Podcast growing in popularity

Swift Current residents Tanner Willshaw (at left) and Derek Smout in The Final Shot podcast studio.

Two Swift Current residents are producing a combat sport podcast that provides a different perspective on the passions and interests of the fighters who participate in the shows.

The Final Shot podcast is hosted by Tanner Willshaw and produced by Derek Smout. They create episodes that tell stories in a no-holds-barred style, and they are now looking at expanding the podcast’s content.

“The style of the show itself is just 100 per cent pure honesty,” Willshaw said. “If I see something, I'm going to say it, if I hear something, I'm going to say it. If I don't like you, I'm going to say it. … That's the attraction to the show. The one thing I always got back in good comment is that I don't hold back when I see something.”

He feels a lot of other podcasts are hamstrung by their affiliations that might make it difficult to always talk straight about things.

“They're affiliated with this person or that person, and these people have fighters underneath their banners and they can't say anything bad,” he said. “I'm not affiliated with anybody. This show is a standalone, I do this because I want to. What I wanted to get out of was this cookie cutter. We're going to say this about this person, but we're not going to tell you why.”

They have produced 58 episodes of The Final Shot since May 2018, but the podcast originally started in 2015 when Willshaw was still living in Red Deer. He is an experienced kickboxer who also competed in mixed martial arts and more recently he decided to focus on boxing.

His training in Red Deer was interrupted by a knee injury after he fell off a ladder while installing siding, and he decided to start a podcast with a training partner, Luke Spicer. They produced 166 episodes of The Spice of Life podcast.

“I was hurt, I couldn't train, so I wanted to tell everybody else's story and try to help them make some money through sponsors or getting their name out there,” Willshaw recalled. “Then it has evolved. I couldn't imagine it being this big at that point, but it is what it is. It's fun.”

That original partnership came to an end when Spicer decided to focus on other business ventures. Willshaw then renamed the podcast to The Final Shot and hooked up with Smout.

“We were never meant to be friends,” Smout said. “We look totally different, we have totally different personalities, we run in different circles. That's what makes it work. You don't see us hanging out all weekend. He goes left, I go right, and when it comes together it brings a different dynamic to the show. Tanner is the mouthpiece, the originator, the creator of it. I do more of the tech end of it.”

Willshaw combines his knowledge about combat sport with a passion to tell stories about fighters and their lives. Each show is about an hour long and there is no script. He follows a free style and the discussions with guests can go in unexpected directions. For example, Canadian cruiserweight boxer Abokan Bokpe talked about boxing at the age of 40, how to take a loss, and applying his master’s degree in psychology to the fight game. 

Canadian heavyweight boxer Adam Braidwood has been a guest on several shows, and proper beard grooming techniques came up during one conversation. Emanuelle Estephan, a Canadian entrepreneur and proprietor of an online boxing streaming service, talked about French-Canadian fighters, horses and bad tattoos.

Jamaican-born boxer Shakeel Phinn talked about the benefits and disadvantages of being a vegan athlete. Willshaw also had a conversation with Canadian boxing historian Don Collette. Nova Scotia boxer Ryan Rozicki talked about his experience during a deer hunt, while other podcast episodes included discussions about Area 51 and the effect of stem cell research on combat sport.

The language during these shows can sometimes be rough and it is therefore an adult only podcast. The discussions will sometimes stir controversy, and Willshaw has received hate e-mails, while their social media accounts have also been hacked. Listener discretion is therefore advised and listeners might be offended or shocked.

The show has a strong focus on Canadian guests, but Willshaw has spoken to fighters from different countries. He does not like to call a discussion with a guest an interview, but feels it is rather a conversation. While many podcast listeners are Canadians, they have also found an audience in other English-speaking countries, including the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

“We're big in the fight capitals, like New Jersey, Chicago, Las Vegas, places like that,” he said. “It does well over there. For six months we were the number one sports podcast in China. Weird.”

Smout cautioned that statistics about where podcasts are downloaded can be useful, but they do not want to rely too much on that kind of information.

“The problem with that is you can look at stats all day and you can go down that rathole, and then it starts modifying your behaviour and it's just overwhelming,” he said.

At the same time, they realize that adjustments to the show are always necessary to keep it relevant and interesting. They have upgraded their equipment and they took social media courses to learn more about integrating content across different social media platforms. The podcast is now not only available in audio format, but the video format can be viewed on YouTube.

They are looking at ways to adjust the show format and content. There will always be a focus on combat sport, but even then, the conversation will be wider than just talking about upcoming fights or the sport itself. These discussions with guests give an insight into their broader interests and activities. Future shows might include guests from other extreme sports such as bull riding, and perhaps also some live action beyond the usual conversation, for example some physical action by Willshaw when he steps out of the studio to try out something such as bull riding.

“Since we're involved in such physical sports, there's only so much that can be translated by sitting down and talking,” Smout said. “That's the sort of thing about podcasting. We're constantly morphing or modifying.”

For more information about the podcast, go to The Final Shot podcast Facebook page (@thefinalshotpodcast), or listen to the shows through iTunes, Soundcloud, Google Play, or any podcast app on tablet or cell phone. The Final Shot shows can also be viewed on YouTube and Instagram followers get a sneak peek of new episodes.

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