For World Armwrestling League president and commissioner Steve Kaplan, a 2014 trip to Afghanistan was a source of inspiration. Kaplan, who’d been in advertising and entrepreneurship for most of his career, traveled to talk to soldiers about starting their own businesses once their military service was over.
“I saw so many of our troops arm wrestling in the 130 degree heat it was kind of crazy,” Kaplan told Uproxx Sports. “I came back and linked up with some guys who had actually just sold a TV show to AMC about this awesome world of arm wrestling and that where I was exposed to it.”
Kaplan came back to the United States with a drive to create an arm wrestling league to bring to the masses. With his background, he knew the biggest challenge for bringing the league to notoriety would be making sure the sport would translate to television cameras. The good news was that he knew who would be best suited to be the face of his league.
“The move, really, was how do you present that in a sport for today?” Kaplan says. “To combine that part of DNA of the sport with building sport entertainment company of today. We find the best, the biggest, not necessarily just the ability standpoint but in terms of heritage and know the climate and environment. Probably the person that is the most global for the sport is Devon Larratt.”
Larratt is quite possibly the most decorated arm wrestler on the planet. Larratt once arm wrestled Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson — who you know for playing The Mountain on Game Of Thrones — and not only beat him, but damn near humiliated one of the strongest men in the world.
Despite the fact that he’s, well, a mountain of a man, Lee’s approach to arm wrestling is zenlike. He sees the full picture, viewing the sport not as a simple test of strength, but something that requires a more broad approach.
“Arm wrestling is kind of a full battle,” Larratt says. “It’s not as simple as hands coming together, they say ‘ready, go,’ and the match starts. The match starts long before. There’s all sorts of psychological play.”