“Excommunicated,” Fraser Opens Up About Rift with Froning

January 5, 2021 by
Photo Credit: Athlete’s Eye
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In a two-part interview with The Darren Woodson Show, five-time Fittest Man on Earth Mathew Fraser revealed for the first time details of a rift with Rich Froning that’s resulted in neither of the two talking in the last two-and-a-half years. Fraser moved to Cookeville shortly after winning his second championship in 2017.

  • Fraser: “I’ve lived in Cookeville for three years and Rich hasn’t spoken to me in about two and a half.”

One big thing: The debate of Froning versus Fraser has been a topic of conversation since the latter beat Froning at the CrossFit Ranch during Open announcement 16.5 and has perpetuated as Fraser caught, then surpassed Froning’s individual record. But previously Fraser has remained silent when asked to discuss the debate. 

  • At the 2019 post-CrossFit Games press conference Dave Castro teased Froning and Fraser about competing individually in 2020 to break the tie for the most individual titles record, and when asked about it both responded respectfully about being content with what they had accomplished.
  • Fraser stated simply, “I know this is the story that everyone wants, but if you’re trying to make yourself feel good about your accomplishments because of how it compares to someone else’s, you’re chasing something that’s not good. I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished because it’s what I wanted to do.” To which Froning chimed in, “Same.”

What Fraser said: Around the 43-minute mark of the second part of the interview, Fraser was asked about his relationship with Rich Froning. “I’m trying to think how to answer this tactfully,” Fraser said. “I’ve lived in Cookeville for three years and Rich hasn’t spoken to me in about two and a half.

  • “It’s been really odd. This season (2020), we’ve had two online competitions and we were not allowed to do them at Mayhem.”
  • “There was just some weird shit that was going on. I tried to talk to him, tried to give him an out, ‘Hey man, we’re still cool, right? I don’t know what’s happening.’ And no confrontation, he wouldn’t tell me what he was thinking, doing, nothing, never gave me a reason for why I got kicked out of everything.”
  • “I asked around about what happened, I was really concerned about it at first. But I still have never gotten an answer…since he did it to me, I’ve seen him do it to three or four other people where he just excommunicated them.”
  • “Tia kept her relationship with Rich, they were good. I was like, ‘I don’t want you to be a part of whatever this is … I don’t know.’ And it was when quarantine hit and all that and Mayhem was never getting shut down, we were still training there, all the members were still there. And then Tia texted Rich and was like ‘Hey, Mat and I are still good to train there right?’ And he was like, ‘Nope.’”
  • “Rich won’t come to the gym, won’t talk to me, his team won’t come there to train. Nothing.”
  • “If Tia and Shane weren’t there, I would have moved out in six months.” 

Reading between the lines: Perhaps the best analysis of the situation was summed up by Darren Woodson, host of the podcast and former safety for the Dallas Cowboys:

  • Woodson: “You’re talking about two of the greatest to ever do it, right? I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a mutual respect but when you put two alphas in a room, when you put two alpha dogs in the room who are the best of the best  — I couldn’t put LeBron and Jordan in the same room and they’re both not gonna say ‘I was the greatest’ It’s innate.”

How we got here: Despite not working with Froning and other Mayhem athletes directly, Fraser and Toomey continued to train at Froning’s affiliate where they were normal fixtures at the gym.

  • This year however saw a noticeable change in the training environment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Fraser said they were told they were not allowed to use Mayhem as their training and host location for both the Rogue Invitational and the online stage of the 2020 Reebok CrossFit Games. 
  • This was delivered via text message between Toomey and Froning. The four-time champ, Froning, stated that the gym would be closed due to the quarantine and that it wouldn’t be fair to the affiliate members if they gave the two CrossFit champions preferential treatment.
  • This led Fraser, Toomey and Orr to head to Kentucky to train prior to the Rogue Invitational. Prior to their trip to Kentucky Toomey stopped by Mayhem to pick up equipment to take with them to which Fraser said, “the gym was packed. It was Rich and all his friends. Tia was like ‘dude they froze like dear in headlights.’ They realized they all got caught in a lie.”
  • Ultimately Fraser said this led both he and Toomey to compete in the online stage of the Games at Calfkiller CrossFit despite being affiliated and then kicked out of Mayhem. Calfkiller CrossFit in nearby Sparta, TN. was where Toomey had competed in the online Rogue Invitational after they were both told they couldn’t compete at Mayhem during quarantine.
  • Fraser gave some background on his time training at Mayhem, “If I’m in Cookeville and training at Mayhem, Rich won’t come to the gym, won’t talk to me, his team won’t come there to train, nothing.”

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