Mat Fraser Told Joe Rogan How His First CrossFit Competition Began as a Bet

Recently-retired CrossFit legend Mat Fraser sat down with Joe Rogan in the latest episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, now filmed and recorded inside Rogan’s new Texas studio, which appears to be either a retro bomb bunker or a leftover set from A Clockwork Orange.

Fraser, the winningest competitor in CrossFit history, became the first athlete to capture five titles (in consecutive years, no less) in 2020. But, as he told Rogan, his CrossFit journey began somewhat begrudgingly.

Fraser first started training in a CrossFit gym in 2012. “I just gained the freshman fifteen,” he said of his first year in college in 2012. “So I was like, ‘Alright, either I need to start working out again or change my diet.’ So I started working out.”

Originally, Fraser looked for an Olympic weightlifting gym. He had been on an Olympic weightlifting track as a teenager, but later injured his back on a clean-pull in Romania. Successive surgeries saved his athletic career, though he later left the sport to study engineering. Unable to find an Olympic gym, Fraser turned to CrossFit, because the gym had similar equipment. “I introduced myself, like, ‘Hey, I don’t want to do your CrossFit thing. I’ll be in the back room just doing clean-and-jerks and squats,” Fraser remembered.

Eventually, other gym-goers convinced Fraser to try some of the exercises. Fraser said the owner of the gym even signed him up for his first competition. The two made a deal that if he paid Fraser’s entry fee and Fraser won, Fraser would use the money to buy CrossFit shoes—Fraser’s inadequate attire something of a running joke in the gym.

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“I won the competition, got a couple hundred bucks, and I was like, ‘Yo this is kind of cool,’ he remembered. “It was just pocket money for a college kid,” Fraser, who said he was broke in college, then began wondering: Are there more competitions like this? Fraser began driving around the Northeast looking for competitions. “If there was prize money at the competition, I was signing up,” he said.

After he graduated college in 2016, his success in competitions allowed him to pursue the sport full time. From Fraser’s perspective, finding himself at the World Championships was an experience first gradual and then very sudden. “I was like: Oh, shit, how did I get here?”

Not bad for an Olympic gym backup plan.

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