The IFBB Pro League is best known for its athletes and rightly so, but there are many supporting players who help ensure the competitions run as smoothly as they do. Some of these individuals serve in multiple roles in various locations throughout the year. You may not know their names but the overall experience of being at a show is maximized thanks to these hard working people.
One of those people is Tony Roberts, a man who wears many hats in the industry. The promoter, organizer, and expeditor of competitions can be seen on many shows, from regional NPC shows to the Olympia, where he's been supporting the world's top athletes since 2016. A good job is when you don't even realize he's there.
Courtesy of Tony Roberts
"It's an honor to be on this stage in any role. I said to myself, "One day I want to work on this show," Roberts said every year about his work at the Olympia. "But when you're up there, you want to make sure the league looks good, the athletes look good, the stage is polished, and you just want to keep the show going."
This mindset and professionalism can be directly linked to his service in the US Army. The Nashville, TN native is a first-generation Service member, but that doesn't mean his family didn't inspire him to join. He made the decision to join the military because he didn't want to burden his mother to help him get through college.
"I actually had to get my mom to sign for me because I was still in high school," said Roberts, who was 16 at the time. "We didn't have the means to go to college, but I wanted to do something. So that led me to the military.”
Roberts enlisted in the US Army and served 21 years. His career had several highlights, but when asked about his most important moment, he remembered it like it was yesterday.
"That's when I met my drill sergeant, Staff Sergeant Newkirk. At the age of 17, seeing his demeanor, discipline, and leadership skills, I told myself I wanted to be a drill sergeant,” Roberts recalls. He could see firsthand what that would look like, because Newkirk assigned Roberts to clean his office every day during basic training.
"I just started emulating him and doing things the way he did. He influenced me very, very much. He set the tone for me and my military career.”
Roberts would cite these lessons learned during his tenure as the most valuable. His goal would be fulfilled as he would eventually become a drill sergeant himself, which would be the rank he held when his playing career ended in 2002. Roberts received the Army Commendation Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, and others along the way. The next chapter of his life would be more focused on another passion he developed - bodybuilding and fitness. His commitment to personal physical excellence came while attempting to improve on the Army physical fitness test.
"The test was a bit harder then than it is today," he recalls. "Whatever the top grade was back then, I wanted to get the maximum out of it."
This drive carried over into his pursuits of training and business. At the gym, Robert's physique improved so dramatically that he was asked if he bought a gym anywhere. He had worked as a trainer during his service and became a personal trainer after retiring from the military.
“I realized that I can motivate people,” he says. He also decided that he wanted to take himself to a new level and he found this in the form of competing in bodybuilding.
"I started looking at Flex and Muscle & Fitness magazines because back then you could get full programs including training and nutrition," he explained. He also had someone close by to turn to, IFBB Pro Don Long.
"He would say, 'Tony, here's what you need to do,' and he recommended all of these suggestions to me. So in 2000 I attended my first NPC show in Reston, VA. I won overall on my first show, and I won that [competition] Insect."
He never turned pro, but Roberts enjoyed being at the shows and wanted to support the sport and the athletes in it. He would start helping the Maryland NPC Chairman on shows, gaining more experience in the process.
"I delivered, I gave awards, I did everything," he said. Eventually, he was mentored by legendary promoter Gary Udit and Rick Bayardi to promote competition and support athletes in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) area. Competitions he promotes include the Armed Forces Nationals and NPC Battle Royale.
"I have to give all my success and my place in the fitness world to Gary and Rick," he humbly admitted. "
Courtesy of Tony Roberts
He also has strong support at home in the form of his wife Viktoria Grygorian. Aside from her own military experience and competitive background, Roberts credited her with being a perfect match both professionally and personally.
"As far as the business in the house is concerned, we noticed very quickly that we work very well together," he says proudly. “Personally, she helps me when I go to job fairs because she found that I don't stop to rest or eat. So she reminded me to take a break or bring me food during the day. I noticed that I recovered faster as a result.”
Roberts, along with all the people he is proud of and works with, has achieved a lot and made a profound impact on many people who follow our industry, but he is a forward thinker and he has his eyes on what is ahead, including the 2022 NPC Armed Forces Nationals and NPC Battle Royale competitions scheduled to take place on October 1st in Alexandria, VA. These events are significant to him as they combine both his military connection and his current role in bodybuilding. At the end of the day, both make sense because of what Roberts cares about most—service to others.
"You take care of your people, they take care of you."