Animal: So Ox, what was the first thought that ran through your mind when you heard your name announced as the 2011 Flex Pro champion?
Evan “Ox” Centopani: “Holy shit, I did it.” Right after that thought, I asked myself, “How do I keep doing this?”
Animal: Because of the Arnold, you have to keep doing this. Did you give yourself a break and have a cheat meal at all? What was the first thing you ate after the show?
Evan : The first thing I ate after the show? Two bowls of fresh fruit. Three of my friends — two guys from my gym and P.J. — came out to support me so after the show, I bought them all dinner. We went to a diner on the main drag. They all hit it up big on my dime. Me, knowing better from mistakes I’ve made in the past, I rehydrated. So the very first thing I had was half a gallon of water and some fruit — watermelon, melon, grapes. You wanna hear something crazy? When I’m dieting, I crave fruit. The next morning, I went over to the Firehouse and I had two steaks smothered in ketchup, a stack of pancakes (with syrup), and a tall glass of orange juice. That’s it. Then I had a photo shoot, and during that shoot, one of the assistants got me some food from In-N-Out Burger — two double-doubles with lettuce, tomatoes, and a side of fries. Oh, with lots and lots of ketchup. I love ketchup.
Animal: Along those lines, does the idea of having an “undefeated streak” as a pro have special significance to you?
Evan : Not nearly as much as the fact that I’ve improved in every show I’ve competed in. This means a lot more to me. But yeah, the streak is certainly cool.
Animal: At what point did you start believing you could actually win this show?
Evan : After seeing Dexter for the first time backstage on Saturday morning. He’s a 3-time Arnold champion and an Olympia winner. Though I’ve watched him compete, I’ve never stood beside him. At pre-judging, we were set to go on stage together. As I was standing next to him, I was amazed by his incredible musculature and how he could pack on so much muscle on his small frame. But at the same time, I was bigger than him. This gave me a real confidence boost. I didn’t feel as filled in as Dexter, or as complete as him, but I felt like I could hang with him because of my size advantage.
Animal: Speaking of backstage, what was the mood like among the competitors?
Evan : I thought there was a really good vibe back there. Every time I’ve competed, as cheesy as it sounds, I’m really nervous. So I really look forward to meeting the guys and breaking the ice. I like it when there’s a sense of camaraderie. I don’t think I’m the most competitive person. I don’t want to have more than the next guy, just to have more than him. I just want what I want. Some of the bodybuilders, they look at each other they like are enemies. I think this kind of mentality is lame. We’re all in this together and we should support one another. It’s hard enough doing this alone as bodybuilding is such an individual sport. At some point, all the work is done. There’s nothing more anyone can do. So you might as well make some friends while you’re waiting.
Animal: So did you get a chance to talk to Dexter too?
Evan : Yeah. Now I’m going to be honest here. I didn’t have a high opinion of him based on what I’ve read or heard about him. I had a certain perception of him in my mind. We’re all guilty of doing this, right? Well, I introduced myself to him and after we started talking, it was all gone. The funny thing is, we both admitted we didn’t much like each other. But backstage, at that moment, we connected. After speaking with him, my perception of him changed. Dexter is as a classy guy who handles himself like a true champion. I hope he left our conversation understanding my level of respect for him. If I can accomplish half of what he has as a bodybuilder and a person, I’d be thrilled.
Animal: Did you go into the show with any specific goal? Other than say, winning it?
Evan : My main goal was to go into the show with a significantly improved package over my performance at the New York Pro. I’d be content knowing I improved. Before pre-judging though, I believed I could do well because of the prep that had gone into it. Backstage, Dexter looked incredible. But after pre-judging, a lot of people came up to me, telling me that I really nailed it and that I could beat him. Whenever I hear this, I always laugh to myself, “Are they just saying this to be nice?” Until everything is done and over, I never believe it. To answer your question, I knew that I’d have to first beat Dexter to win the show.
Animal: And so you did. So who was the first person you called after the win?
Evan : Right after I won, I saw my posing coach and buddy, Kenny Wallach from Gold’s Gym back home. Darren Montanari, one of the owners of the gym, was also there. I remember the three of us looking at each other like, “Can you believe this just happened?” We were all grinning ear to ear. We all hugged. It was great. As soon as I got my phone, I called my fiancée, Erica. I said to her, “I did it.” She said to me, “I’m excited but not surprised. I told you that you’d win.” Like I said earlier, a lot of people tell me things, but I never believe it. Did she say this because she really believes it or because she loves me? Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe I’m too skeptical. Even if all the IFBB judges walked up to me after a show and told me I’d win, I wouldn’t believe it until I had that trophy in my hands.
Animal: I hope you believe it now. What was the single biggest thing you did differently between this show and the New York Pro?
Evan : Easy. I ate a lot more… A lot more carbohydrates in the form of mainly potatoes and rice. It helped fuel my training, keep my muscles full and kept my bodyweight up. Eating more also helped with my metabolism too — this time around, I rarely had to do any more than 30 minutes of cardio per day. Training-wise, I’ve always trained hard. Maybe I trained harder, I dunno. I guess you’re always trying to beat yourself in the gym.
Animal: So the diet was the biggest thing?
Evan : Yeah. That and my mental approach to the show. During my prep the last time around, I worked with Oscar Ardon. One of the greatest gifts he ever gave me was the courage to believe in myself, to listen to myself and not to others. To this day, I remember his words.
Animal: Speaking of mental preparation, when you’re preparing to step on stage, do you say or repeat anything to yourself positive?
Evan : Two things. First, “Nothing worth doing is easy.” That’s on my Animal t-shirt and in my sig. Second, “The outer world of circumstance shapes itself to the inner world of thought.” What do I mean by that? The belief you hold in your mind and heart, they can shape your external circumstances. What you believe and think can change the world. For example, some days when you get out of bed and you’re feeling good, you walk by people and smile at them. They know you’re feeling positive because of the vibes you are emitting. This positivity that you send out has a way of coming back to you.
Animal: So now that your back home, when is your next workout and what will you be hitting?
Evan : All day yesterday, I was at a photo shoot. I worked out pretty hard for that. Tonight, now that I’m back, I’ll be training my upper body — probably shoulders and arms.
Animal: Did your experiences at the Flex Pro teach you anything that can benefit you at the Arnold?
Evan : This show gave me a tremendous confidence boost. I chose to do this show on my own. I wanted to control my own destiny from start to finish. Aside from my training partners, Chris and Tony, and my friend Kenny, who helped me with my posing, I called all the shots. I didn’t have a trainer. I didn’t use a nutritionist. It was all me. Like Oscar told me, I have to listen to myself and have courage in my own abilities. If I could do this on my own and succeed, I know I can encourage others too. I always tell people, there is no magic pill that will make you successful. Only you can allow yourself to succeed… Or fail. Remember, no one knows you more than yourself. You can and need to rely on yourself. There is no cavalry that will come and save the day.
Animal: Any big changes to your diet between now and the Arnold?
Evan : Not really. Day by day, I’ll see where I’m at and make adjustments. I came home this morning and my bodyweight was down so I’ll have to eat differently. At this point, it’s a day-by-day thing. Right now, I have no plan. Tomorrow, things may be different and I’ll adjust again.
Animal: So has it all sunk in yet? The win?
Evan : Well, people always ask me questions like, “How does this or that feel?” I never know how to answer that. Has this win sunk in yet? I don’t know. I don’t think my whole life has sunk in yet. I’ve experienced so many things, so many things I’m grateful for. So nothing has set in for me. Every time I accomplish something, I think I might be able to say it’s all finally sunk in. But that never happens. I’m perpetually on to the next thing… Another day, another challenge.
Animal: Are you glad to be back home?
Evan : You can’t begin to imagine. You don’t know how good it felt to get off that plane at JFK. No matter where I go, there’s no better feeling in the world than getting in your car to drive home. No mater where you go, there’s no place like it. It’s because… I mean, it’s great to go some place and win and to have a good experience. But home is full of the people you love and the people who love you. That’s so important to me. There’s absolutely nothing better than to be around the people who you care about it. It energizes me. Before leaving for the Flex Pro, I wrote Erica, my fiancee a card and in it, I wrote this quote: “He who would accomplish little, must sacrifice little. He who would achieve much, must sacrifice much. He who would attain highly, must sacrifice greatly.” I also wrote in the card that through all the sacrifices I have had to make to be the best, she has always been there to sacrifice, beside me. I know it’s not easy for her and how much it takes out of her… In that card, I promised her that it would all be worth it in the end.
Animal: That’s such a great sentiment. Do you have any last words of advice?
Evan : In this life, you have to go get what you want. When you get out of bed in the morning, you’ve gotta know there are only two ways – your way or the highway. No one is going to give you a free pass or a handout. Nothing in life worth having is free. Everything you want, you have to work for. If you live your life thinking that someone else will take care of you, save you, or guide you to where you wanna go and who you’re gonna be, you’re going to find yourself stranded. I have a child set to come into the world in July. I’ve gotta say, I’m really excited and really scared. When he or she is old enough to understand my words, this is what I want to share, what I want my child to learn and understand. I believe this is so important.