Brent Ruffin, from two seasons competing on “American Ninja Warrior,” has a unique, exciting career that’s rooted in his love for the outdoors, including archery and bowhunting.
Few resumes list gym owner, regular TV guest, mixed-martial-arts competitor, or acrobatic dunker for an NBA team, but Ruffin has done them all, and he’s only 24. His lifelong passion, though, is the outdoors.
“Hunting, fishing and the outdoors are my favorites, although I don’t do those things professionally,” Ruffin said. “I’ve been an outdoorsman since I was 4, and took my first whitetail when I was 7. Hunting is bonding time with my dad. I applied for an elk tag to hunt Colorado this fall with Dad and my uncle because my dream is to take an elk with my bow.”
Ruffin enjoys a little target archery, too, although he focuses his archery efforts on bowhunting.
“I’m a huge duck hunter and a huge bowhunter,” Ruffin said. “I started hunting with a Martin compound bow and now I shoot a Mathews DXT. One day I want to hunt with a recurve or longbow but for now I’ll stick to my compound.”
Bowhunting Keeps Him in Shape
Ruffin says bowhunting keeps him in shape for other pursuits.
“With bowhunting, I have to focus and be precise,” he said. “When I’m trying to put together the perfect arrow grouping, things have to be just right, and the smallest thing could throw me off. It’s the same with dunking a basketball and competing on ‘American Ninja Warrior.’ Precision and focus are essential.”
From Bowhunting to Basketball
In high school, Ruffin competed in soccer, football, rugby and wrestling. After high school he played rugby and soccer, and began training in martial arts and muay thai. A short stint as a mixed-martial-arts fighter ended when Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a heart condition, nearly killed him in his third fight.
Although his plans to become a professional MMA fighter were cut short, he was already on his way to a job with the Memphis Grizzlies in the National Basketball Association.
“I’d heard the Memphis Grizzlies mascot worked out at the same gym where I trained for MMA fights, but no one knew who he was,” Ruffin said. “He approached me at the gym and invited me to try out for Kings of the Court, the acro dunking team. I’d never heard of acro dunking, but I made the team. It’s so much fun. Right now the team is on a dunk tour in South Africa, but I couldn’t go because of my commitment to ‘American Ninja Warrior’ and to CrossKick, the gym I co-own, in Atoka, Tennessee.”
His Next Season of ‘American Ninja Warrior’
While competing on seasons 5 and 6 of “American Ninja Warrior,” Ruffin saw many veteran competitors fail to complete obstacles before he fell on the dreaded salmon ladder after rising to 16th place out of 500 contestants in Season 6. Although he made it onto the show twice, and considers every step afterward a success, he’s not satisfied.
“It was 29 degrees outside when I got on the salmon ladder, and the cold made it tough to do the obstacles,” he said. “I made it up three rungs before one hand slipped. I tried to compensate but I couldn’t. Letting go meant I’d have to go home, but it also meant I’d fall into the freezing water below! As soon as I fell, I was planning how to train for next season. I won’t quit until I win ‘American Ninja Warrior’ or the show goes off the air.”
Ruffin says the submission video for ‘American Ninja Warrior’ is vital to getting chosen as a contestant.
“There were about 8,000 submission videos for Season 6, and only 500 were chosen to compete,” he said. “I was fortunate to get in. With the success of the show, and ninja training gyms popping up throughout the country, there will be even more applicants next season. I’ve already started filming my submission video.”
Strange Social Media Encounters
Ruffin says most of his encounters with fans – in person and online – have been positive, and most comments mention his being a country boy.
“Recently I said I eat ‘real chicken eggs,’ and a lot of people misunderstood my comment,” he said. “I meant that I eat farm-fresh eggs and never buy eggs at the store, but a lot of people thought I was suggesting I don’t eat eggs from fake chickens. Someone also said I sound like Gomer Pyle, which was pretty funny. I’m from Tennessee, so I sound Southern.”
His Greatest Challenge
“The most challenging part of what I do – no matter what I do – is making myself get up every day and continue my training,” he said. “To be good, I have to practice, and many things I do are grueling. If I’m training for bowhunting season, I get up every day and shoot my bow at least 10 times before I go to work at the gym. Getting ready for ‘American Ninja Warrior’ is just ridiculous. It takes every muscle from my ankles to my neck. I’m always in training.”
Ruffin is a positive person who refuses to sit and pout when he doesn’t succeed. He also learns from every experience and hopes to inspire others.
“I love hearing from young people and inspiring them to get outside,” he said. “Get away from the iPad and find an outdoor hobby. I’m living proof that enjoying the outdoors can lead to places you’d never imagine.”
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