TV Gladiator: ‘God set me free from my destructive lifestyle’

A former star of ITV’s Gladiators has spoken about how God set him free after stardom left him pursuing a “destructive” lifestyle.

As the popular show returns to television after more than a decade, Warren Furman, one of the stars of the original series in the 1990s, has shared how the programme gave him everything he thought he wanted.

From being plucked out of obscurity to becoming a household name under his pseudonym ‘Ace’, Furman gradually realised that fame and fortune brought problems he was not prepared for. Eventually he came to find God, and is now a trainee vicar in the Church of England.

Hollywood idols

Growing up, Furman idolised the likes of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, two of Hollywood’s biggest and best-paid actors, who had made their names by becoming muscular action stars.

He reasoned that bulking up could be his own path to success, and devoted himself to bodybuilding. But when he didn’t find gainful employment, his parents, who were not supportive of his fixation, told him to leave home.

However, when ITV went searching for new cast members, he eventually found himself exchanging life in a homeless hostel for a limousine and a first-class flight to Mauritius.

‘Rags to riches’

“It was literally rags to riches”, Furman told Premier Christian Radio. “I was a shy, skinny kid, and I’d always wanted to be accepted. Now, all of a sudden, I was big and muscular. People idolised me. I loved it to begin with, but the novelty soon wore off.”

He recalled that after he began dating glamour model Katie Price, “Newspapers and magazines were offering me money on a daily basis for photos and stories. Suddenly everything is up for grabs. That does something to your soul in the end.”

He now reflects that such sin felt “good and pleasurable at the time” but was having a negative impact. “Life was a party, but I was picking up a lot of destructive habits.”


Furman continued: “At that time, I didn’t understand the paradox of pleasure, that the more you get of something, the less it satisfies. I was so invested in myself and I was going headlong into sin, not knowing what sin was, assuming that God just wanted to spoil my fun. But I was spiritually searching, no two ways about it.”

Gladiators was cancelled in 2000 and he was left without work, and ended up working with his brother as a roofer, where he endured “humiliating” taunts and jibes from other workers.

That year, Furman met airline stewardess Dionne, who had grown up in the church. They married and had children, but it wasn’t until 2015 that he came to Christ.

Gospel offense

He was invited to the home of Julian Richer, the founder of Richer Sounds, Britain’s biggest independent hi-fi chain and went hoping that he might get free business advice.

“Julian said to me: ‘The best advice I can give you, Warren, is to go on an Alpha course. Then, get baptised and come back to me.’ I was like: ‘What are you talking about? What’s an Alpha course?'”

He told his wife and the pair decided to go together, and Furman said it was the first time he’d heard the Gospel explained clearly. “I’d heard people say: ‘Jesus loves you’ in the street, and I’d say: ‘That’s great that God loves you, but that’s for you. It’s not for me.’ But nobody had ever said: ‘Look, God is love and you’re separated from him.’

“To be honest, when I first heard that, it offended me. Why on earth would I be separated from God when I’ve done nothing wrong?”

I came out of the rat race into God’s grace.

Born again

Furman continued: “Over the weeks, it was explained to me that chasing celebrity and putting my identity in anything other than God is a spurious place to go.

“And when I heard about the Holy Spirit, it blew my mind. I’d been trying to get power all my life, lifting all these weights, and now I was being told that I could be filled with the supernatural power of God. It was incredible.”

He committed his life to God, praying that God would transform him, and such was his transformation that his wife Dionne, who had always thought herself a Christian, realised she needed to be born again too.

We’re called to build the body of Christ, which is the Church.

New bodybuilding

He concluded: “I came out of the rat race into God’s grace. Instead of living a life of fear, trying to prove myself, I started to live a life of love and freedom and liberation; I started to see life in all its fullness. Everything changed.

“When people say to me now: ‘Do you still do bodybuilding to keep fit?’ I say: ‘Yes, I am still a bodybuilder. And as Christians, I believe we’re all bodybuilders. We’re called to build the body of Christ, which is the Church.'”

He ended: “I’m so excited for what the future holds.”

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