Men's Physique Division fans may be familiar with the name Xavisus Gayden, having been an IFBB Pro League athlete for several years. He finished 8th on the Olympia stage and will likely end up on that stage again in the future. What these fans may not know is that Gayden made history when he competed on this stage in 2014. Gayden was the first active duty United States Marine to compete on the Olympic stage, and he actually did it twice.
"I was the first to take part in the Olympia and the Arnold on active duty," he said proudly. He called this the most significant achievement of his career on stage and in service. This passion for service dates back to his childhood.
Gayden's uncle is a retired US Air Force Master Sergeant and served with Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s. His uncle sent letters to the family while he was abroad, and this prompted Gayden to aspire one day to serve himself.
"I used to read the letters with my grandmother," he recalls. "Growing up, reading these made me want to go there."
Xavisus Gayden actually grew up as a straight A throughout high school, but he wasn't sure he would go to college. That along with his uncle's inspiration helped him decide to enlist in the United States Marines. While Gayden worked in the military, he also became more involved in education. He didn't initially aspire to compete or become a pro in bodybuilding. Upon learning that no active Marine had yet achieved IFBB Pro League status, he decided that this had to change and he would be the one to make it happen.
"I thought this was an opportunity I could take and show other soldiers they can do it too."
That goal would become a reality in 2013 by winning the prestigious NPC USA title, fitting for someone who is both a champion and a service member for their home country. Gayden is in his ninth year as a professional competitor and has won two shows so far. One can only imagine what it felt like to step onto the Olympic stage for the first time a year after turning pro as one of the best in the world.
"It's amazing," he recalled. "It takes a lot to get there."
Courtesy of Xavisus Gayden
In his eyes, however, it was worth it because he has touched many lives through his efforts and has been recognized by some of bodybuilding's greats, including four-time Mr. Olympia and three-time Arnold Classic Champion Jay Cutler, who is legendary for his efforts, to support the troops.
"He's one of my absolute favorites because I actually know him personally," said the Navy and IFBB pro. "I know what he's thinking and I love the fact that he's giving back to the military that I want to do."
Much like Cutler inspired Gayden, his own work ethic and achievements in sports have served as inspiration for some of his fellow Marines as well as senior officers. However, he also had to face some criticism.
“Some of the other soldiers made me sad because I didn't want to go drinking with them. I would go train or I would train my Marines who wanted me to help them,” he said. Gayden may have received some backlash over this decision, but he felt he had a higher calling, even with what he had already done in the ministry.
"It may have hurt my career, but I really didn't care. I did it anyway because it wasn't about me. It was about helping the young Marines who needed it. Some of them still reach out to me to say they're doing more in the gym or that they're pitching up because of me."
Gunnery Sergeant Xavisus Gayden served his country from 1998 to 2019. During his career, he traveled overseas, just like his uncle. He even worked in Japan at one point, where it got closer to another passion of his - music, which he says he wanted to make as a kid.
"I was making music when I was in Japan and I was DJing and I started producing," he shared. "w I produce myself and work with other producers."
US Marine veteran Xavisus Gayden poses with bodybuilding legend Jay Cutler
Gayden may not have wanted to go to school when he was younger, but he would return thanks to his passion for music. He is a graduate of music engineering school and is about to pursue a second degree at a music institute in Los Angeles. One such producer he has worked with is Zaytoven who has worked with several music superstars including Usher, Gucci Mane, Future and others.
"He's incredible at what he does and I reached out to him [Instagram] Live, and he told me to beat him up," Gayden said. “I've been working with him for the last month and a half. I just got the master mix of one of my songs that we're about to release. It took a long time and I'm looking forward to it."
With Gayden's pursuit of music and his anticipated return to the stage, the father-of-three and fitness trainer has much to look forward to, and he will have more opportunities to inspire others along the way, much like he did during his active Navy career . He hopes younger people will now consider the military because it can help them like it helped him.
"It can give you peace of mind and provide a direction to build from there," he advised. "It can help you figure out where you want to go, and it can also help you get there."
Follow Xavisus Gayden on Instagram @xavisus_gayden.