

    Why the H3? I like the Hummer H3. It's an economic car. Could be a guys or a girl car. Chance are a local person in Colorado will win this vehicle. The weather changes here, there is snow, rough terrain, it's an SUV. I felt that our fans will be so dedicated that they will fly out from other states, that they will come out in the cold or in the rain, just to get a glimpse to see guys with awesome physiques.

    Shawn Ray Pro Classic
    Click Image To Enlarge.
    Win This H3!

    At some point, it would be nice for a fan to get something nice. I am giving away from than a Hummer H3. I am also giving away a flat screen tv, IPODs, portable DVD players, cell phones, ski lift tickets, gift certificates to Morton's Steakhouse - and this is on the weekend on Saturday at the Expo.

    We are going to be calling out raffle numbers all day. Other gift certificates include ones to Home Depot, Cheesecake Factory, and also lots of sponsors gift bags. These fans can come to the expo for free and will have a chance to walk away with something, and I hoping that the residual effect is that they get interested to come and watch the bodybuilding show, but there will be no conditions, no strings attached financial, and the fans will have the opportunity to get a little reward just by coming out and supporting our industry, our sponsors and our shows.


[ DR ] What is the American War Heroes? They are featured on the Colorado Pro site.

    We are working with the United States military, all branches? The Air Force, the Army, the Navy, the Marines - supporting them. They will have a strong presence there. They will have 30 volunteers for the show. They will have a booth there, with some war heroes and war veterans from Desert Storm and Iraq.

    Colorado had a very strong military presence. I am going to visit a few of the bases on the way in - they actually have a military show coming up that Melvin Anthony is guest posing at.


[ DR ] Why are the internet boards so negative on various shows?

    I think that any person with a keyboard and a laptop can be a star for the day by challenging a pro or someone by throwing up four letters words, and people chime in on it. Like anything else, you are going to have responsible people and you are going to have knuckleheads.

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    Unfortunately, you cant track who they are and it really can diminish what the boards can do for the sport of bodybuilding - what is actually can do for the interaction of professionals. Eventually, there will be technology that you can weed them out, but unfortunately, people act on impulse, get emotionally connected, fire back, and things can melt down.

    It is one of those things that people can be anonymous, but you have to consider the source of some of these people. I chose to use my own name, I have nothing to hide. But there are a lot of females and pros that choose not to engage because of the negativity and don't feel like having the drama.

    That is the sad part because it does alienate some good qualified people that can help out and be positive. At least Getbig is going in the right direction with the new Industry VIP board and other boards which are strictly positive.

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[ DR ] What do you think is needed to get professional bodybuilding to where you want it to be?

    I think they are working on it right now. The interaction that they are having with Bob as the Athletes Rep, and the concerns of the athletes. Addressing those concerns, gradually moving towards a more IFBB bodybuilding friendly line of communication.

    Jim Manion is successful, sociable, and is respectful - working with us, whereas in the past you didn't really have that channel of communication, now it seems that the door is open, and we are moving in the right direction gradually. Change doesn't come overnight, and I understand that this is a marathon, and not a sprint. I have already been accused as an IFBB flunky.

    I have always stood up to the IFBB as it were when they were wrong, but when they are right, I have to acknowledge that. Right now, they are on the right track working with us, where I thought in the past that Wayne was in the wrong track of working against us.

    The ideas that we bring up, collectively, they are listened to now, and they respond back. Unfortunately, these shows are spread out throughout the year that you don't see the changes overnight, but gradually, I have seen things changing for the better in regards to at least dealing with the federation?


[ DR ] What do you think of the PDI and it's press releases?

    I don't really think of things until they happen. I remember there were rumors of a Japanese federation was going to sprout up, everybody got all excited and fired up, and started talking about it, that it was coming, and then nothing.

    Let's say that this actually happens - so lets wait until it happens and then I will comment. Kind of like talking about the DaVinci Code movie or the Mission Impossible III movie. We have a sneak preview to a few things that may be happening, but it its proper context, we have to wait until he get to watch the movie. We haven't seen the movie, we only know a couple of the players, we don't really know what it is going to be.

    Sometimes the trailer is better than the movie. Some key players doesn't mean it is going to be a good game. I think competition is good. Whether it is the PDI, ABC or XYZ federation, it doesn't really matter to me.

    Another federation like the WBF made the IFBB that much better, because it was something that was looked upon as an alternative. And alternatives raised the bar. Everybody in the IFBB started making more money because the WBF offered more money.

PDI Press Releases:


[ DR ] Regarding the Olympia, the prize money was the highest ever in bodybuilding, yet we heard so many complaints from various people, we all heard them. What suggestions do you have to make the Olympia a better one?

    Obviously, you were dealing with a changing of the guard, and whenever you change the head coach on a football team, you change the team, you get different results. You are dealing with a new team that is working together, now they are back, and it is very easy to learn from your mistakes, which of there was many.

    Those mistakes have been categorized and charted, and now they are being dealt with. So until this years show comes - all I can say is that this year's show will be better!


[ DR ] Rusty Jeffers - 8th place at the Master's Pro? People want him to do you show! Why don't you fly him in?

    No, because I have not even heard from Rusty. My show is not an invitation. Unless it is an invitational, there are no rules or obligation by any promoter (I wrote more on it on the Industry VIP Board on Getbig). I would love to fly all of the athletes out there, but unfortunately, I decided to give all of the top ten guys prize money, which is more than many of the other pro shows are doing.

    If you place in 10th place, then you cover your hotel, airfare, etc with money to spare. If Rusty Jeffers is as good as fans say he is, he can come, place 10th and have money to spare. I have athletes flying in from Europe to the show.

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[ DR ] Any final comments?

    This whole Colorado show, although it bears my name, was built from the ground up with very important people, that without them, it couldn't be possible, with my partner Jeff Taylor.

    Also, Pam Betz, Steve McAdams, Steve Stone, Isaac Hinds, and the guys from Vyo-Tech. That is where the Denver show's meat and potatoes come from - from their efforts to make it the best.

Shawn Ray Pro Classic
Click Image To Enlarge.
Shawn Ray Colorado Pro Classic.

An Interview With The Colorado Pro Classic Promotor, Shawn Ray.
ron@getbig.com

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