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Interview With Pro MMA Radio Host Larry Pepe!
In reference to Larry Pepe, a native New Yorker now calling Las Vegas home, I would have to say that recognizing an all-around talent takes about as much deliberation as admitting Monica Brant looks sexy in Armani underwear. Both are no-brainers. Take a glance at Pepe’s resume to get my drift: undergraduate degree in communication arts (St. John’s University, NY), Juris Doctor (Villanova University, PA), M.A in clinical psychology (Antioch University, CA). Bodybuilder, trainer, martial arts standout, book author, magazine columnist, radio talk show host. Hey, my fingers are getting tired. You’ll have to keep reading to learn more about this gifted dude.
When we first met back in the 1990s, you were living in Venice, California and were on the judging panels of local shows. Did you ever step on stage?
Yes. I competed in a bunch of natural shows. I won the Colonial States back East and went top five in the drug-free Nationals and USAs.
You’re quite the Renaissance man in the industry. I’ll let you count the ways. First up, your entry into bodybuilding.
I actually started out in martial arts, studying Tae Kwon Do and Tiger Crane Kung Fu. I got my brown belt, Lonnie, in the shortest allowable time. I was pretty obsessed and went undefeated at the Empire State Games in the Brown/Black Belt Division when I was just 16 years old. I always read magazines on martial arts, which were sitting next to the bodybuilding magazines at the newsstand. I was impressed by the muscularity displayed in the mags, and that sparked my interest in bodybuilding. I tried to do both sports simultaneously, but I’m an extremist and there wasn’t enough time
in the day, so I only trained to get stronger for my fighting. Then my instructor went to prison on a drug charge. I was at a point where I’d accomplished what I wanted to with the arts. There was no mixed martial arts back then, so I joined a gym and competed a little over a year later.
Eventually, after moving out to So Cal, you got into judging.
Yes, when I was winding down on the competitive side, I started judging all the local NPC shows and later became an NPC National judge. I actually tested for that distinction the year Dennis Newman won the USA in New Orleans (1994). I still judge today.
You worked with quite a major player during your tenure at a law firm.
Yes, I did. I worked at one of the top entertainment law firms in Southern California and was the right-hand man for a few years to the top lawyer in the entertainment community, Bert Fields. Probably the most brilliant mind I’ve ever come across to this day and a great man. His clients consisted of virtually every A-list celebrity and entertainment entity you can name…DeNiro, Hoffman, Fox Studios, etc. My relationship with Bert was perfect from day one, but the office politics of being in a large corporate environment taught me that I wanted to make my own way and not have to rely on others for a paycheck. I left practicing law and started a personal training business out of Gold’s Gym, Venice. I made tons of friends in the industry while I was there - you included, Lonnie! I trained with guys like Mike Matarazzo, Will Harris and Jamo Nezzar and was loving life. One day I got a call from Jason Mathas that MuscleMag was looking for someone to write the “Muscle Beach” column and that he recommended me to Bob Kennedy. I’ve written for MMI for eight years now and just finished my 100th installment. I’m incredibly grateful to Bob as well as Johnny Fitness, the Editor-In-Chief.
How did your book The Precontest Bible come about?
I’d written a lot of training and nutrition pieces for the magazine and had an idea to write a regular contest prep piece as well, featuring a different athlete each month. My goal was to compile those pieces, along with additional athletes who were under contract to other magazines, into a book that would become one complete reference source for any bodybuilder getting ready for competition. Bob and Johnny loved the idea. Eighteen months, 32 athletes and 475 pages later, The Precontest Bible was born. I’m truly honored that so many great bodybuilders, like Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, Dexter Jackson, and Victor Martinez all agreed to grace the pages of the book. It’s been very well received.
How did the radio gig get off the ground?
I was a guest on a popular radio show called Pro Bodybuilding
Weekly (PBW) and was asked to discuss an article I wrote for MMI about instituting weight classes in pro bodybuilding, which was a few years before they started the 202 and under division. I really enjoyed the medium and decided to start two shows of my own,
Muscle Radio for the men and Hardbody Radio for the women. I loved it and did about 50 episodes. It just got to the point that I realized that there was only so much to cover in bodybuilding and
Pro Bodybuilding Weekly was already doing a great job of it. I moved on to other projects, but one day Dan Solomon, co-host of
Pro Bodybuilding Weekly, called and asked me if I had an interest
in coming back as a regular with Dan and Bob Cicherillo. The timing was right, so I gave it a go. I’ve been on the show for two seasons, acting as the “resident expert” as Dan calls it.
What made you think of creating an MMA radio show?
As I mentioned earlier, I had a heavy martial arts background, and, Lonnie, it really taught me a lot of lessons that helped me to be so successful going forward in other areas of life. That passion for the arts started kicking in again about fi ve or six years ago as the UFC was beginning to pick up steam. I brought two fighters on to Pro Bodybuilding Weekly, Urijah Faber and James Irvin. Both Dan and James Irvin, of MMA, Inc., were very impressed with the interviews and encouraged me into doing it full-time. It all made sense to me. Fighters have become much more sophisticated about their nutrition as well as their supplementation. Sometimes, when I’m talking to a fi ghter, I’m struck by how similar the conversation is when talking to bodybuilders—peaking, frequent meals, protein, carb and fat intake, and so forth. So, Pro MMA Radio was born on June 9, 2008 and, as they say, the rest is history.
So when does Pro MMA Radio air?
I was getting to that! The show airs every Monday (6 pm PST/ 9 pm EST) at ProMMARadio.com, with On Demand replays available anytime on Bodybuilding.com, iTunes and all the major podcast directories. It’s been an amazing ride. The show won Bodybuilding.com’s “Podcast of the Year” awards in both 2008 and 2009 and has become the official radio show of the top magazine in Mixed Martial Arts, FIGHT! magazine as well as FLEX magazine.
I imagine you’ve had a lot of support in your successful journey.
Absolutely. First and foremost, I have to thank my brother and my mom for their love and support. My father died when I was very young, and my mother has been an amazing force in my life as well as my best friend. She’s actually a big UFC fan and was one of the people pushing me to do Pro MMA Radio! Again, Bob Kennedy gave me my first real exposure in MMI. Of course, thanks to Dan Solomon for bringing me back to radio, Jeff Meyer for making me believe that I had something to contribute to MMA, and to Jim Manion, Sandy Williamson and Isaac Hinds for their support. And, of course, I have to thank everyone at Bodybuilding.com and Ultimate Nutrition for their support. They’re not just sponsors; they’ve become family. And, thank you, Lonnie, for doing this interview. I always read your work in IRONMAN when I got into bodybuilding and envisioned getting interviewed by you someday. Who knew that it would be mixed martial arts that would make it happen? Lastly, please thank Scott Welch for starting [MUSCLE INSIDER] and helping me get the word out!
To listen to Larry Pepe’s PRO MMA Radio show, visit ProMMARadio.com.