Fanning the Flames

Paul Passmore has spent a lifetime searching for avenues through which to stoke his competitive fires. Nearly a decade ago, he settled on professional arm wrestling.

by Chris Bridges

Paul Passmore admits to having an unusually strong competitive nature.

It drove him into a variety of sports, from wrestling and football to boxing, karate and even mixed martial arts. Passmore has never been able to shake the desire to test himself. In a quest for a new challenge, he eventually turned to the sport of arm wrestling. He threw himself into the endeavor and, as one of the few competitors who excels both right-handed and left-handed, has spent the better part of a decade building a resume and involving those closest to him.

“My whole life I have been extremely competitive,” Passmore said. “Arm wrestling has now become a family thing for me.”

He took a circuitous route to the table. Passmore, who was a 189-pound state wrestling champion in high school, went to Valdosta State University to play football. However, he suffered a torn ACL in college, which prompted him to take a new turn. Passmore worked as a bouncer, and the bar that employed him hosted regular cage fighting events. After watching others compete, he decided to give it a go.

“It’s the type of sport where many men in their upper 60s are dominant. They will go up to the table and rip someone arm’s off. I figure I can stay highly competitive until my 50s. You just have to put in the work.”

Paul Passmore

“This was before anyone really knew about MMA,” he said.

Passmore climbed the ladder and ultimately captured a championship in a regional promotion. By the time he reached his early 30s, he knew he needed to step away from combat sports. His job as a Newton County firefighter ate up much of his time and cut into his training, and he was now married. Passmore’s wife, Candy, was supportive of his pursuits, but he elected to leave MMA in his rearview mirror when the couple’s oldest son, Daniel, was born. While his goal of someday competing in the Ultimate Fighting Championship never materialized, Passmore takes pride in what he accomplished as a mixed martial artist. However, his competitive thirst remained unquenched.

Passmore entered his first arm wrestling tournament in 2014. “I needed something to push me,” he said. “I needed to be motivated to stay in shape and to eat right. I seemed to have a knack for arm wrestling. I will say it is a giant step going from amateur to pro. I compare it to going from high school football to the NFL.”

As with any athletic endeavor, the risk of injury exists. Passmore had already won four national championships and was in search of his fifth when he broke his right arm during a competition. “I did something a little risky since so much was on the line,” he said. In arm wrestling, competitors are divided by weight. Passmore won his first two national championships as a heavyweight, then decided to move down in weight to compete at a lower weight class. Later, he moved back to heavyweight.

“In the last three years,” he said, “the heavyweight division has become very competitive.”

Passmore’s wife has also entered tournaments, along with Daniel, now 12. He has already registered victories against teenagers and some adults.

“Arm wrestling is really a technical sport,” Passmore said. “At first I thought, like most people, that you just grab your opponent’s arm and went after it.”

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After his time as a firefighter, Passmore moved into the construction field. He and his wife welcomed a second son, Henry. Through it all, Passmore continued to compete and his list of accomplishments continued to grow. He won the 2018 American Armsport Association 242-pound national championship, going undefeated with both arms. Passmore also captured the Power House Arm Wrestling Federation (PAF) super heavyweight national championship and the Carolina Carnage, Worley Classic and Tennessee Tri-State heavyweight titles. His exploits do not end there. Passmore placed first in the Alabama state tournament, the Kansas City World Armwrestling League event and PAF Atlanta in 2019. Most recently, he won the 2021 Dahlonega Goldrush championship, running the gauntlet with perfect performances with both arms.

Passmore believes he can continue to compete for several years. “It’s the type of sport where many men in their upper 60s are dominant,” he said. “They will go up to the table and rip someone arm’s off. I figure I can stay highly competitive until my 50s. You just have to put in the work. Tendon and ligament strengths are the keys.”

Passmore has long turned to a famous quote from Aristotle when it comes to stoking his competitive fires: “You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Click here to read more stories by Chris Bridges.

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