Many consider the 90’s a Golden Era of bodybuilding because of the large talent pool and physiques coming out of the amatuer ranks, which constanly seemed to produce some of the top pros in the IFBB at the time. As competitive as the NPC was (and is), this level of competition was in part due to the limited number of IFBB pro cards given until fairly recently (ask Randolph Chaney II and Dave!). The result of this was that many talented athletes who would have easily attained a pro card by today’s standards by winning their class at USAs, running-up at Nationals, or restricting how many cards a masters winner receives, were instead left largely overlooked as victim of these circumstances. Richard Williams was no exception.
The winner of his Middleweight class at the 1996 USA’s, I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Richard via email and got some of his insights as to bodybuilding, family, balance while living the competitive bodybuilding lifestyle, and his comeback to competition. Richard at the time of the ‘96 USA was essentially as close to becoming a pro as you could get, but due to the formatting restrictions in the NPC and life events Richard was unable to reach that goal. Instead, Richard chose to focus on his career and role as a father and the responsibilities that come with that, things in life that many other bodybuilders (and people in general) would selfishly push the burden of onto others.
Last year Richard began his comeback trail after winning his Light-Heavyweight Class at the 2012 NPC San Diego Championships (after dieting a whole week), and plans on making his debut on the in the Master’s national level stage this upcoming contest season. I discovered Richard by reading his “Fusion King Stack” Log so I hope you enjoy a read with the Comeback King: Richard Williams
Waylon: Starting off with the basics, when and where were you born and what was your childhood / younger years like?
Richard: I was born in Indianapolis Indiana. Raised by a single mother 2 sisters 3 brothers.
Younger years were rough. Family was very poor, mother was dysfunctional (alcoholic and mentally unstable) I was a typical felonious ghetto child.
Growing up did you play any other sports?
I was very good at sports. I played football, basketball, wrestled, track. I was an all around good athlete.
How did you get into weightlifting and competitive bodybuilding?
I started working out seriously in 1987 while in the AirForce Technical School. I started out powerlifting, did my first meet in 1988 and crossed over to bodybuilding in 1990
What was your competition history leading up to ‘96 USAs?
My competitive history prior to the 96 USA s
1992 Border States Classic – NPC, BantamWeight, 1st
1994 San Diego Championships-NPC MiddleWeight, 1st and OVERALL CHAMP
1994 Nationals – NPC, MiddleWeight, 14th
1995 USA Championships – NPC, MiddleWeight, 8th
Although 1996 was not your first national show it was your best placing to date, what was your mentality going into that show? Did you expect to win the show?
My first appearance on the National Level was the 94 Nationals. I was just happy to be there and didn’t care about placing. I was just excited to be there. So excited, I was taking pics backstage instead of relaxing. After that, I always trained with the thought of “winning ” in my head. I was no longer star struck, I had seen all the top guys I felt I had the tools to win.
Going into the 96 show…I had a chip on my shoulder. I saw allot of guys I felt I was better than getting a lot of press and magazine coverage. I was determined not to let anyone out work me, diet more strict, or out train me. It paid off. I got straight first place votes.
After winning your class but missing out on one of the two cards given at that contest, what were your feelings immediately following?
In those days…there was only one card given…the Overall. There was no Super Heavy division either. So as happy as I was, I knew I had to move up a weight class to even think about winning a Pro Card. It was then that I realized how to truly enjoy this sport.
How did you feel about your competitive accomplishments at that point? Were you happy to win your class but upset you not win the overall?
I was extremely happy! I had a near death experience and ended up winning! After the prejudging I was rushed to the ER …my blood was thick as syrup from dehydration. I was pumped full of saline solution and stayed in the hospital overnight. The following day, I walked out against doctors orders…went to the sauna…dropped 10 pounds ,,,hit the night show…won!!!
and back to the ER again. So yes, I was extremely happy and lucky. Happy to win. Lucky to be alive. But for that moment in time…I was the best Middleweight in the Nation and thats all that mattered.
Care to elaborate?
During the prejudging, I was the very first number called out in the comparisons. They kept me in the center of the stage the whole time…so I knew I was in the running for 1st place.
Before I went on stage that day, I knew I was in the best shape of my life and did not want to do anything to blow it. I was feeling light headed and dizzy. I was sweating only from my head and my heart was beating extremely hard and fast. I knew I was extremely dehydrated needed fluids but refused to drink anything for fear of losing my conditioning. In my mind, I was minutes away from realizing a life long dream and wasnt about to let a momoent of weakness destroy it. Years of training, dieting, sacrificing and all I had to do was not get weak and drink water. So I didnt.
After the prejudging my condition got worse. I couldnt stand up…couldnt eat …couldnt drink …all I wanted to do and could do was lay down. My wife at the time Vanessa and my friends Mark and Yolanda helped me back to the room and I laid down. I was hoping the feeling would pass after a nap. While laying on the bed… my heart felt like it was jumping out of my chest…I could barely breath but my heart was beating extremely hard and fast…and all I wanted to do was sleep….I then blacked out.
When I awoke hours later, I was in the hospital, hooked up to an IV with all kinds of bs stuff hooked up to me. Apparently I had went into cardiac arrest..stopped breathing. The doc said I was minutes away from dieing had Vanessa not called 911. One would think that I would feel lucky to be alive, however, my first thought was “I got to get the hell out of here because I gotta be on stage soon”. There was absolutely no way in this world I was not gonna be on stage for the finals. Like I said before …years of training dieting sacrificing and so close to realizing a lifelong dream and all I have to do is man the fuck up…get out of bed…drop some water…and claim the prize. So thats what I did. When the doctor left the room, I unhooked all that bullshit and left the hospital without being released.
In retrospect, I was extremely foolish in risking everything that I did. My desire to win had consumed me. I was literally willing to die to win. I knew my life was in danger…I knew I had responsibilites and priorities greater than and more important than winning a damn trophy but that moment in time…I valued the win…more than life itself.
THAT STATE OF MIND IS FOOLISHNESS AND SELFISHNESS TO THE EXTREME.
I left the hospital…went to the sauna…dropped 10lbs of water in the sauna…went to the night show…won the show…and this time I checked myself into the ER because the symptoms had returned but this time I recognized what was happening.
How do you feel about more opportunities to turn pro now?
I think it’s a good thing for bodybuilding. I understood long ago that all things being equal, the bigger man should win, but that leaves us smaller guys and I use the term smaller losely, out in the cold when it comes to earning professional status. I think we should take it a step further and have 3 divisions in the professional ranks 200 below, 201 -230, and 230 and above.
You mentioned to me on your thread that following your win you planned on going up to light heavyweight for the next competition season instead of competing at the nationals, could you give me more details as to what your plan was at the time? What life circumstances were going on at the time after your win, outside of bodybuilding?
How did your plans change and at what point did you decide to focus on a career and family life, putting your competitive aspirations on hold? Was there a moment where this happened or was it just a realization?
At the time, only the overall winner received a pro card so I had a decision to make, compete in the Nationals or move up in weight class to compete for the overall at the USA. I decided to pass on the Nationals that year, take some time off to grow into the light heavies. During this time off, my whole outlook on life and bodybuilding changed. In 1998, I had another daughter, and found it impossible to juggle the demands of being a good father, husband and competitive bodybuilder. I now had six kids, 4 daughters and 2 sons that needed a full time father. Nothing worthwhile comes without sacrifice. In my case, I sacrificed a lot of quality time with my family to be successful on stage, but I could no longer justify putting my personal goals and aspirations above the needs of my family. So I stopped competing.
What challenges do you face balancing, work, raising a family, and competitive bodybuilding?
Balancing is such a misleading term. It implies that we strive to make all things equal. All things important get “equal” time…If you are going to be successful in bodybuilding, it demands imbalance. You must eat sleep train and think as a bodybuilder 24 hours a day. It must be your top priority and your time devoted to it must reflect that. Everything else must come 4th…because Bodybuilding is 1st 2nd and 3rd position in your life. In my own experience, work and family was sacrificed. I could no longer justify sacrificing my family.
Even on your “off” competitive years (Still top 10) what was your key to consistency during this time?
I always train hard. Always will. It’s just in my heart and soul to train that way. I always diet with an extreme amount of discipline. There is no way around it. I train at World Gym in San Diego where there is always a competitive environment. You look to your left a champion …look to your right…another champion…go upstairs …see future champions. This is every day at WORLDS…and it keeps you hungry. I am also a student of the sport. I never have been the guy that knows it all…but I strive to learn it all.
What kind of support system have you had throughout your bodybuilding career and how has it changed from when you first got into the sport to more recent times?
My support system has always been my family and a few select close friends. I have a lot of good people around me but I have always been a “family first” kind of guy.
You had a very dominant performance at the 2012 San Diego championships, what was your mental process in deciding to do the show and your motivations behind the decision?
Good Question!! Actually I had no intentions of competing until the summer of 2012. My original plan was to compete in the summer of 2012 and make my 2nd National Level debut in 2013 USA’s but things went alil different. My good friend IFBB Pro PD Devers was watching me closely in the gym said “hey let me check out your conditioning” …we went to the posing room, I showed him what I looked like and he said I could probably win the San Diego next week. I followed his advice blindly and won the light heavies…without dieting.
How did you end up in living in San Diego? What is your job outside of bodybuilding?
I moved to San Diego in 1985. I was a bad ass kid running from trouble. I got to California…straightened up my act and from then on Ive been a Cali kid.
When Im not in the gym training or training clients I work for an asset management company investing other peoples money in the wireless and telecom industry.
Living in the 619 area you are in the area immediately surrounded by bodybuilders, how has this influenced your come back as of late and who are somebody’s helpful people and what have they done for you?
There are a few people that made this comeback possible. First and foremost I have to thank PD Devers for inspiring me to be something more than a “has been”. There are not enough words to express the amount of gratitude respect and love I have for him. He has always been there for me through good and bad and always a true friend. Now let me go down the list…My AARP crew…IFBB Pro Derik Farnsworth…Pete Ciccone…Eric Raposa…Quiet Man Jamie..The Young GUNZ IFBB Pro Patrick Harrington, Gabriel Cortez, Louis Big Sexy Uridel, BIG Jonathan Ward, My SUper Huge Homie IFBB Pro Lionel L-Train Brown.. IFBB Pro Michelle Pratt…IFBB Pro Michelle Bates…the RUGGED Man Brad Albertson…the Pretty Boy Physique Crew Terry Placker and Mike Campos these physique guys go hard!!! Marc the strongman ..The powerlifters AJ, Gracie, Ricardo, Jake and the crew, Big Onn, the Irish Madman Kenny …the Beast-ette Jenny pushing cars in the parking lot as Crazy Tomas pushes on the brakes and last but certainly not least…my Boo… Traci S…one the hardest working inspirational human beings I have ever met in my life. Without her pushing me daily and being 100% supportive, my life would be a lot more difficult.
You cannot step into WORLD Gym and not be inspired and motivated by someone…period!
What’s it like training with the “619” Crew?
I love my 619 Crew!!! Inspiration from all angles…we have bodybuilders, physique guys, bikini girls, powerlifters, crossfitters, football players, you name it they are there! Every day! The peer pressure there is to work harder, train harder, dig deeper, be better. The atmosphere is competitive but definitely like family. In the 619 a 500lb squat or deadlift merits a “thats it?” and not a “wow!” But I wouldn’t wanna train anywhere else.
Have you done a masters national show before? Which show do you plan on competing in this season?
I plan on competing in the Masters Nationals this year. This will be my first time in a Masters Show.
What is your favorite thing about bodybuilding?
I have a few things I love about bodybuilding but far and away the best things about bodybuilding are the feel of the steel bar ripping into my hands on a big lift…the pain in my spine on a big dead lift or heavy squat…the bone crushing feeling on a big bench ..the smell of the steel and the sound of the iron weights clanking around with loud grunts and groans in the background…the feeling of relief and accomplishment after you get a big lift …the feeling of disappointment after missing a big lift…the feeling of satisfaction you get when you look at progress pics 2-5 years apart and you can see the changes in your physique..Just knowing I can change the way my body looks as long as I am will to put in the work…I could go on for days…but the bottom line is I JUST LOVE LIFTING…and getting on stage showing off my hard work.
What is the biggest changes you have seen over the last couple decades in the sport?
The biggest changes I see are 1)the addition of physique male and female…2) the slow death of womens bodybuilding and 3) the fading appreciation for aesthetics and MASS being the only thing that matters. Good or bad right or wrong this is our sport now. Embrace the change or quit. The cliché’ is “the only thing constant is change”…bodybuilding is not immune to it.
What motivates you to bodybuilding and has your driving factors changed over time and if so how?
When I first started, I was motivated by winning. Win at all cost. Winning was all that counted. But then in time, I began to understand that we are only winners for a second… a brief moment in time we are announced as winners and then we are no different than the rest of the competitors, back in the gym training improving upon the package we just presented. It has been only since this comeback, that I have learned to enjoy the ride…find joy in the process…find happiness in the pursuit of my goal …in the pursuit of my dreams…and learn the establish and appreciate the relationships I create along the way.
I think back over the years and what I remember most and cherish the most are the moments I shared with my friends and family along the way. I honestly dont remember much about my USA
victory…what I remember most is training everyday with my best friends at the time Mark Hyman, Mark Eldridge, and Alton Stoval. and every day we would go head to head to see who was the strongest…who could do the most reps….who could do the most in a drop set…I remember wishing my kids were old enough to understand my accomplishments and wanting them to be proud of me.
so..to answer your question..Now what motivates me in bodybuilding is the same thing that motivates me in life and everything else I do…It brings me joy and happiness just as good relationships with people do.