Alex Reid is not your ordinary businessman. Several actors become businessmen, but few are also ex-paratroopers. Few are MMA fighters. Few are winners of Celebrity Big Brother too. Yet, Alex has combined all these walks of life over a storied career, a complicated narrative weaved by the man himself. He openly admits to being a performer in every sense of the word; be it onstage, in the ring or in front of the cameras. When Mantality’s John Mojsa meets him to catch up and talk the media perception of his career, he discovers that there is a lot more perspective to the man that the tabloids show.
Alex, most people know you from what the tabloids have said over the years. With that said, what was your upbringing like, and how did it lead you to where you are today?
I had a very liberal upbringing. I was allowed to express my creativeness, which I think has made me the man I am today. I always wanted to be a superhero or Peter Pan and that is still the essence of how I live my life today. The reason the press in the past have had a field day with me is because I am very childlike. Don’t get that mistaken for being childish because there is a huge difference. I always look for the positive side of everything and have an innocence that can be misconstrued easily. As an ex-paratrooper, I’m very outspoken; our motto is that every man’s an emperor. You’re trained to be a superhero there, so I never took a step back with the press.
I always like to work hard but having a ‘real job‘ never excited me. For this reason, I got into acting; I could express my creative side and get paid for it. I was bullied a lot in school and so I majorly looked up to actors like Bruce Lee, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Sly Stallone. That made me want to act even more. That also helped me take the route of marital arts, I wanted to defend myself against bullies and emulate my heroes.
This leads me on to my life’s purpose. My goal now is to use all the painful lessons I have been through to further the positivity other people. Fitness has always been a mainstay in my life and that is why I have started my new business, Alex Reid PT. I’m using my business as an engine to breed positivity from pain. I show people to see the pain as an engine, to become the best versions of themselves.
“Martial arts is relaxing, as you feel superior or superhuman; not in an egotistic way but in a spiritual way”
Most people don’t know this but you’re are a qualified actor and studied at Guildford School of acting, what made your decision to move away from acting and into the MMA scene?
First and foremost, I am a performer and entertainer. As I said from a very young age, I always wanted to be a creative superhero and earn that glory. The glory that Bruce Lee has was what I strived for, the glory of a warrior. I don’t see myself as an actor, I see myself as a performer. I am a performer in all aspects of my life. There were parts of my life that I am not proud of and parts of myself that I didn’t like; to that, performing was like a drug, it was an escape from reality. Becoming a cage fighter was just another role to take on.
Most people know you from MMA and my first question regarding that is this; what does martial arts mean to you and how do you think it can add to the lives of people positively?
I am an artist, not a fighter and martial arts helps me perform. I left the army so I didn’t have to hurt people anymore. MMA gives me confidence. Look at Jiu Jitsu; you could have a seven-foot-tall powerful guy on top of you trying to strangle you. Most people would go crazy and try their hardest to break free. Doing that burns all your energy but with Jiu Jitsu, you have to completely relax and control your body to be able to win the bout. It’s like a game of chess and you can use that in every aspect of your life once you have learnt it.
Martial arts is relaxing, as you feel superior or superhuman; not in an egotistic way but in a spiritual way. You know that as long as you are relaxed, focused and assertive, you can win any situation. I am now working with a project where I go into delinquent schools in North London to teach the kids the platform to use their energy in a positive way. It’s a great tool to raise self-esteem and team work. Remember, on the MMA mat, religion and gender do not matter. A white belt is a white belt and a black belt is a black belt; that is how you learn respect.
As a MMA fighter, your main focus is on physical health; but we have read some of your posts on mental health and know you work on your that just as much. What do you do to improve it?
I am huge on hypnotherapy, I do it all the time with my therapist Louise Phillips. I do lots of NLP (neuro – linguistic programming), meditation and so on. I think it is very important right now to continually work on your mental health. There is a massive taboo around it; I see people from all walks of life, with signs or signals of having a mental health issue but they won’t admit it and in turn won’t help themselves. MMA by nature strengthens your mind; otherwise you don’t last and that is why it is such a great tool to use to have fun, get fit and strengthen your mental health.
In 2011, you retired from MMA but then recently returned in July 2016 to fight with against Manuel Garcia. How was that for you mentally and are you going to fight again?
I have retired on a few occasions. But fighting is like a drug. It’s the highest high and lowest low so I retire and then immediately want to come back once the dust settles. It scares the crap out of me, every time before I fight. I’m in the changing room asking myself why I am doing this again, and then I hear the roar of the crowd. Then I’m fine and ready to go to war.
With this fight, it was a very weird and frustrating experience. I was screwed over by the promoter; I was more a less being a promoter myself selling tickets and dropping them of outside the 02 Arena. I was about to fight in front of 20,000 people and millions across the world, and I was outside the venue, selling tickets, thinking I had another few hours till my fight. Then I got a call saying I was on in thirty minutes. I had no equipment on me and I lost the plot. I hadn’t warmed up or anything; I had to run to my hotel to get my kit bag. Then I’d forgotten my MMA fighter’s pass in the changing rooms, so the security at the 02 wouldn’t let me in. It was a nightmare. I was mentally unprepared which is never a good place to be in before a big fight. I want to fight again for sure but this time I want to make sure my body is in optimum health so I can really thrive.
Do you feel like you missed out on anything by being an MMA fighter and then again in the limelight over the past few years?
My whole adult life, I have always felt like he was being pulled from one to the other, acting to fame to relationships to MMA. My first MMA fight was in 1998 and I was the first pioneer of the sport in the UK. I was also doing this alongside acting professionally, and was actually told to stop MMA because it was taking over my life. The problem I had was money. It is very hard to make money regularly at the start of an acting career, so whilst all the other students were practicing Shakespeare and the such, I was cage fighting and performing MMA to make ends meet.
When I got some more serious roles, I felt like I had to retire from MMA. I had my last professional fight on a Sunday afternoon, and on Monday morning I had my first day on the set of Hollyoaks. I was very lucky to not have a black eye, otherwise I would have been in major trouble!
I missed fighting so much. I couldn’t go to the gym to spar; I could only do cardio training because I could have lost my work contract which would have been stupid. I do kind of regret pursuing fame over martial arts, but life is what it is and making mistakes is part of that. I look at the UFC sometime and believe I could have been a contender but life gave me a different box of chocolates and I’ve made the most out of it.
You have had your life documented by most British tabloids for the past six years, through good and bad. What are the life lessons you have learnt from the experiences?
Be careful who you trust. I’ve had a lot of fair-weather friends; people wanted to use me, wanted to make a quick buck out of me. I was very innocent and just did not see it. I do wish I could go back in time and give myself some better advice because I had no one to give me it. I guess that is part of life; learning from negatives to use them positively. I wish I had used that time in the limelight to build something more solid. I did lots of quick things to make money, but now I realise that the thing that made me strong, grounded and sane throughout the whole experience was health and fitness. It helped me with depression, it helped me move past the tough times and now I want to share that with other people. That’s why I have set up Alex Reid Training. The biggest lesson is all the pain I have suffered has made me a stronger and better person. I learned patience, perseverance and to use the law of attraction.
You have had some really talked about relationships in the past but now you are happily engaged and look to have settled down, what does a healthy relationship mean to you and what does that look like?
I have to give raps to my lovely wonderful fiancé because she has had to suffer the wrath of my past relationships. I found it hard to trust and I am so guarded that it was hard to let her in. Now the test of time has proven that the love and kindness we have for each other is what makes us work. One of the keys to our relationship is something I spoke about before, being childlike. We are silly, we have fun; we try to be light-hearted and we both have that innocence. We have serious conversations too, but we make sure that life isn’t so serious.
In 2010 you entered the Celebrity Big Brother House, what was it that made you want to go into a place that could make you or break you?
It was a huge moment for me. I will be honest, the night before, I was not going to go in. My mindset coach said that I owed it to myself to go in and show the public the real me. If I didn’t, I’d regret it for the rest of my life. Before going in, I was not a popular person because of the way the tabloids portrayed me. My main goal was not to win; I went in to boos, I was 40/1 to win and it was not on my mind. My main goal was to come out to cheers. So when 20 million people watched the final and I got the highest wining vote in Big Brother history, it made me very proud.
You have just started your own fitness business which, I have to say, looks awesome. What is the back story? How did starting an online business come to fruition?
It is the one thing that has helped me get through negative times and the thing I can rely on for happiness. A.R.T (Alex Reid Training) has a realistic approach to health, fitness and nutrition. Our goal is to guide individuals and teach them how to be self-sufficient. We change habits in a manageable way and show that exercise and nutrition can be enjoyable whilst eating the foods you like. The sustainability of a 24/7 personal trainer in your pocket can achieve results beyond that of a more short-term, pricier option.
When you look to the future – let’s say five years from now – what would Alex Reid Training look like in a perfect world?
I want personal trainers all over the country, training centres, best-selling books, ARMA, and ARMAK – Alex Reid Martial Arts For Kids.
What are you going to be offering?
A.R.T is an online platform for online, phone, tablet or computer-based personal training and nutrition, where clients get a personal membership account and phone app. It’s aimed to reach out to people who want a financially sustainable, flexible and effective PT and nutrition plan, with full professional support and guidance. We have a team of highly qualified trainers who specialise in a variety of health and fitness aspects, from strength and conditioning to weight loss, martial arts to nutrition. Our in-house health and nutrition specialist can test for intolerances and has also published articles and is currently studying for a PhD.
It’s also designed for individuals who may want to exercise without going to a gym, or who want to build confidence through exercise and following a structured plan. Due to all our plans being tailored and each client having access to their very own online personal trainer, we are available and effective for everyone, no matter what background they have, their current level of fitness or their goals.
Thanks to Alex for chatting to Mantality about his past, present and future. His life story is unique and one we can all take inspiration and motivation from. You can check out Alex via social media at @alexreid and @alexreidpt and his website at www.alexreditraining.com.