You’ve already fallen in love with the new and improved Work Train Fight. But everything in life comes with a cost. Read the exclusive interview with CEO Alberto Ortiz as he tells all: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Elena: In 3 words, describe the process of expanding WTF.
Alberto: Infinite, lonely, exciting.
E: What made you want to expand WTF?
A: I knew that WTF was great in regards to our classes, the people, the energy, but the facility never matched the greatness that we had as a team. Unfortunately, like a first date, appearance is almost everything. We weren’t that good at first dates, but when people stuck around they knew we had that good sh*t and they fell in love.
E: What were the most challenging moments of the expansion?
A: The hardest was feeling like, OK, everything is under control. Even though we have this next massive project coming up, I felt, we are going to come through financially. And then all of sudden you get this astronomical bill, and you have 10 days to figure out how you are going to make this happen. For about 6 months, it felt like every week I had to come up 50K or else the project I’d already started wouldn’t continue.
It felt like I was drowning for 6 months. And right before I passed out, I would get one small gasp of air to keep me going. The people around me cared and wanted to help, but they weren’t in my world. This was really my battle. It was hard to hide this drowning feeling while still being personable. I couldn’t feel optimistic like everyone else, because they didn’t see the drama that I experienced.
You sacrifice so much, your health, every penny you have. And then members and trainers would complain about small things during the construction process. That was hard. I stay away from people in general because I’m too sensitive to handle that kind of feedback. You think you’re at the lowest of the lowest of the low, and then you have to take this negative feedback, and you can’t retaliate. Basically I just tell myself the world doesn’t give a f*ck and keep moving forward. That mentality got me through.
E: What was the most rewarding moment?
A: Fight Night 3 was the most rewarding moment. The bulk of expansion ended literally the day before. Until Nov 10, I had extremely hard deadlines every week. I didn’t have a non-anxious day for a year and a half. On Fight Night, seeing the facility, the chairs set up, everything, you tell yourself wow, look how we grew.
Once the fights were over and the work was done, being surrounded by the people whose lives you’ve impacted, I got to be human again. I got to be silly, I got to hear wonderful feedback. Talking to people fighting for the first time, meeting their families. Seeing people dancing, all the crazy conversations, the good times with people who met at WTF, that made everything worth it.
E: How have you been influenced by the increasingly competitive boxing market?
A: We’ve been here for 8 years and we have done increasingly better as more boxing gyms opened up in the neighborhood and in the city. At first, the biggest battle was convincing people that they could box. Unfortunately, there was a stigma on boxing that it was only for the hardcore. With the rise of the boutique boxing gym, we saw an influx of members. They were people who had tried the boutiques and seen it was very basic, and they wanted more. Once they see we do a great job of taking them from beginners to advanced and fighting, they call WTF home.
E: What’s it like being CEO of a boxing gym AND President of a Non-Profit Organization?
A: It’s a very interesting game that I play. Half the time I’m a capitalist worried about making a profit, and half the time I’m a hippie worried about how I’m going to change the world.
Being CEO of a boxing gym in this extremely competitive market is hard. It’s so easy to compare yourself, to see what the competition is doing well, but only see what I’m doing wrong. Luckily I’m arrogant, and patient enough to know that every new kid will get attention at first, but their flaws will come out, and then the attention will come back to those who are strong and good, both inside and out.
Unfortunately, in the world of charity, you are judged harsher than in the capitalist world. You have to be perfect. However, I am 100 percent against that belief. I believe in gray, not black or white. I get judged for my grayness often. I own a boxing gym, I host events that include a sh*t load of alcohol, I curse. I get judged heavily by these so called good people for that. But I want to show people that, even with being a little ratchet and raunchy, I can still do good.
My mission in the charitable world is to teach people to be balanced, to play with the gray, so that they can make the most change. My experiences have shown me you need both: to have a good heart and to be a good capitalist. It’s about results. Some phenomenal charities can’t raise a dime. If you want to be successful, you have to be good at marketing and sales. I’ll take the asshole who can help me change the world over the good person who just talks about it.