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The Road to BCS: Mayhem Mission

A short drive east of Nashville sits a town of 36,000—home to none other than Rich Froning and CrossFit Mayhem. Despite the small and otherwise unassuming appearance of Cookeville, TN, the name, creed, and legacy of Mayhem continues to reach the farthest corners of the globe. Still, despite their competitive positioning season to season, Mayhem is about so much more than elite fitness, demonstrated competitive success, and even Rich Froning. It’s a way of life anchored in bright hope and made actionable through service. To help power this initiative globally, domestically, and even in the heartland of Tennessee, is the organization benefactor of the 2022 BCS Online Qualifier: Mayhem Mission.

The concept of Mayhem Mission was born out of the friendship and spiritual bond shared between now CrossFit Mayhem CFO, Brian Nelson, and Rich. Unsurprisingly, and even more iconic, their friendship traces back to a workout wherein the distinct separating factor was an ambitious amount of weighted GHD sit-ups with a med ball. It was one of those times where you question everything about life. Despite the aftermath, Brian noted their bond runs so much deeper than fitness. It’s one of spiritual resonance, a connectedness united in their shared hope for humanity and a heart for service to humanity. The same hope and service that is a cornerstone of everything Mayhem does, and everything Mayhem is.

Following CrossFit Mayhem’s exponential growth, and Brian joining the team as CFO in January 2020, Mayhem Mission was formally founded as a condition of an agreement he made with Rich. The premise was the same it had been since their earliest discussions. Mayhem Mission would function as the arm of the organization especially devoted to serving others. The turbulence of 2020 derailed some of their big ideas early on; however, to date, Mayhem Mission’s areas of focus include combatting human trafficking, creating access to clean water, and serving the unreached and at-risk youth. You might recognize some of these initiatives from various fundraisers and charity events Mayhem takes part in throughout the year. Another way they pursue a heart of service is by supporting events aligned with their values, like BCS.

Serve One Another.

Since its founding two and a half years ago, Mayhem Mission’s work has reached far and wide. Internationally, Brian has coordinated and led teams to Peru, Nicaragua, and Africa, with the intention of leading more trips to more places in 2023. The nature of each trip differs based on the population the team seeks to serve and the needs present therein. However, more and more, Mayhem Mission witnesses the significance of their unique platform and its resonance among global communities. Where conventional barriers or challenges might hinder other organizations, a language understood universally brings Mayhem closer to the families, children, and folks who feel the impact orchestrated out of small-town Tennessee. This language, of course, is fitness. But it doesn’t end there. It’s fitness infused with love for those we might never encounter, further supercharged by a great hope for tomorrow.

When asked if any moments from the field stand out as particularly memorable to Brian, he was overcome with story after story. Notably, he shared of a time last year when he and a small team were deep in the heart of the Amazonian rainforest. In this far-away location, a short journey from the nearby port city of Iquitos, Peru, the agrarian approach to life has been necessarily adapted to meet the annual challenges the monsoon season presents. The result is a standard practice of cultivating farmlands up to 2 miles from village centers. Quick math translation: upon harvest, crops must be carried across the distance to provide sustenance for the community. A feat of routine functional fitness in its truest form. And, when visiting a place where this is the custom, who better to offer help with carrying heavy loads great distances than a team comprised of functional athletes? The point wasn’t to displace the farmers altogether but to leverage elite fitness to make what was a heavy load of plantains a little lighter. Service, as humble as it is capable.

This year, BCS will be able to donate more than $20,000 to further the work of Mayhem Mission. The impact of this donation will be monumentally felt by people around the globe for generations. Because fitness brought people together with great potential, but a desire to serve the world championed it.

Serve First. Play Later.

The repeatedly observable thing about Mayhem is the alignment of heart and action. There’s a slogan often spoken aloud within the walls of the gym by its members, those who are professional athletes and those who train for life, “Serve first. Play later.” It’s the anthem etched into the greatness of Rich’s professional career. The story of belonging that powers its members. The big idea that guides the host of its mightiest athletes on the biggest stages. So, when looking from the outside in, it is perhaps easy to notice that something is different about the folks from Cookeville. Day in and day out, from the tallest mountain tops and the lowest valleys, the storm, the grind, and the victory are in pursuit of one thing. Faith. Family. Fitness. And Service.

For more information on Mayhem Mission and the work they are doing, visit

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