Life has a way of presenting us with challenges, obstacles, and opportunities exactly when we need them. More often than not, those opportunities present themselves when we least expect it, obstacles come at the least opportune times, and challenges test our mental and physical capabilities – forcing us to push ourselves beyond what we believed to be possible. In the case of new IFBB Pro Bryan Balzano, his opportunity to turn his passion into a profession may not have come exactly how he may have expected it, but judging by how quickly this future star has risen to the professional ranks, it did come exactly when he needed.
I recently had a chance to catch up with Bryan following his impressive showing at the 2014 USA Championships, and you can catch all of the details right here, in this Iron Affinity exclusive interview.
Q.) Could you tell us a bit about how you first became introduced to bodybuilding?
A.) Well I was never really introduced to bodybuilding. I never had a desire to be a bodybuilder. I just wanted to look better at first. When I started hitting the weight room I was 110 pounds, and yes I was a split image of a skeleton. I was tired of looking like a bag of bones and wanted to do something about that. Over the next four years of training it slowly became more important and I kept sliding into bodybuilding further and further on my own. After a while it wasn’t about looking good, then it became a hobby, then I started to diet right, and then finally over those four years when I finally moved to Columbus, Ohio and I got a gym pass at Metro Fitness a high number of people started to talk to me and asked why do you look like a bodybuilder, live the lifestyle and diet, but do not do the sport? And I couldn’t really answer the question. I just said I like to lift and eat right, but really it was because I just didn’t believe in myself. So after a few months of the same thing I finally got talked into just giving one show a try and the rest is history.
Q.) What was it about the competitive aspect of the sport that appealed to you?
A.) The most appealing aspect to me is the fact that it is an independent sport. You must do all the work and there is no way around it. If you slack on training, dieting, and resting you will not achieve your absolute best. And for me that is what makes this sport shine. You must give 100 percent every day in all areas. There is no time to slack off at any point.
Q.) Although you maintained a serious interest in the sport for a number of years, you decided to hold off on competing. Why?
A.) I never really thought I could make it in the sport basically I just never believed in myself. Plus my family and friends never really supported the lifestyle or the sport, and did not understand it in general. I was told I need to go to college to get a degree and support my family, and that bodybuilding will never do that for you. So that’s what I did, and then when college ended I got a job. Once I became settled in the real world (I still lifted throughout all of this) a close friend of mine said now that you don’t have an excuse to do a show you’re going to do one lol…And I could not deny that, and with the support of my new gym, I said why not let’s give it a shot!
Q.) After your first experience onstage did it solidify in your mind that you wanted to pursue your pro card?
A.) OMG yes!!! After my first show (2014 Michael François classic) the whole experience was incredible and I knew at that moment this is what I was meant to do. I just couldn’t stop thinking about why I never did it before and why was I scared to. But I said it’s better to have started late than never at all. So after this show I realized I had to pursue that dream of obtaining my pro card.
Q.) Before we talking about your recent win at the USA Championships, I’d to talk about one of the people that was instrumental in helping you get there, someone bodybuilding fans are already familiar with, Justin Compton. Tell us a bit about your relationship with Justin and how that came about.
A.) Justin and I have a very close relationship. I met him through my friend Jamin Akpan, who is pretty much the main reason I entered bodybuilding. We went to college together and he tried for two years to get me to do a show and I never listened. He’s the main reason I entered my first show. Jamin introduced me to Justin, and Justin thought I had great potential to do very well in the sport and wanted to help me unlock that potential. And over this time we have become very close and Justin is like family to me now.
Q.) When it came time to begin your preparations for the show did having a top level IFBB Pro who is not only a coach, but also a close friend, relieve some of the pressure and allow you to just focus on doing the work?
A.) Yeah it was a tremendous help. Being like family and knowing Justin really well took a lot off me mentally and I was truly able to train my best and it made prep a walk in the park for me.
Q.) Let’s talk about the USA’s. Heading into the show did you believe coming home with your pro card was a realistic expectation? Or, were you just focused on bringing in your best?
A.) At first I just did not try to think about the card at all. I was just focused my I look when I look in the mirror. The only person you need to beat day in and day out is yourself. And that’s what I did. Never looked at any of the competition or did any research, because the only thing I have control over is my body and my work ethic. But it really did hit me after prejudging when I was in the first call outs and in the center. That’s when it hit me that my dream could actually come true!
Q.) Heading into the night show you must’ve had some idea that you were in contention for the victory. Was it difficult to maintain your composure given the fact that you were right on the cusp of becoming an IFBB Pro?
A.) I can’t lie that it was hard to keep my composure for the main reason this was only my second show and everything just seemed unreal. I tried to keep everything out of my head, but my phone kept going off and people kept posting the wrap up videos for prejudging. I can’t even explain the feelings go through my head during this break. There were so many different emotions radiating from me it was crazy!
Q.) Tell us about the emotions you felt as you heard the judges announce your name as the winner of your class.
A.) The moment I heard my name called was one of the most surreal moments off my life. It was sort of like winning a championship in a sport in the 8th grade. I was ready to run around the stage and shout out of joy, but at the same time wanted to remain ‘cool’ as if I had actually been there before – which obviously I hadn’t. More realistically, I probably looked like a deer-in-the-headlights. I had put all this hard work and determination into my diet and my exercises (and truthfully every aspect of my life,) but could barely even dream of everything coming together in front of hundreds of people who were all there to celebrate my accomplishment. It was always my dream to one day become a professional bodybuilder, and now that I’m here I want to keep working to see just how far I can take this. A lot of people will tell you that if you work hard your dreams really can come true, and for the first time in my life I can honestly say that I believe it. I always looked up to the other athletes who laid the foundation for what I was able to achieve in Las Vegas, and if I can just motivate one other person out there to get into bodybuilding it will have made the last four years worth it.
Q.) Now that you’ve secured your pro card do you have a plan for what’s next in your competitive career?
A.) Of course! Never do anything without a game plan. For now I’m going to take the remainder of the year off, and slowly start putting on quality muscle. I plan on making my 212 debut in 2015 in the second half of year.
Q.) Is there anyone you’d like to thank for helping you reach this point in your career?
A.) First off I would like to thank Justin Compton for believing in me and unlocking my potential. Jamin Akpan for giving me the vision to even enter bodybuilding. I want to thank Becky Clawson for all the support she has shown me. Mike Davies and Michael François for teaching me how to pose. I want to thank James Bowe, Marcus Perry and Ryan Niddel for being the first people to talk to me when I came to the city of Columbus, and have been true mentors for me to become the best I can. And I want to give my final thank you to Matt Jensen and Allen Cress for helping me during the USA’s and bringing my best possible package to the stage!
Q.) If someone would like to reach you for potential sponsorship or guest posing opportunities, what’s the best way for them to get in contact with you?
A.) The best way would be cell or email since they are basically the same thing today. My phone is always around me and first thing I always check, or FaceBook
Bryan will look back at his meteoric ascension into the IFBB with amazement one day. But for now he’s focused on crafting his physique, making improvements, and proving to himself yet again that he does in fact belong onstage standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the best athletes in the world. And once again I’m quite certain that his future in the sport will encounter both obstacles and unexpected challenges that will pop up at inopportune times along the way, but his opportunity for future success in the muscle game will come exactly when they’re supposed to.