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The Death-Defying Strongman

Don "Hollywood" Yates isn't someone you wanna mess with. Boasting a fearsome countenance and muscle-bound physique, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound badass has made a career out of battling both man and beast. As the villainous "Wolf," a breakout star on NBC game show American Gladiators, he's fiercely taken out contestants, unleashing his trademark howls and catchphrases ("I'm gonna eat you!") upon nationwide viewers.

A longtime Valley resident, Yates has also slammed his way around the rings of World Wrestling Entertainment (as well as local group Impact Zone Wrestling), and has worked as a rodeo clown and championship bullfighter since his teenage years. The flair for both entertainment and athleticism came early, where he sung in his grandfather's nightclub (and dreamed of being Elvis) at age 7, and became an all-star in high school sports like track and football.

Much tamer in person than on TV, Yates says he copes with such body-punishing occupations with relentless, thrice-daily workouts of cardio and weightlifting, as well as a rigorous high-protein, low-fat diet. "I like having great abs, even though my Gladiator outfit covers my midsection," he jokes. What's also been key over the years, he says, has been a positive outlook and never-say-die attitude.

"I've been a fighter all of my life," Yates says. "My mother instilled in me early on that if I put my mind to it, and wanted something bad enough, I could do it."

This intestinal fortitude and nonstop scrapping enabled him to not only survive a troubled childhood marked by his parents' divorce but recover from a near-fatal goring by a bull at a California rodeo in 2006. Yates estimates he's suffered 130 injuries from rasslin' and bullfighting, including broken limbs and blown knees. (Despite his brush with the Grim Reaper, Yates says he'll continue participating in wrestling and rodeos).

About a year after Yates lay on what could've been his deathbed, an NBC casting agent saw the strongman in attendance at the annual Mr. Olympia bodybuilding competition in Las Vegas and asked him to audition for American Gladiators. Fame and fortune followed, like partying all night with Donald Trump and the stars of The Office, or acting in movies like next year's Fancypants. He also gets recognized in public.

"I walk through airports and people start howling at me all the time," Yates says.

 
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