FreestyleXtreme Magazine Issue 25 - Page 66

T hirty-six-year-old André Villa has always had an infectious enthusiasm and zeal, not just for FMX, but for life in general. A conversation with the deceptively tall Norwegian will almost invariably leave you feeling stoked and uplifted; he’s never afraid to call a spade a spade, but that honesty has helped him become one of the most respected, universally- liked riders in the industry. However, after stellar career contesting for wins and podiums on the world’s biggest FMX and speed and style stages, André quietly slipped out of the spotlight. He and his girl Rachel had a son (now two) called Storm, he sold his house in California and moved back to Norway where he’s working ungodly hours as an event promoter. The biggest feather in his cap – so far – was the incredible Ullevaal Xtreme action sports contest in Oslo in June. The inaugural day-long event was a wild concoction of Nitro Circus Live, X Games, AMA Supercross and a muscle car show in a huge football stadium stuffed with tens of thousands of screaming fans. Right off the bat, Villa’s Ullevaal Xtreme has established itself as one of the biggest, most exciting, revolutionary high-profile contests on the planet and fills a much-needed void left by the withdrawal of Red Bull X-Fighters in 2018. With the excitement dying down and Villa catching his breath after the biggest event of his life, we decided to contact him and find out more about his new direction, and his relentless pursuit of making other people happy. André, thanks for the chat, man. You’ve been fairly busy lately by the sounds of it. [laughs] Yeah, just a little! I’ve moved back to Norway and focused on life after professional riding. As an athlete, you live a very selfish life, and while it’s good, I needed to move in a new direction now that I have a family. But now I’m probably busier as a promoter than I was as an athlete, although I’m not travelling as much. 66 | Tell us a bit about how Ullevaal Xtreme took shape. What was the thinking behind it? I worked on this project for about a year, and the event was at the national soccer stadium in Norway [Ullevaal Stadion in Oslo]. They actually came to me and asked if we could do something together, so I didn’t have to rent the arena or anything. It was a huge project with a lot of people involved. We wanted to make a solid freestyle motocross and speed-and-style contest, and Red Bull X-Fighters was dropping off and there were rumours that the Nitro World Games was either changing dramatically or wouldn’t be held. That meant that there was only X Games with a professionally built track with competitive riders, and these contests are what keep them motivated and the sport progressing. We had almost 30 riders with Tom Pages, Josh Sheehan, Edgar Torrenteras, Maikel Melero, Libor Podmol, Pat Bowden in FMX, and some of the biggest names across all the other sports like Josh Hill, Jaie Toohey and Ryan Williams. I heard that you turned down the opportunity for live TV coverage as well. What was your thinking there? While contests are the one thing that keeps our sport alive, the audience also has to be pleased. The show needs to be amazing, exciting and make them want to come back and see it again. So we aimed to customize our show for the audience experience and make it the best event in the history of extreme sports. Even though we had a 12-camera production and big screens, I said ‘no’ to live TV, because – and all credit to X Games as they’ve done so much for our sport, and we need them – but for the audience that are there, when there’s a commercial break the commentator barely talks to the audience. It’s completely built for TV. On my journey over the past 15 years, I’ve taken all the good stuff I’ve seen and tried to create something that emphasized all those good things. u