On August 18 I got a chance to catch up with Morris Mendez, a well-known name in bodybuilding as well as a good friend of mine with whom I've had several chances to work. He's one of the top "natural" pros—maybe the top "natural" pro. You've seen photos of him in various fitness and muscle magazines, on musclephotos.com, in Cosmopolitan magazine, and in many other places. Maybe you've seen him compete or guest pose. I thought an "Up Close and Personal" interview with him would interest many people, so Morris and I talked back and forth, and here's the result.—RG.
RG: How are you doing these days, Morris?
M: Just great.
RG: Back to eating pizzas, burgers, and chips after your win at the Miami Superbody?
MM: Not just yet. I still have to stay lean and tight for photo shoots.
RG: I should start out by congratulating you on your win in the Miami Superbody. How do you feel about that?
MM: I feel happy with the accomplishment—I went there to win—but I'm not totally content because it's just one of the goals I had in mind for this year. I still have more goals to accomplish, more shows to do, magazines to get into, and people to network with. And I'm gunning for first place in Hollywood this November. I want that Musclemania title to stay in the States, preferably with me as the winner.
RG: What were your thoughts as you went into that Miami show?
MM: I was very confident as far as the things I had control over, and that was my training, diet, and contest prep, which were right on point. There was no room to set myself up for defeat because I was highly focused and consistent with what I had to do. Whoever shows up and whatever the judges decide, that was totally out of my control.
RG: You looked great on-stage, as I think the photos show. You had great symmetry, you were tight and detailed, with full muscle bellies. And you looked like you were having a great time. It doesn't get much better than that. When you were on-stage, did you feel the show was yours ?
MM: I heard the comments from the audience. I got the first call out from the judges. My fellow competitors told me I had it. But that didn't quite convince me. What was going to convince me that first place would be mine was knowing that politics weren't going to be involved, and I found myself more or less the last man standing.
RG: I was fairly close to the stage, shooting photos from a low angle, and it seemed to me that you deserved it. The audience seemed to know it pretty clearly. You're just one of those bodybuilders with the total package—mass, cuts, symmetry, great posing, and a really good stage presence. Will we see you at Musclemania in Hollywood in November 2005 ? Are we going to see an even better physique?
MM: I'll be there. I'll present a more polished and complete physique, with added size. Also I'll have a kick-ass routine that's going to wow both the judges and the audience.
RG: Well, good luck to you. You know I'm going to be there photographing. Has anything else especially interesting happened to you after this spring's Miami Superbody?
MM: I went to the Dominican Republic and guest posed with Ronnie Coleman. I was invited to China and guest posed there. I've had photos shot with a number of first class photographers, and I've also done exercise spreads for Muscle and Fitness, as well as a couple of supplement ads in various fitness magazines. I've been networking and making a number of important contacts with agents and other people in the entertainment industry. In short, I'm doing all the necessary legwork, spending a lot of money in the process of making strong efforts to get launched into a successful mainstream career.
RG: How do people react to you when you travel to different countries and do seminars and guest posing?
MM: People in other countries greet me with open arms. Bodybuilding and fitness are practiced by a lot of people around the world, so people appreciate what I do and what I have accomplished and what I have to offer them that will help them excel in the sport. I have a very open personality, which I think helps get me a lot of respect. For me it is always refreshing to see other countries, to learn about other cultures, and also to have a chance to interact socially.
RG: I have a number of questions to ask you that fans and aspiring bodybuilders have asked me to find out for them, so let's get a little more formally into this interview. Let's start with your personal background. What's your actual, full name ?
MM: Morris Mendez.
RG: But everyone knows you as “Mo,” right?
RG: Where were you born?
MM: Birmingham, England.
RG: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
MM: Five brothers and three sisters.
RG: And is it correct that your heritage is Jamaican and Spanish?
RG: For our female readers, what's your marital status?
RG: I understand you’ve lived in a lot of different places.
MM: Yes. I've lived, at various times, in five different cities in England—Birmingham, Derby, West Bromwich, London, and Smethwick. If you add up all the time I lived in those places, it totals about 16 years. When I was very young, we lived in Spain for about a year. Then we went to Jamaica, where my dad is from. When I was four years old, we went back to England for seven years. When I was about 11, we came to the States. We lived first in New York and then in Connecticut. Things didn't work out as my parents had planned, so we were back on the move to Kingston, Jamaica. It was a temporary stay, and then we moved again to England.
A lot of our moving around had to do with my parents trying to find better opportunities. In England and Jamaica, my parents had a big family—six kids then and later three more siblings—and in both the English and West Indies economies back then, living wasn't easy.
The second time we came to the States I was 15. We returned to Connecticut, where I finished my secondary schooling, then went on to college, and later graduate work. Since then, Connecticut has been my home.
RG: Where in Connecticut do you live now ?
MM: In a small town called Broad Brook, not very far from Hartford.
RG: You must have had a lot of different experiences in all the places you've lived. Tell us about that.
What's interesting about all the different places I've lived is the cultural values. For instance, in England, you are brought up with the idea of being a gentleman, to be polite and courteous and proper. In school we wore ties and uniforms, we stood up when the teacher spoke to us, we said, "Sir" and "Madam."
Discipline was strictest, though, in Jamaica. You had to be very respectful. You never talked back to your parents, and you gave elders great respect. In the United States, life is very different. Here it's about individuality and money. That's certainly not the way it was back in the islands.
RG: A lot of bodybuilders just spend their time bodybuilding, but as a natural bodybuilder I know the financial opportunities are not always out there and that you obviously have to work for a living like the rest of us. What do you do?
RG: I work in Behavioral Health Therapy at a state hospital.
RG: The last time I spoke with you, you were pursuing a third degree, one in elementary education. Is that still in the works?
MM: I have four classes to go for the degree, and I certainly plan to finish, but for now this is on the back burner.
RG: At one point you were teaching art to children.
MM: Yes, at my former job I did that and also I did a little bit of teaching on weekends at a housing project for children who were interested in doing art.
RG: You also do a bit of modeling. How is that working out for you?
MM: I've done a few small things here and there, nothing major, and I've signed up with three different agencies. Right now I am working on getting mainstream exposure. I want to be seen by more people and possibly land some roles in music videos, movies, and TV, as well as in some major magazines.
RG: So will you go “mainstream” if you get your lucky break?
MM: If it offers fame and fortune, consider me there.
RG: Since we’ve touched on the subject of modeling and exposure, do you think men of color receive sufficient exposure on the covers of fitness and bodybuilding magazines?
MM: I'd say there’s sufficient exposure within and on the covers of the major bodybuilding magazines, but it's very rare that you see men of color on the covers of certain health and fitness publications. This has been an ongoing problem because some editors are marketing a certain look. But these magazines are supposed to be about staying fit and having a healthy body. They're read by many different races. It would be nice to see a more varied ethnic representation. Color shouldn't be an issue. If you have what it takes, then you deserve to represent the sport. Maybe in the near future we'll see more people of color.
In bodybuilding, Black athletes are held in the highest regard. They win the majority of contests, and they have many of the best physiques. It's unfortunate that editors frequently give preference to certain races at the expense of others.
RG: How about the world of acting? Are you interested in becoming involved in that?
MM: You bet I am. I've broken out of my introverted mode. I'm not afraid of making a fool of myself and having fun at the same time. In school I took two theater classes, and I enjoyed them very much. I could see myself working as an actor on screen, taking on different roles, preferably as an action hero or in a romantic role.
RG: Morris, as one of the successful natural bodybuilders you're becoming increasingly noticed in the industry....
MM: Yes, but I'm still just an ordinary person who is trying to make it, just like everyone else.
RG: That‘s being modest because I think you know you have everything it takes to succeed. You’re a great champion, a bodybuilder with the complete package, a great physique and a great look, and I see you’re marketing yourself more and more, both in the United States and internationally. So far, you seem to be being very successful.
MM: For the average person or the average bodybuilder, maybe it seems that way, but I've been at this a long, long time, and I'm still looking for my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I'm trying to push my body to its natural limits, and at the same time I am trying to network with more and more people in the hopes that sooner or later I'm going to get my lucky break. I'm persistent, I'm hungry, and I'm not going to give up until I have achieved my goals.
RG: I get a sense that you really like to compete, to guest pose, and to do exercise spreads in magazines. Is this correct?
MM: I love doing all these things. They've enhanced my credibility, and because of them a lot of people are beginning to know who I am in the United States and internationally.
RG: On a somewhat different subject, what’s your diet like on the off-season?
MM: For a bodybuilder, it's terrible. I eat whatever I want. Most people don't believe me but I eat a lot of fast foods. Throughout the day, if I become hungry, I eat. I tend not to make a schedule and eat just because I think I am supposed to. One of my big problems, though, is consuming enough calories to put on more mass. This is really difficult for me. Force feeding myself is an effort. The one thing I have never done right is the off-season part of my diet. During the off-season, I don't eat enough varieties of nutritious, good foods, and I don't eat as much or as often as I should.
RG: You stay lean all year long. Is this true? How long does it take you to prepare for a show?
MM: It takes me about two to three weeks of eating clean, eating six to seven times a day. I also do cardio for about a week before a show. I can do this because I have a metabolism that allows it. Most bodybuilders can't get away with that. I'm really lucky.
RG: Do you normally do cardio throughout the year?
MM: No, only for a week or ten days before the show. However, I am starting to feel that cardio is more important than I previously considered it to be, so I am beginning to do 20 minutes of it three times a week.
RG: What are your competition and off-season weights?
MM: Off-season, I generally range between 206 and 210 pounds. Come show time, I am generally down to 198, and after carbing up I go up to around 202.
RG: If you gained another 20 pounds, do you think this would make your physique better?
MM: For bodybuilding, yes, but for the goal I am striving for, no. Another 20 pounds would prevent me from going mainstream. Advertisers and the general public really don't like the massive look of a lot of professional bodybuilders in the magazines. I want a physique that's between bodybuilding and modeling. When I compete, I want to be able to flex off against the best of them, but if there's a casting call, I might need to drop some weight, and I want to be able to do that quickly and easily. At my present weight, dropping 10 pounds to look more like a model wouldn't be a problem.
RG: What, in your opinion, makes a natural physique look good? Is it sheer mass? Or does it have something to do with aesthetics and a graceful, athletic look?
MM: It's not just about one thing, though there are some who seem to be convinced that it's just sheer size. All three of the things you mentioned count. And also having good genetics is a plus. It comes down to doing your homework in order to be just as competitive as non-natural bodybuilders from head to toe. And when you hit every pose and look just as good, that's when you know you've got an impressive physique.
RG: Obviously you didn't get the physique you have without being critical about the way you look. What do you consider your Achilles heel when it comes to your physique?
MM: Every serious bodybuilder knows that aspects of his physique could be improved. I wish I had bigger calves, bigger arms and a thicker back. I also have to consider the whole idea of symmetry. My physique has a balance, and I have to be careful as I work towards the goals of improving that I don't destroy the balance I've already achieved.
But to answer your question, Rich, in a direction you probably wouldn't suspect, my major weakness lies in my eating habits. It's hard to believe, but I just don't have the time I need to cook. I'm constantly on the go. In that situation, I become lazy. I grab whatever food I find available, and I also rely on protein powders. If I could eat right 100 percent of the time, I would make significantly better gains.
RG: What made you decide you wanted to become a bodybuilder and made you pick up weights in the first place?
MM: My older brother. He had all the old bodybuilding magazines. He also had a few loose weights lying around his room, so we used those to train. We also did sit-ups and push-ups. I had four older brothers to compete with, and all of us wanted to look like the Hulk on the TV show. Even in my earlier childhood days I was competing, and I wanted to be the best possible bodybuilder.
RG: I understand that it wasn't originally your intention to set foot on a bodybuilding stage.
MM: No, it wasn't.
RG: What changed your mind?
MM: I kept hearing that if I competed I would make a big impact. Also, I didn't want to be someone 20 or 30 years from now who would regret never having competed. Since I seemed to have the potential, I decided to take the path and see where it would take me.
RG: Who are your bodybuilding inspirations?
MM: There are actually a couple. As a kid, I wanted to look like a super hero. Muscle magazines introduced me to the physiques of Steve Reeves, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then along came Lee Haney, Flex Wheeler, and Ronnie Coleman. But of all the bodybuilders, the one who has inspired me the most is Shawn Ray.
MM: I met him once, at the 1998 Mr. O. I've read many of his articles, and he has said and done a lot that has inspired me to be as successful as he in the business.
RG: How often do you train, Morris?
MM: Six to seven days a week, two hours a day. I wish bodybuilding could become a full-time job for me, where most of my days all I had to do was eat, sleep, and train and get paid to stay in the gym to keep a great physique. That would be part of an ideal life for me, and you would see incredible gains from me then.
RG You've been training for a long time. Throughout the years. what has kept you consistent?
MM: A number of things—but the one that sticks out most in my mind is when I think back to when I was younger. I remember what I wanted to look like and who I wanted to be. Until now, the bodybuilding lifestyle has been helping me make my dreams reality. I have ambitions, and I'm going to keep going until I realize them.
RG: I'm sure the general pubic would like to know how you built a physique like yours.
MM: There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle, but a big part of it, I have to admit, has to do with genetics. If you have good genetics, then you have something to work with. The rest comes from training your ass off, proper nutrition, being consistent, having a lot of patience, critiquing your posing, reading articles for motivation, and being around people who are supportive.
RG: You're a model for aspiring natural bodybuilders and people who want to have great physiques. How do you feel about being cast in that role?
MM: It's a big responsibility. In some ways I try to be that beacon of light, to direct them away from the dark side of bodybuilding. I try to demonstrate that they can look just as good naturally without using steroids. I also try to enlighten people about why one should adopt the bodybuilding lifestyle, and about proper nutrition and training, keeping motivated, and being consistent.
RG: Who do you feel your physique resembles?
MM: I'd say a smaller version of Flex Wheeler and Shawn Ray.
RG: A lot of aspiring bodybuilders out there would like to know what it’s like to compete. They’d like to follow in your footsteps. They want to know, for instance, what being on stage is like. Can you tell us a little about that?
MM: There are two aspects of it—the hard work and the enjoyment. If you haven't worked really hard in your contest training and preparation, you're going to hate the judge's decisions.
You also need to enjoy performing before an audience. Mentally, you have to walk on stage with the feeling that you're a champion, no matter what the outcome. You have to go out there to show people the results of all your hard work. You also want to have a good time.
RG: You seem to have a great sense of showmanship, Morris.
MM: That's probably because I like entertaining. You know, I'm really nervous at the beginning, but once the nervousness stops I really enjoy being on stage. When you hear the fans applauding, it's such a rush! When you're in the middle of that kind of reception, you find yourself hoping the moment will never end.
RG: How could you ever feel nervous? I mean, you know you look phenomenal. You’re always prepared with a great posing routine. You look as though you're right at home, as though everything you’re doing out there in front of people is easy.
MM: I guess every athlete goes through the same thing. It's just natural.
RG: I've noticed that you're very competitive on-stage. In the lineup, you tend to exploit your competition’s weaknesses by showing your strengths next to them. I've seen a little elbowing and overshadow, though. Is that sheer confidence or Mo being a little cocky?
MM: No, it's sure not being cocky. It's done all in the name of entertainment for the fans. I can always hear them laugh or cheer when they see a little bit of fire on the stage. The IFBB pros do the same thing, and their audiences love it, too. It adds interest and excitement. None of the competitors I've ever competed against has ever taken it personally. We're all on the same page. We all have fun with it.
RG: What's your state of mind on the day of a show?
MM: I'm usually anxious and also totally focused on what lies ahead of me. I am so focused, in fact, that at times I tend to forget other things. I find myself wanting to get the show over with, so I can get back to a regular diet. But I'm also excited, because I want to get onto the stage to show off the results of my hard work.
RG: Do you have something like a ritual that you do every time you compete?
MM: The week of the show, I pose in a locked room that's very warm. I do this to get my body used to the heat of the stage lights. I have posing oil and Hot Stuff in my room, so my senses aren't shocked and surprised on the day of the show. Finally, I watch the movie Pumping Iron. This helps me into the mind set I want—the mindset of going into my competition as a champion and acting like one from start to finish.
RG: How many shows do you compete in during a year?
MM: Usually one or two. Partly that's because I hate having to go through dieting for two weeks.
RG: How many wins have you had overall?
MM: Thirteen overall titles, including Superbody, and three second places.
RG: When did you become involved with Musclemania?
MM: In the year 2000.
RG: So you became a pro in 2000?
MM: Yes, but I never pursued pro competitions.
RG: How many Musclemania shows have you competed in?
MM: About six, including the Superbody show in Miami.
RG: Bodybuilding's in a strange situation these days. There seems to be no unity among the federations. What do you think about the situation we have where the federations don’t seem to get along with each other and, in fact, try to restrict their members from competing in other federations or organizations in addition to their own?
MM: I don't see why competing in a variety of natural bodybuilding federations should ever be a problem unless an athlete has a contract that specifically forbids it.
RG: What other bodybuilding organizations have you competed in?
MM: I did a few NPC and ANBC shows and my fair share of regional regional competitions.
RG: You haven't competed in any other organizations since you began in Musclemania, though, have you?
RG: What are your thoughts about bodybuilding judging and the criteria judges use?
MM: The judging shouldn't be based on who is a veteran in the organization when there's someone better on stage. And the criteria shouldn't be who is the biggest or who the crowd likes the most. The complete physique is what they should be looking for. The judging should be based on a combination of muscle size, symmetry, definition, general aesthetics, and presentation.
RG: So you believe that posing ability and routines should make a difference when adding up an athlete’s score?
MM: These absolutely should be considered. Often, though, they're overlooked. Posing puts the results of all your hard work on display. It's an art form that shows full control of all the muscles, as well as the poser's aesthetic sense. A posing routine should also be entertaining. People are supposed to be entertained by your performance.
RG: What's your attitude towards your not winning a show?
MM: Early on in my competitive days I used to have a negative feeling about not winning because either "politics" were involved or some athletes weren't "natural." In two shows I took it personally. I wasn't happy about that. I didn't have anything against the winner, though, because he was in the same position as a contestant that I was.
My attitude towards these things today, however, is a little different. Everyone loves a winner, and granted it's a tough pill to swallow when you put in a lot of hard work and sacrifices towards your training and this is not rewarded. But as I've learned, in natural bodybuilding winning doesn't produce significant financial rewards. It probably won't launch a great career in the non-bodybuilding world, either. That takes lots of additional hard work and promotion. I know that nothing will stop me from my achieving my goals, however. With this in mind, I'm able to go out there in contests and have fun, because the judges are going to do whatever they do. I'll use the contests as springboards to bigger things.
RG: What's your take on Musclemania 2002 and on the World Musclemania 2004 contests?
MM: As for Musclemania 2002, I came in to do battle and bested my competition in completeness of physique, posing, and professialism. My routine was second to none. At the end of the show, however, there was no cigar—at least not for me. I was told that to win I would really have to knock the champ out. At the World Musclemania 2004, the potential winner of the professional class was either me or Ulisses, Jr. As long as the audience was aware of that, then that's good enough for me.
RG: Do you think you should have won those shows?
MM: Let's just say this—I always come in complete with the whole package, and if you had polled the audiences at those shows and awarded places according to the poll, it would have been different. I probably would have had two more overall titles.
RG: What was your most disappointing show?
MM: Would you believe that they're all the shows I've won?
RG: How is that?
MM: I'm going to have to spill my guts out here.
RG: Go right ahead. That's the sort of thing that makes interviews interesting.
MM: Okay, at the given moment when your hands are raised as number one in the show, and you hear the shouts and applause and congratulations, it's an incredible high because your friends and family and fans are there to witness it. But when it's all said and done, though, my victories have seemed a bit hollow, because I've had no one real special to share them. This was kind of disappointing.
RG: Interesting. Who has been your most challenging opponent?
MM: Myself. I defeat myself when I don't follow through on my diet, and I find doing that quite difficult. My nervousness hinders my performance. I also defeat myself if I don't leave with my head held high no matter what the outcome.
RG: Everyone familiar with Musclemania would like to know if there's a feud between you and Ulisses.
MM: This is a good chance for me to clear that matter up. Ulisses and I are good friends. He's been supportive of me on my quest, and I'm supportive of him. The big thing about us being rivals over the years was something staged for Musclemania 2004. We actually laughed at the idea and thought it was very funny. No, for the record, there's no feud between us. We're just competitors and friends.
RG: Okay, for the fans out there, then, which one of you is the best natural bodybuilder?
MM: I won't claim that I'm the better of the two. Ulisses has his look, and he is good in his own right, and I have mine. From my understanding, the complete physique along with presentation and professionalism is what the judges are looking for. And I pretty much cover all the bases when it comes down to that. I'll leave the decision to the fans.
RG: There was a time when you had difficulty getting into natural bodybuilding shows because some natural bodybuilding organizations didn't believe you were natural. It was evident in one particular show that they deliberately and falsely failed you on the polygraph test. When that happened, what went through your head?
MM: At the time, I felt angry. I felt that they'd targeted me because they had someone in mind they wanted to see win that show. I was a victim of how ugly this sport can get. I'd competed in five shows prior to that one, including Musclemania 2000 a week before, and I had never failed any polygraph test. This also happened in the same contest to the heavyweight winner from Musclemania 2000. That organization (not Musclemania) suspended us both for a year.
RG: You used to work at a hospital, right?
RG: In your early competitive days, you used to have both a urine and blood test done annually, didn't you? And you brought those test results to that same organization, right? What was their reaction to that?
MM: They refused to look at the test results. They said they weren't interested because these weren't the results of their testing me at their show. I asked to take the polygraph test again, and they threatened me by telling me that if I took the test again I would be suspended from their organization for another six years.
RG: What did you say?
MM: I demanded to take the test again.
RG: And what happened?
MM: I failed the test again, according to them. Later, the head officials met with me and told me they didn't want guys like me competing in their shows, winning, and then going off to other organizations.
RG: You had already signed the contest release and contract before all this happened, hadn't you?
MM: Yes. Unfortunately, that's one of the first things you sign when you enter a competition, and it never crossed my mind that something like this could happen, so there was nothing I could do after that.
RG: What do you think about polygraph testing?
MM: It's definitely not 100% accurate. False positives result from nerves, from stress, from any number of small things other than actually having taken steroids. One of those false positives could be used against you in many ways. It's also true that some competitors are such good liars that they can beat the test.
RG: Should contestants be urine tested right then and there at contests?
MM: At some shows, they march the top four or five competitors in each class right offstage and get urine samples. My feeling is that if you're associated with a particular association, then that association should do random testing throughout the year, testing without notice to any of the competitors. Yes, it's going to cost money, but if they're serious about keeping their organizations natural, this is one way it should be done. I doubt, though, that that will ever happen.
RG: How do you feel about the way some organizations allow athletes who were past users of steroids or growth hormone to compete against people who have been 100% natural all their lives?
MM: I'm against that, but it's very difficult to enforce. After a certain time period, steroids can't be detected in someone's urine, but you can still see the signs of steroid use in their physiques. Despite this, they're still allowed to compete in natural shows. This isn't fair to the 100% natural bodybuilder because they often can't win or place against these athletes.
RG: Have you ever experimented or even thought about using performance-enhancing drugs ?
MM: I'm sure most natural bodybuilders have thought about it, and I'm no exception. Have I ever experimented with steroids or growth hormone? Let me say it loud and clear: NO!
The closest I ever got to that was one time after I took second in an NPC show, and people kept telling me I should have placed first. A lot of the other guys in that show were huge—and it was clear to me that they hadn't gotten that way by eating baked potatoes, chicken breasts, and broccoli. I kept thinking that if only I had been bigger, I would have won. I had a friend who used steroids, and he told me where I could get some. I'm definitely not a fan for needles, though, so he told me about oral steroids. My mind was set to try them until my stepfather, a past bodybuilder, had a talk with me and made me come to my senses. He pointed out that I didn't need them, and said that people were taking steroids to get what I already had. In other words, he told me that "If it ain't broken, don't fix it."
RG: Okay, so let me ask you this one, that a number of fans want to know: If a top professional organization wanted to sign you to a contract with big financial benefits, and taking steroids was necessary to fulfill their criteria, would you consider using sports enhancement drugs?
MM: Maybe, under two circumstances: 1) If by some miracle they could arrange to give me a new body as good as my present one if the drugs ruined my health; and 2) if the contract was in the six-figure range.
RG: What are your thoughts about Congress, drugs, and bodybuilding ?
MM: There's a huge amount of cleaning up to do in sports, and when they finally get serious about it, they're going to come crashing down on the heart of it all: bodybuilders.
RG: What advice would you give to aspiring competitive bodybuilders?
MM: First, they should ask themselves if it is worth risking their health just to look big. I don't condemn people who use steroids, understand, but just realistically if you're not ranked as one of the top ten or perhaps twenty professional bodybuilders in the world, you're going to be struggling just to make a name for yourself and a living. For a very uncertain future, you'd be putting your health on the line. Is this worth it? I don't think so.
Second, they should watch out for predators, people who claim that they can do this or that for you. These people sometimes offer lots of cash, but they rarely deliver. Don't get trapped by money offers.
RG: What do you mean by that? Isn't a decent financial living what every bodybuilder wants?
MM: Yes, but new, upcoming bodybuilders are often very hungry for exposure. They'll jump on any offer, especially if there's money involved. My advice is to get everything in writing, in a contract, before committing to anything. Make sure your stipulations are clearly stated in the contract, and get a lawyer to look it over. You want to avoid having something you didn't anticipate suddenly jump out of a situation and ruin your career.
RG: Mo, how do you plan to make your mark on the bodybuilding world?
MM: I want to be known as one of the best professional, natural bodybuilders in the sport,. I want my success, accomplishment, and hard work to set a path for other aspiring bodybuilders to follow. I also want to be known as a great ambassador for the sport.
RG: Where do you see yourself going in the bodybuilding industry? Where would you like it to take you?
MM: With God's help, I want to be tops in international bodybuilding. I want to be in commercials, in magazines, on TV shows, and eventually in the movies.
RG: So you want to be like Arnold?
MM: No. I don't want to be governor, maybe president.
RG: You recently got a contract with Nutrabolics, the supplement and nutrition company. What are you expecting to result from this?
MM: As well as cutting down on supplement and other expenses at contest time, I'm expecting a good two-year relationship with plenty of exposure in the major bodybuilding magazines.
RG: Morris, what do you think about the current financial situation of natural, professional bodybuilders compared to that of the IFBB pros?
MM: It could be a lot better. We put in the same training time and effort, we diet just as strenuously, and we make some of the same sacrifices they do, so it would be good if natural organizations and sponsors could offer incentives financially more rewarding than what's out there right now. Natural bodybuilders offer a realistic model for the average person. With them as role models, a lot moré people would enter the sport. With more publicity, aspiring bodybuilders could learn that they don't have to go over to "the Dark Side."
RG: What do you see as the future of bodybuilding?
MM: With Congress coming down on athletes and sports organizations about steroids and performance-enhancing drugs, I see a possible turning point at which natural bodybuilding can take over the sport. Its steroid counterpart may eventually fizzle away. The steroid game will never go out of existence, but I think it will decrease a lot. In the near future, the standard of bodybuilding will probably come back to reality. People will look more human and more healthy. That will be great.
But the downside to bodybuilding may well remain the same—there's very little money in it compared to other sports. Whether that will ever change, I don't know.
RG: We've discussed a lot of aspects of bodybuilding, but I think your readers and fans want to know more about you, about Mo, the person offstage. What's your favorite pastime?
MM: I like to hang out with friends and see my family. I like being involved in my art. I like to dress up and go out. But two of my top five favorites are to be totally by myself once in a while and to travel. I love traveling, which is why I especially enjoy guest posing gigs in foreign countries.
RG: I know lots of pro bodybuilders who go off somewhere to guest pose, and as soon as their contractual obligations are over they get onto a plane and leave just as fast as they can. They seem to show no interest in the places they visit. What is it about travel that fascinates you?
MM: I want to see as much as I can of this big, old planet. It's a beautiful place. Guest posing has allowed me to see a bit of it. I love investigating local cultures. And I enjoy investigating the history of these places, too. I love meeting local people. Each new place has opened my eyes to different things. Each has changed me and made me grow spiritually and intellectually. And each has made me appreciate some aspects of home even more.
RG: What's the favorite place you've visited so far?
MM: That's a tough one. Each place is unique and has its own wonderful qualities. I've learned a lot through my travel experiences. But I have to say that my favorite places always have a beach.
RG: What kind of person are you, Morris? A lot of bodybuilders seem totally focused on themselves. What about you?
MM: I try to consider other people. I try to lend a helping hand when I can, and, if it's needed, to give good advice. I've got my faults just like everyone else, but I try my best to do good. I'm sure not perfect, but then who is?
I have a lot of other interests besides bodybuilding, too. One of them is art. I really love beauty of all sorts. I appreciate it very much. I suppose I have something of an artistic temperament. I was especially creative in my younger days in a whole bunch of different artistic media, including paper, clay, drawing, painting, and woodwork.
RG: What would you like people to know about your personality?
MM: I think I'm basically a nice, friendly person with a sense of humor and with good heart. I hope that's how people will see me.
RG: You've told us about your bodybuilding aspirations, but what are your personal goals? What do you want out of life?
MM: I hope some day to be a husband, a good father, and like everyone else to have a successful career and to enjoy the fruits of my labors.
RG: Who or what inspires you?
MM: Innovators and leaders inspire me. I admire people like that. They motivate me. I also admire people who come from nothing and who battle and overcome obstacles on the way to success. I have family and a few good friends who help me grow intellectually and spiritually, and I really appreciate this. I'm really concerned with spiritual growth.
RG: How do you think the general public regards you as a bodybuilder and as a person?
MM: Sometimes people who don't know me see me only as a bodybuilder, and the questions start coming about training and nutrition., That happens just about anywhere I go. That's fine, but I don't want the bodybuilding part of my life to replace everything else. I like to answer questions, and I enjoy telling people my story, but some people don't realize that for me—and probably for a lot of bodybuilders—bodybuilding isn't 24/7 my only concern. My character, my social life, my occupation, and other matters of interest are also important to me. And, you know, sometimes people who are miserable target everyone else with negativity and try to tear them down. I occasionally find that I'm their target. Just like everyone else, I get good and bad reactions from the world, and I have to deal with whatever comes along.
RG: Mo, let me throw out a few words and see your immediate reaction to them. Let's start with dieting.
MM: I hate it. That's why one or two shows a year is good enough for me.
RG: Mo at 216 pounds.
MM: Very impressive, good for bodybuilding, but at my height too much muscle for mainstream, and my suits will cost more.
RG: Ronnie Coleman.
MM: A new species. Unbelievable.
MM: An event where you meet people and have fun. It's entertaining and a good way to get exposure, plus a great way to show the world the results of your hard work.
RG: When skeptics claim you’re not natural.
MM: I'd be damned if I weren't a natural bodybuilder, and I am damned because I am. This is just something I have to deal with that I no longer let bother me.
RG: Ulisses, Jr.
MM: One of the best natural bodybuilders—and always a competitive threat.
RG: If you are not training, you are...
MM: Either at work, or at home, painting drawing, watching movies, or planning my next trip.
RG: How would you best describe yourself.
MM: I'm not just a bodybuilder and nothing else. I feel that I'm a well-rounded person.
RG: Mo, how do you plan to make your mark on the world?
MM: The one thing I am sure about is that I can be a good educator, especially in regards to living a healthy lifestyle in this sport of bodybuilding.
RG: What valuable lesson has life taught yo ?
MM: Patience is a virtue, but one has to be active participant in life, committed to one's goals.
RG: If I were to ask you what things you like, what would they be?
MM: Well, besides what most men like, which are beautiful women, fast cars, traveling, good food, etc., etc., I like unity, equality, and world peace among people.
RG: What things don't you like?
MM: Racism. War. Poverty.
RG: What to you are turn-ons and turn-offs?
MM: Turn-ons for me seem to relate to people. I like genuine people, people who are beautiful both inside and out. I like consistency, among other things.
Turn-offs to me include people who are more façade than real, people who are inconsistent, people who make extravagant promises that they never deliver on. But of course there are many more, too.
RG: Are you one of the best natural bodybuilders or are you the best?
MM: I think I've firmly earned my place in the books as one of the best natural bodybuilders.
RG: Okay, Morris, what's next in life for you? Do you have any special plans for 2006?
MM: Within the next 12 months, I want to come out with my own personal manual about bodybuilding, including my biography, training advice, and general thoughts. I also want to produce one or more videos. I already have most of one already shot. I want to continue making contacts and seeing if I can get into modeling, acting, and other media.
RG: Got any last thoughts you'd like to share with us before we end this interview?
MM: I'd like to mention that I really enjoy the actual activity of bodybuilding. I'd like to remind young and aspiring bodybuilders that it's the journey one has to enjoy, not just the final destination. Each stop on my bodybuilding journey has taught me a lot of valuable things both about myself and about life, things I'm sure I'll implement as long as I live.. I value my hard work and time in the gym because all of my other values in life arise and flow from it.
And, of course, I'd like to say a big thanks to all my friends and fans and family and bodybuilding maniacs for believing in me. If you haven't actually competed yourself, you probably cannot imagine how important these people are.
RG: Morris, thanks for your time. I know we're going to be seeing a lot of you, not just in ads in the bodybuilding magazines, but I think in the mainstream press. Good luck with your future endeavors.