Once upon a time, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a sort-of normal person. His new athletic competition show, The Titan Games—premiering on NBC January 3 at 8 p.m. ET—reflects how he moved way, way up in the world while bulking up beyond most people’s dreams.
“I think part of his motivation for doing the show is him thinking back on his life and how fortunate he’s been,” says Arthur Smith, an executive producer for Titan Games. “He wants to give back. So much of this show comes from his heart because of what he went through. It’s very consistent with what he does on social media—motivating people to be the hardest worker in the room. So many of these people are his followers he inspired.”
In addition to Johnson’s role as a quasi-host/commissioner of the series (he was on set every day, and will be in all the episodes), the action star serves as an executive producer. The elaborate challenges are based on his own workouts and physical achievements, according to Smith. Contestants will face off against each other, ending on a mountain-like structure naturally called Mount Olympus—which Smith refers to it as “hell”—vying to become Titans. The series will crown one male and one female champion at the end of the season.
Titan Games was ultimately looking for incredible overall athletes—especially folks with tons of strength. “We really wanted everyday people,” Smith adds of the most vital requirements. “This is a platform for everyday people to become heroes. This is their payoff, their chance to show themselves.” Contestants range from a former trauma ER nurse and a 50-year-old grandmother who doesn’t skip the gym, to the less surprising personal trainers and MMA fighters. About 100 people out of thousands of hopefuls went through a sports combine as a tryout, and then got whittled down to 64 in the cast.
NBC provided Men’s Health with official bios for all the competitors on The Titan Games, below. Get ready for epic-ness combined with just the right amount of humanity.
Occupation: ICU Nurse
Hometown: Shrewsbury, MA
Resident: Stratford, CT
Alma loves to push her body to the limits in fitness competitions to see what it is capable of. Through her job, Alma is aware how important it is to seize each day as it could be your last, and she is competing on “The Titan Games” in honor of her patients who can’t.
Occupation: Barbershop Owner
Hometown: Jacksonville, FL
Resident: Jacksonville, FL
At just 14, Angel realized he had found his passion when he started cutting hair to help financially support his family. Eight years later, Angel opened his first barbershop, Raw Cuts. Now he has three successful shops and is a loving father that hopes to inspire his son.
Occupation: Active Duty Army & Pro Strongman
Hometown: Erie, PA
Resident: Brandon, FL
Anthony is in the Army as a Sergeant 1st Class who fought in Afghanistan as an infantry squad leader. After leaving the Army, Anthony found his love of weightlifting and keeps in shape training 5-6 days per week while listening to Taylor Swift and Cardi B.
Occupation: Police Officer
Hometown: Madison, NC
Resident: Pleasant Garden, NC
Ashley met her husband in the police academy eight years ago. The former NCAA soccer player enjoys spending time with her two German shepherd “fur babies” and collecting fortune cookie fortunes. Ashley has always strived to stay fit because of the sports she played at a young age, but now her fitness is about being strong enough to protect herself and others on the job.
Occupation: Special Ed Teacher & Soccer Coach
Hometown: Fort Worth, TX
Resident: Denver, CO
When Ashley’s not improving the lives of her students, you can find her hanging out with her two dogs and coaching kids in soccer. If anyone can bend it like Beckham, it’s Ashley.
Occupation: Doctor of Physical Therapy
Hometown: Elba, AL
Resident: Mariposa, CA
Nicknamed “Doctor Proctor,” Ayonna inspires her patients to live a healthy lifestyle. Growing up low income in a small town, she overcame all odds to receive an NCAA basketball scholarship. Ayonna’s #1 supporter has always been her hard-working mom, whom she is driven to make proud.
Occupation: Metal Polisher
Hometown: American Samoa
Resident: Tacoma, WA
Ben wants to be the best version of himself, physically and mentally. A huge Dwayne Johnson fan, this family man is determined to represent other Samoans well and to make his family, and Dwayne, proud.
Occupation: Foot and Ankle Surgeon
Hometown: Pottstown, PA
Resident: Weehawken, NJ
Growing up an athlete, Brad was a standout on the Palm Beach Atlantic University baseball team. However, his biggest challenge came when he decided to trade in his cleats for a medical degree. Though the exams were tough, Brad used that academic opportunity to get stronger mentally. He wants to prove to people that you can achieve anything as long as you never give up.
Occupation: NASCAR Tire Changer
Hometown: Virginia Beach, VA
Resident: Charlotte, NC
Brehanna is making history as the first female African-American NASCAR tire changer. She was a basketball player for Norfolk State University with an incredible work ethic. Brehanna hopes to inspire young people by diversifying NASCAR.
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Resident: Atlanta, GA
Breona, a former cheerleader for Georgia State University, brings her love of fitness into her everyday life. This six-time CrossFit regionals athlete inspires all who know her to pursue a healthier lifestyle.
Hometown: Snohomish, WA
Resident: Pullman, WA
Bridger is a student at Washington State University and no stranger to overcoming adversity. Being an overweight kid motivated him to become an athlete and play college football. While in college, he survived being hit by a car and wants to prove he can push past what most people won’t.
Occupation: Luxury Hotel Account Manager
Hometown: Humacao, Puerto Rico
Resident: San Francisco, CA
Carla was born and raised in a small town in Puerto Rico and being away from her family is difficult. It was especially hard when Hurricane Maria hit and she wasn’t able to reach anyone for four days. Carla hopes to make her people proud.
Occupation: Metabolic Technician
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Resident: Suwanee, GA
At a young age, Charity learned the meaning of hard work and quickly adapted to overcoming adversity. She was diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia at 17 and that led her to her passion for powerlifting. Charity’s motto – “I don’t quit when I’m tired, I quit when I’m done” – reflects her tenacious personality.
Occupation: Youth Motivational Speaker
Hometown: Coconut Creek, FL
Resident: Coconut Creek, FL
Chris was born with a congenital birth defect that manifested in a short arm and only two fingers on one hand. Growing up, he was bullied and embarrassed but Chris found powerlifting and fitness to become the elite athlete he is today. He regularly speaks to youth with disabilities in order to motivate them in everyday life.
Occupation: Horse Riding Clinic Assistant
Hometown: Camp Verde, Arizona
Resident: Lake Jackson, FL
Christiana is the youngest female competitor on “The Titan Games” and brings a youthful zest for life to the competition. Growing up not having access to sports, she wants to make up for lost time and is always finding ways to push her body to new limits. Christiana enjoys working with horses and doesn’t shy away from a hard day’s work.
Occupation: Dental Hygienist
Hometown: Wayne, WV
Resident: Colorado Springs, CO
Life hasn’t always been easy for Christina. From living in a trailer with her grandparents to being a single mom living below the poverty line, she knows what hard work looks like. She overcame those past hardships and earned her dental hygiene degree while serving in the Air Force. Today, she proudly enjoys a stable life with her two young daughters in their beautiful home.
Occupation: Personal Security Contractor
Hometown: Elizabethtown, Kentucky
Resident: Kabul, Afghanistan
Christopher is more than an elite athlete, he’s a decorated hero. He spent time fighting for his country in Iraq but was injured by explosions while on deployment. He has defied the odds to become the athlete he is today.
Hometown: Peoa, UT
Resident: Draper, UT
Cole is not your average entrepreneur. Raised on an 8,500-acre farm by his father who taught him to haul bales of hay, ride horses and tend to everyday needs, Cole and his family run their very own urban farm they use as their own personal jungle gym. He wants to prove to his fellow athletes that there is no better training than training on the land.
Hometown: Oyo, Nigeria
Resident: Chicago, IL
Covenant was born in a small town in Nigeria with dreams of moving to America. At 7, his parents won the green card lottery and at 14 his visa was approved and he came to America. He used to watch The Rock wrestle from his tiny TV in Nigeria, so now, to be competing in a competition with Dwayne Johnson, his American dream is really coming true.
Occupation: Motivational speaker / Former Army Special Operations Ranger
Hometown: Tracy, CA
Resident: Selma, TX
David lost his leg in 2010 stepping on an IED while serving in Afghanistan. After the blast he suffered from severe PTSD and used fitness as his outlet to heal. David feels like he died after the injury and he got a second chance at life. Now he is stronger than he was before his accident and uses his story to support military personnel.
Occupation: Tile Installation Business Owner
Hometown: Lemmon, SD
Resident: Phoenix, AZ
Davy grew up on a small farm and began to build his body through the work he would do for his dad. He became a two-time National Heavyweight Fitness Competition champion and currently runs a tile installation business called Muscle Tile. He enjoys creating skits with his wife, Kayla, on Instagram.
Occupation: Attorney/Pro-MMA Fighter
Hometown: St. Louis, MO
Resident: Los Angeles, CA
Derik is an attorney by day, but a martial artist and MMA fighter by night. Raised by gymnasts, Derik could do a back flip at age 4 and won his first national championship in gymnastics at 7. When Derik was 12, he lost his older brother, Ian, in a car accident. He is dedicating his performance on “The Titan Games” to his brother’s memory.
Occupation: Yoga Instructor
Hometown: Miami, FL
Resident: Celebration, FL
DJ is a versatile athlete and after his NFL career reached its end, he began practicing yoga. A family man, he has previously proven himself on a national stage and looks to do so again.
Occupation: Debt Collector
Hometown: Long Beach, CA
Resident: Anchorage, Alaska
Elisara became a single father after losing his high school sweetheart to lupus at 24. After his wife passed away, he vowed to teach his daughter to live in the healthiest way possible, through fitness. He now pours all of his love and energy into raising his daughter in a way that would make his late wife proud.
Occupation: Massage Therapist / MMA Fighter
Hometown: Knoxville, TN
Resident: Powell, TN
Emily has engaged in martial arts since she was 7 and has a third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Five years ago, her sister Sharon was diagnosed with bone cancer and ended up having part of her shin bone removed. Emily moved in and helped her sister recover. In honor of her, Emily will always push herself to new heights and doesn’t take anything for granted.
Occupation: Medical Device Researcher
Hometown: Hayward, CA
Resident: San Mateo, CA
Emily is always breaking barriers and defying expectations. After graduating with her Master’s in biomedical engineering from Duke University at 22, Emily went on to work for a Silicon Valley startup that makes medical devices. In her free time she powerlifts and has three world records in her weight class. She’s ready to show the world how powerful she is.
Occupation: Professional Timbersports Athlete
Hometown: Spokane, WA
Resident: Spokane, WA
Not only does Erin hold a Guinness World Record for chopping down Christmas trees in two minutes, she is also the owner of Predation CrossFit.
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Resident: Staten Island, NY
Frank is a proud New Yorker and been a firefighter for 15 years, with his firehouse directly across the street from the Freedom Towers. The only thing he loves more than his job is being a father to his twins, Madison and Anthony. Frank is excited that his kids will get to see him compete on television.
Hometown: Queens, NY
Resident: Queens, NY
Gina is a high school Earth Science teacher. After discovering a passion for fitness, she hopes to open an after-school fitness affiliate program for her students to pass the confidence and strength she gained on to them.
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Resident: River Forest, IL
Jack, a kinesiology major at the University of Wisconsin, is bringing brains and brawn to “The Titan Games.” The youngest male competitor in the competition splits his time between his studies and practicing parkour. Jack is counting on his youth to win it all.
Occupation: Swim Coach
Hometown: Long Island, NY
Resident: San Antonio, TX
Jackie’s passion in life has always been in the water. She began swimming competitively at age 6 and continued through high school. After feeling lost in life, Jackie followed her mother’s advice and quit her bartending job to become a swim coach. Her ultimate goal is to open a swim school of her own called Swim Strong Academy.
Occupation: Truck Driver for Budweiser
Hometown: Cambridge, MA
Resident: North Miami Beach, FL
James became a father at 17, which immediately changed his life. He got into some trouble and almost went to jail but fought hard to be able to stay with his son, Semaj. Fitness has been a way to focus on something positive. A hardworking father, James is eager to show his son that he can accomplish anything.
Occupation: Motion Graphic Designer
Hometown: Berkeley, CA
Resident: El Sobrante, CA
Jasmin is both a talented artist and elite athlete. She is a former dual sport NCAA athlete in basketball and track and is here to compete for her grandmother, her greatest inspiration in life and biggest supporter.
Occupation: Radiologic Technologist
Hometown: Madison, SD
Resident: Clearwater, FL
A former top gymnast on a national championship team, Jenessa has a love for fitness. At 28, a ligament tear forced her to find an alternate mode of exercise and, at the suggestion of her then boyfriend, took up weight-lifting. Jenessa wants to prove both to herself and the world she is a strong, independent woman.
Occupation: Former Trauma ER Nurse / Nutrition Specialist
Hometown: Springfield, MO
Resident: Ozark, MO
Helping people has always been a lifelong desire for Jess. She became a nurse and found herself working in the stressful ER trauma unit. Jess realized that she had a bigger desire to help people who wanted to help themselves. Taking a big risk, she used her past experience and knowledge to become a nutrition coach and specialist.
Occupation: Owner & Operator of Martial Arts Dojo
Hometown: Sicklerville, NJ
Resident: Sicklerville, NJ
Jon found martial arts at age 4 and was destined to be involved for his entire life. At 23, he opened his own martial arts school and has furthered his practice over the years to become a fifth-degree black belt. His practice represents heart, perseverance and discipline, which he believes is everything a Titan should be.
Occupation: Executive Chef
Hometown: Brunswick, Maine
Resident: Cleveland, OH
Josh is an executive chef for the Cleveland Clinic and was previously a luxury suite chef for the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics. While working in the sports food industry, he gained weight and stopped working out. He realized he needed to get healthier for his kids, so he began competing in road races and shed over 30 Ibs. Josh is in the best shape of his life but says being on “The Titan Games” is his biggest accomplishment.
Occupation: Real Estate Agent
Hometown: Spokane, WA
Resident: Spokane, WA
Dubbed “Superdad,” Julian is happily married with four young children. A former college football player at Eastern Washington University, Julian now works four jobs to support his family and give them a life he believes they deserve. However, his busy schedule doesn’t stop him from staying on top of his fitness.
Occupation: Firefighter Paramedic
Hometown: Jupiter, FL
Resident: Jupiter, FL
After getting into the best shape of her life, Julie, who’s both a mother and grandmother, has recently picked up gymnastics and Olympic lifting and doesn’t let anything slow her down. She is ready to compete and prove once and for all that age isn’t nothing but a number.
Occupation: Muscle Research Coordinator, Masters Student in Muscle Physiology
Hometown: Neshanic Station, NJ
Resident: Anaheim, CA
A graduate student at Cal State University Fullerton, Kara was 3 years old when she had her left lung removed because of a post-inflammatory pseudo tumor. Having one lung made her work even harder, and she now has 75% lung capacity. Despite having one lung, she is an MMA fighter, powerlifter and starts her day with 100 push-ups and sit-ups.
Hometown: Deadwood, SD
Resident: Rapid City, SD
Kelsey is a married mother of two who spends her days as a nurse and her nights as a powerlifter. After having her first daughter at 20 years old, Kelsey reached nearly 200 lbs. and by the time she was pregnant with her son, she had begun to transform her body into the powerhouse she is now. She documents her fitness journey on Instagram in the hopes to inspire other working mothers to take some time for themselves and get strong.
Occupation: Business Analyst
Hometown: Old Bridge, NJ
Resident: Parlin, NJ
Kwame, aka the Push-Up Guy, got his claim to fame on “Ellen” doing his trick push-ups, where he uses only the tips of his fingers or his wrists. When he is not showing the world this skill, he wears a suit and tie as a business analyst at the New Jersey Institute of Innovation.
Occupation: Satellite Systems Operator, U.S. Air Force
Hometown: Dover, DE
Resident: Colorado Springs, CO
A military brat, Kyle loved moving around the world with his family and decided to follow in his dad’s footsteps by joining the Air Force after college. As a Satellite Systems Operator, he manages 35 satellites that provide GPS around the world. His real reason for being on “The Titan Games” is to compete with his younger brother, whom he greatly admires.
Occupation: Nursing Student
Hometown: Modesto, CA
Resident: Modesto, CA
Lauren, who has one daughter, studied non-stop for six years to complete her prerequisites to become a nurse and was accepted in 2017. She recently began modeling and is on “The Titan Games” to prove that while she may be a fitness model, she works hard, is full of heart and is more than just a pretty picture.
Occupation: CrossFit Gym Manager/Coach
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Resident: Valley Village, CA
Mariah has been a competitive athlete her whole life, earning scholarships in both track & field and volleyball. When Mariah began CrossFit, she found a way to continue her path as an athlete and also coach others. While fitness occupies a large part of her life, she still finds time for her other passion as a singer/songwriter.
Occupation: Volunteer Firefighter/Small Business Owner/Former Air Force Jet Mechanic
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Resident: Poultney, VT
Marianne joined the Air Force at 16 to escape her small town. After serving her time in the military, she worked odd jobs and moved around the country as a civilian until she settled in Vermont where she met her husband and serves as a volunteer firefighter. Her job means that she has to be at the height of fitness. As a huge fan of Dwayne Johnson, she can’t believe that she has been selected to be a part of “The Titan Games.”
Occupation: Staff Sergeant, Air National Guard
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Resident: Great Falls, MT
Matt, a competitive powerlifter and Air National Guard member, almost died in 2014 due to advanced leukemia. He suffered multiple organ failure and had to be placed in a medically induced coma for five days. After two months in the hospital, Matt fought his way back into the gym, despite being too weak to stand at times. With his cancer in remission since 2016, Matt has proved that he is #CableStrong.
Hometown: Flagstaff, AZ
Resident: Durango, CO
As the son of an Olympian, Matt has athleticism coursing through his veins. In the ’70s, his father went to the Olympics as a pole vaulter then as a water kayaker. Matt pursued and thrived in athletics as well, but it wasn’t until he discovered bodybuilding that he found his true passion. Now he competes at the highest level and wants to prove what bodybuilders are made of.
Occupation: Investment Management Analyst
Hometown: Antioch, CA
Resident: Los Angeles, CA
Maximus is the proud son of Nigerian immigrants who made huge sacrifices to come to America. He continues to build upon the American dream that his parents created for him by leading a successful professional life as an investment management analyst. Maximus is a nerd at heart, but he busts out of his shell when he competes athletically.
Occupation: Personal Trainer
Hometown: Bronx, NY
Resident: Venice, CA
After giving birth to her daughter, Melissa weighed 200 lbs. and suffered from postpartum depression and used fitness as a tool to recover. After losing 40 pounds in 60 days, she documented her transformation by posting workout videos, motivational messages and photos on social media hoping to encourage others. Melissa, who inspires people to be the best version of themselves, is a trainer to the stars, including Kim Kardashian.
Occupation: Certified Recovery Specialist
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Resident: Philadelphia, PA
Melody earned the nickname “The Pebble” for her resemblance to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. She suffered from alcoholism throughout her life but has proudly been sober since August 2015.
Hometown: Gardner, MA
Resident: North Chelmsford, MA
At 6’5” and 230 lbs., this colossal construction worker is one of the biggest athletes in the competition. The blue-collar Massachusetts native trains six days a week while working full time in the family roofing business. His mother passed away when he was 13 and he’s keeping her close to his heart as he strives for Titan greatness.
Occupation: Business Development Consultant
Hometown: Erial, NJ
Resident: Santa Monica, CA
Montez grew up in a rough neighborhood and his mom, a single mother of seven, did her best to support the family. Despite those odds, Montez excelled in school both academically and athletically, garnering a scholarship to Cornell University. He is the school’s high jump record holder and the 2013 NAACP Athlete of the Year. Currently, Montez is training to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in decathlon while working in business development at Oracle.
Occupation: Private Pre-School Owner
Hometown: Applegate, CA
Resident: Auburn, CA
Nichole loves to include her classes in her daily workout. After realizing that her daughter was being bullied, Nichole used athletics as a way to inspire her two daughters to be confident women and be the best version of themselves.
Occupation: Gas Turbine Mechanical Engineer
Hometown: Carlsbad, CA
Resident: San Diego, CA
As a first generation daughter of Iranian immigrants, making her family proud is a driving force in Nika’s life. During the day, she works on gas turbine engines. At night, Nika puts hours in at the gym pushing her body to its limits. She wants to represent the strong Iranian women who raised her.
Occupation: Fitness Model
Hometown: Redondo Beach, CA
Resident: El Segundo, CA
Nikkie is a 5’10” model that works for national fitness brands. Her height, strong work ethic and childhood growing up on the beaches of Southern California makes her a natural volleyball player. She earned her way to the California State Championship and the USA beach volleyball team in 2013. Growing up as the youngest of four siblings, Nikkie isn’t afraid to take on the role of underdog in “The Titan Games.”
Occupation: Medical Student
Hometown: Cody, WY
Resident: Cody, WY
Quinn is an accomplished athlete and academic who is now studying medicine at the University of Washington, a top-tier medical school. Quinn married his high school sweetheart, Ali, and he credits her for the man he is today. Quinn wants to put quiet Cody, Wyo., on the map by winning “The Titan Games.”
Occupation: Pro Wrestler/Stay at Home Dad
Hometown: Woodbridge, NJ
Resident: Brick, NJ
Robbie began pro wrestling at the age of 16. His 18-year-career in the sport allowed him to compete and travel all over the world, but all that changed last year when he and his wife had twin sons. Now, Robbie is a stay-at-home dad who stays fit by incorporating his kids into his exercises. He’s ready to bring a whole new meaning to “Dad bod.”
Occupation: Yoga and Strength Training Coach
Hometown: Alamo, CA
Resident: Alamo, CA
Sandra is a mother of four whose passion for fitness has pushed her to be a yoga and strength training coach for NFL athletes. She took up Olympic-style weightlifting at 41 despite being only 5’4” and 115 pounds. In the 10 years since, she has broken six Masters American records.
Occupation: Personal Trainer/Model
Hometown: Aberdeen, WA
Resident: Santa Monica, CA
It was in 2005 that Shannon’s brother, Colin, fell in a rock-climbing accident that would transform her into who she is today. After Colin’s tragic death, she used fitness as a way to cope and ultimately to celebrate his life. It helped her push herself in ways she never thought possible. Now everything positive in her life revolves around fitness – his memory, meeting her boyfriend and now “The Titan Games.”
Hometown: Tucson, AZ
Resident: Mesa, AZ
As if fighting fires and raising children isn’t heroic enough, Steven, who is a father of four, has a miraculous survival story. In 2016, he was involved in a motorcycle accident and while in the hospital, doctors discovered a mass in his chest that turned out to be Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. After undergoing chemo, Steven is now cancer free. He is competing to show his kids what’s possible if you never stop fighting.
Occupation: Mechanical Engineer
Hometown: Tampa, FL
Resident: Tampa, FL
Thong feels that he represents the nerds. While he might sit at a desk during the day, Thong doesn’t hold back in the gym and is a force to be reckoned with. Since he met his fiancé while powerlifting, Thong romantically proposed to her while she was in the middle of her squat set. The two of them are “swole-mates.”
Occupation: Architectural Sheet Metal Worker
Hometown: Nayarit, Mexico
Resident: Seattle, Washington
Tina is an architectural sheet metal worker and the only woman on the construction crew. She works on the exterior of skyscrapers, facing the elements for 10 hours at a time. Dedicated to staying strong, Tina gets an average of four hours of sleep a night so that she can spend at least two hours in the gym before work. Tina is ready to put her work ethic to the ultimate test to become a Titan.
Occupation: United States Air Force
Hometown: State College, PA
Tyler grew up as a military brat and has lived all over the world. In college, he walked on the Penn State football team to become a quarterback. Soon after, he followed in his family’s footsteps by joining the Air Force and is currently stationed in Germany. Tyler is traveling thousands of miles back to the States to prove he is a world-class athlete.
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