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Cardiff contestant says midlife crisis led him to take part in Gladiators

By Jack Grey
BBC News

A Gladiators contestant has joked his appearance on the show is down to his “midlife crisis”.

Civil engineer Matt Jones, 41, from Cardiff, is competing in the BBC One revamp of the classic ’90s show.

He said he had never been a particularly sporty or athletic person, but decided to change this in recent years to help inspire his young sons.

He enjoyed his time on the show so much he’s left the experience with a Gladiators tattoo on his leg.

“It popped up on social media that they were looking for people and I just immediately had to go for it,” said Mr Jones, who will appear in Saturday’s episode.

“I am slightly going through a midlife crisis, as my wife calls it, I call it midlife challenges.

“I’m just trying to sort of push myself to do things that I would not normally have done.”

Matt said he hopes his Gladiators appearance will inspire his sons Will and Sam

Mr Jones said he “never did any sort of sports as a kids or at university”, which is something he grew to regret.

“I was always the last one to get picked in sports at school and for most of my adult life I haven’t really done anything,” he said.

“I wanted to show my kids that you’ve got to put yourself out there and try things try difficult things to get the most out of life.”

He added that entering the Gladiators arena with his wife Emily and sons Will, 10, and Sam, 12, watching was “incredibly emotional”.

“I was crying every day, it was such a range of emotions in terms of happiness and excitement but also then thinking back to this 12-year-old kid I was.

“I couldn’t do press ups and couldn’t do anything like that, so I was remembering those sort of bad feelings but then also feeling happy that I’ve overcome those hurdles – I was really happy about that.”

Matt Jones said he “couldn’t stop smiling” when he entered the Gladiators arena

Despite not growing up a sportsman, in recent years Mr Jones has made an effort to make up for it, taking up boxing and competing in ironman triathlons.

“I’ve been doing a couple of sorts of crazy challenges, then when [Gladiators] popped up, it’s like ‘this is the ultimate kind of challenge, I have to give it a go’.

“I suppose I’ve done it to prove to the 12-year-old in me that I could do something like that, and I’ve done it for [Will and Sam] to show them that they can too.”

The experience meant so much to him that he decided to mark the occasion, permanently, on the back of his calf.

“I like to get tattoos to celebrate things I enjoy or achieve, so getting one to celebrate being on Gladiators was a must,” he said.

Getting a Gladiators tattoo following his appearance on the show was “a must”, said Matt

Mr Jones said the auditions before being accepted for the show were “very physical”, but that he managed to beat some much younger fellow hopefuls.

“They were testing your cardio, your strength, whether you can take a hit, because it’s very physical.

“As you can see from the show, contenders do take an absolute pounding, so they’ve got to make sure you’re robust enough.

“There was a lot of personal trainer types there, but the fact that I’m an office worker, a very normal sort of guy who’s got kids, made me a bit different to some of the others… and I did manage to beat some of the kiddies.

“I know it’s cheesy, but I kind of felt like – I’ve always done a bit of training, I’ve done weights over the years – it kind of felt like this was the reason I’ve been doing that over the years.”

Matt said the Gladiators he faced were “terrifying”

He added that the Gladiators on the show were “absolutely huge” and much tougher than he anticipated.

“I thought ‘oh they won’t be as big as they were back in the 90s’, but they were even bigger… there’s about three or four of them that are 6ft 6, they’re literally double my bodyweight,” he said.

“It was an absolute mammoth task taking them on… massively intimidating. But behind the scenes, they were all really nice guys, really friendly and really supportive.

“I was really pushing myself to the limit, my goal was to compete and show that a normal person can go up against these superhuman Gladiators, so for me that was my success.”

Gladiators airs on Saturday evenings on BBC One. Catch up on BBC iPlayer.

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