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Vegans and Professional Wrestling: An Interview with Ultramantis Black

by on July 18, 2011

(Note from Tom: A very special thanks goes to IndyVegans.com, a popular site for Indianapolis’s vegan sub-culture and the author of this blog, Katie Keenan, for allowing us to cross-post this interview. To see the interview in its original form, go to this link and support Katie and the website. For full disclosure, Katie is my wife’s best friend and was the maid of honor at our wedding, but I thought she did an excellent job with the interview. Often when non-fans try to write wrestling articles or interview wrestlers, there’s a tone of insincerity in their work and you can tell that not only did the writer not put in the necessary research, but they have their proverbial nose in the air and look down on the subject. Katie did an admirable job of putting in the time, effort and research needed and showed all the respect in the world to both Ultramantis Black and professional wrestling. It’s really good stuff and I hope you all enjoy it!)

By Katie Keenan

Veganism got a worldwide attachment to professional wrestling when Daniel Bryan debuted in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in January 2010, as Bryan’s veganism became a talking point for his character on the various WWE television shows (garnering both positive and negative attention (from getting PETA promotional spots to personal attacks from detractors). However, Bryan isn’t the only vegan wrestler that has had success in the professional wrestling community. UltraMantis Black began his wrestling career in 2002 with the Chikara Pro promotion. He is one of the most popular wrestlers participating in the promotion, often eliciting  bows from loyal fans as her enters the ring. He also does colorful commentary for matches, which he does not wrestle. He has continued to wrestle in various worldwide promotions in years since his 2002 debut. UltraMantis Black became vegan long-before he set foot in the ring. He has managed to positively promote veganism and animal rescue throughout his entire wrestling career. I was fortunate enough to correspond with the most honorable UltraMantis Black to talk about all things vegan and what it is like to be vegan in the world of professional wrestling.

(IV = Katie, UMB = Ultramantis Black)

IV: How long have you been vegan for?

UMB: I went vegan around the age of 15 or 16 I believe. I am much, much older than that now. So it’s been quite some time.

IV: What made you come to your decision to start being veg?

UMB: I was at an age where I was beginning to question everything and one of those things was the way we as humans treat animals. I was heavily involved in the punk rock/hardcore music communities where I first became exposed to many of the ideas and movements that still influence me today – animal/earth/human liberation, etc. I remember picking up a record that had just been released by a band called Vegan Reich and reading the inserts and lyric sheets. The basic premise of their message centered around veganism and I was immediately drawn to the concept of eating with compassion. I went straight from an omnivorous diet to a vegan one. It was tough at first since this was a time before vegan options became so much more readily available in mainstream society the way they are today, but it was the best decision I ever made.

IV: Do you wrestle for any other promotions now besides Chikara (I know you had wrestled for Big Japan Pro Wrestling in 2009)?

UMB: In the past 10 years, I’ve wrestled all over the country and world for a number of different companies. Professional wrestling has given me the opportunity to see a lot of things in this world that I most assuredly wouldn’t have had the chance to experience otherwise.  Currently, I focus most of my attention in wrestling on CHIKARA since I consider that company my home. I have quite a bit on my plate outside of wrestling these days so I’ve had to cut back on the travel schedule.

IV: What does your typical training routine consist of? Do you use any supplements (vitamins/ minerals) or protein powders to aide in your training that you feel improves your goals?

UMB: I train 7 days a week in the gym and work out in the ring at least once every week.  I engage in a pretty well-rounded routine of both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Physique is obviously an important component of the presentation of professional wrestling so I do focus on that but try to never lose sight of my primary objective which is maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I’ve tried various vegetarian supplements through the years but found that really all I need to supplement my diet and workout is a good multivitamin and protein. I’ve used rice protein powder for a long time but recently have been alternating with pea protein. I believe that a really good, well maintained vegan diet can easily provide the appropriate amount of protein for anyone to stay healthy. But if you do happen to be engaging in strenuous or high impact activity on a regular basis, that extra protein will definitely be your friend.

IV: Do you get any different reactions to your vegan lifestyle with the other wrestlers in the promotions you perform in?

UMB: Some wrestlers respect it, some shake their heads, and some are indifferent. Such is life I suppose. I don’t think there has ever been a time I can remember that I really had to defend the choice. It’s rarely discussed in the locker room but when it is, the questions usually come from people who are genuinely interested and respectful.

IV: Is it hard to keep vegan in regards to having stuff made for your ring attire?

UMB: Right now, I have dedicated makers for my ring gear in both Hawaii and Japan and they are both aware of my request to not use leather or non-vegan materials in my attire. Prior to this, it was a struggle getting certain craftspeople to adhere to that.

IV: Do you feel that being vegan has given you the opportunity to expand your fan base and open people to the idea of a cruelty-free lifestyle?

UMB: I’m not sure if it has really expanded my fan base  per se, although I know there are at least a few supporters who either had no interest in wrestling or no idea who I was until being exposed to me via various avenues of either AR or vegan culture.  I do think, or at least hope, that my outspokenness has opened the eyes of at least a handful of wrestling fans to the beauty of living a cruelty-free lifestyle. Every so often, a fan will reach out to me either in-person or via email to tell me that they have changed their eating habits, or, at the very least, the way they view and treat animals. It’s decidedly awesome.

IV: Do you feel the success of Daniel Bryan brought attention to the plight of veganism in pro-wrestling (at least with vegan companies/ operations taking notice of the gradual takeover)?

UMB: I don’t know, but any positive attention or discussion anyone in a position of notoriety can bring is almost always a good thing. I hope he  can continue to keep that aspect of his life in the spotlight.

IV: Do you have time to do any cooking while training? If so, what is your favorite or go-to meal to cook while training?

UMB: I cook constantly, out of both enjoyment and necessity. I always want to know exactly what I’m putting in my body. I usually make a big pot of something at the start of every week so that I have a healthy meal to eat on the go at any time. Especially on show days and when I’m on the road – I want to avoid the pitfalls of convenience store/fast food chain eating. If I’m in car full of of other wrestlers, its not likely that we are going to go out of our way to find a local Whole Foods, so I pack my own meals as much as I can. My go-to meal is almost always fresh veggies and brown rice cooked up with a little vegetable stock with a side of almond butter. I tend to limit “cheat” meals (anything high in fat, sugar, etc) to once a week, but they are usually my favorite comfort foods like vegan matzoh ball soup or “Golden Bo`wl” (fried tofu and rice smothered in nutritional yeast gravy).

IV: You have mentioned in previous things that you enjoy treats, what is your favorite vegan “treat” that you have encountered?

UMB: I’m lucky enough to have some amazing fans all over the country who have brought me some tasty vegan desserts at the shows. Post-match is usually the only time I’ll treat myself to sweets in moderation so that works out well. I’m currently a big fan of the peanut butter filled doughnut from Vegan Treats Bakery. Must have black coffee with any sweet of course.

IV: Favorite vegan “cheeze”?

UMB: Not really a cheese person but I’m going to have to throw my support behind Teese from Chicago Soy Dairy. Its really good. And the folks behind that product and company are backed hard. They are exactly what a true vegan company should be.

IV: Again, thank you so much for your time!

UMB: You are welcome! Thank you for allowing me a chance to speak. Support independent wrestling! Stay vegan! xvx

 

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