Spotlight: UltraMantis Black, Vegan Pro Wrestler

8 02 2012

Those who know me, know that I have had a sometimes unhealthy obsession with the world of professional wrestling since I was about 6 years old. Thirty years later, I’m still a diehard fan. I’ve been lucky to meet a lot of my professional wrestling heroes over the years. Recently, I’ve been enjoying an indy promotion, Chikara, when they come to town. Chikara is a family friendly promotion that is quite entertaining, has some amazing talent and puts on some fantastic matches. If you love wrestling as an art, you will really enjoy what type of show Chikara puts on.

The beauty of having this blog is that sometimes my passions collide and I have the opprtunity to talk to some really interesting people. Recently I had the chance to interview one of Chikara’s most popular stars, UltraMantis Black, about being a vegan. UltraMantis Black has wrestled all over the world for many different promotions. He calls Chikara his home though as he has been a presence there since the beginning. I was so thrilled to ask him a few questions including some issues I’ve been “wrestling” with since adopting a plant based diet!

JS: Can you explain what the circumstances were that led to you switching to a plant based diet and embracing a vegan lifestyle?

UMB: I eliminated animal products from my diet over 20 years ago. I skipped over vegetarianism and went directly to veganism after existing completely on an omnivorous diet all of my life up until that point. I had become exposed to issues involving the welfare of animals – factory farming, vivisection, animal testing – through books and music at the time. Something just clicked inside my head that led me to no longer wanting to participate in the suffering of animals in any way. Veganism seemed like the natural first step.

JS: What were the difficulties that you encountered when you first adopted this lifestyle change? Is there anything that you know now that you wish you would have known then?

UMB: At that time, there were little to no pre-packaged vegetarian meal alternatives readily available in grocery stores. Today, you can go into nearly any grocery store and find soy milk, tofu, and meat substitutes. I was still very young and simply did not educate myself enough about how to eat healthy. So I survived on things like packaged ramen noodles, pasta, and french fries. I was probably at my most unhealthiest in those first few years simply because I didn’t take the time to really think about how I was eating. So I wish I knew then the importance of educating one’s self about nutrition. I also wish I would have been more enthusiastic about “exploring” food options. I wasn’t a huge fan of fruits and vegetables before I changed my diet and it took me a long time to actually try new things in new ways to realize just how amazing plant based foods really are.

JS: How would you say your overall health has improved in the years since you have made the switch?

UMB: As with any diet, your health will never improve unless you approach it in a sound way with as much factual nutritional information as possible. That was my major downfall when I initially went vegan. Once I actually started doing the research myself and figuring out the optimal ways to eat, my overall health improved immensely. I reached a healthy weight, added actual muscle mass to my body, and increased my energy levels ten-fold. I rarely get sick with a cold or flu anymore and when I do notice cold symptoms, they last for a minimal period of time. Other minor health issues I experienced either disappeared entirely or no longer affected me as much physically. Do I think a plant based diet is some sort of miracle cure-all? No, but I firmly believe that it has greatly helped contribute to my overall well-being.

JS: I imagine that when you are on the road for a stretch, adhering to plant based diet can be difficult at times. How do you overcome this?

UMB: I’ve learned how to pack my own meals and food items when on the road. The chances of finding a Whole Foods grocery or a vegetarian restaurant on the road are slim to none and the amount of healthy veggie options at the endless procession of gas station stores, diners, and chain restaurants is pretty disheartening to say the least. I pack a lot of fruit, nut butters, rice and veggies, etc. Usually this means eating in the car or alone in the hotel room while everyone else is at Denny’s, but I can live with that.

JS: I’m always looking for snack ideas. What are some of your favorite “go to” snacks?

UMB: I snack on baby carrots, bananas, apples, and spinach salad all day long. At one time that may have sounded boring even to me – but I really feel that its easy to learn to love simple snacks like that. When I’m feeling adventurous and have some time to prepare them, I also love snacking on roasted/seasoned garbanzo beans and oven roasted kale chips. And homemade natural protein bars!

JS: Some people who enjoy the standard American diet believe that a plant based diet does not provide enough protein or calcium. Can you speak a little to this?

UMB: If you approach ANY diet the wrong way, there is a good chance you will end up not getting the optimal amount of nutrients to sustain a healthy lifestyle. But I, along with countless others, are living proof that you can lead a healthy and active lifestyle with a plant based diet. I don’t lack for anything – protein, calcium, whatever. Its too easy to fall into the trap of swallowing the same outdated nutritional dogma that we have all heard for years. Take a look at some of the “studies” and guidelines that we too often accept as fact and see exactly who funded or is behind them. Its in the financial best interest of countless industries and corporations that Americans continue to eat animal products, continue to eat unhealthy, continue to get sick and continue to be medicated.

JS: Do you find that being a professional athlete who is vegan changes people’s (mis)conceptions about the vegan lifestyle?

UMB: I hope so! Even if I only expose a few people to it or just cause one individual to re-think their own diet, I am pleased.

JS: What advice do you have for those who may be starting off on the path to a plant based diet?

UMB: Get educated. Do your research and realize that you will have to completely re-think the way you look at food. Today, the internet makes it easier than ever to learn about proper nutrition. To learn about food and where your food comes from. Understand that, with any lifestyle change – and that’s what veganism can be – comes a certain amount of struggle. Prepare for that, nothing that matters will ever be easy. And finally, be ready to enjoy and appreciate food more than you probably ever have before. Check out vegan.org!

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I’d like to thank UltraMantis Black for his time and for generously imparting his knowledge.
The Devious UltraMantis Black…http://www.ultramantisblack.com
Ministry of Propaganda…http://www.twitter.com/ultramantis

See UltraMantis Black and his partner, Hallowicked take on the tag team champions, Gargano and Taylor in a 2 out of three falls championship match in Reading, PA on February 25th. Event and ticket information can be found at http://www.chikarapro.com
*Kids get in free with a paid adult (this show only)! How cool is that?

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