Plastic surgeon Dr. Carlos Mata, a.k.a. Dr. Scottsdale, is the creator of the ‘Gladiator,’ a procedure which offers men a toned, muscular-appearing body by removing fat from the belly and back, as well as optional extras such as injecting fat into the pecs for a bigger chest, and “carving” more defined abs. Men’s Health spoke with one of Dr. Mata’s patients, a 45-year-old man who had the ‘Gladiator’ performed earlier this year at Natural Results Plastic Surgery in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Why did you decide to undergo this procedure?
I’ve been into fitness my whole life. I started exercising with a weight bench when I was 17, and since then I’ve always worked out. I’ve gone to multiple kinds of gyms, done everything from CrossFit to P90X, followed all kinds of diets. But I could never get the body I wanted, and I was starting to think I’d never get there. And then I stumbled across this procedure. It’s an expensive procedure, and a very skilled procedure, but fortunately I had the money and a qualified doctor happened to be in my town. So it all just kind of aligned. But for me, it was the last resort of many years of trying to achieve those results naturally.
And you didn’t believe you could achieve the body you wanted through diet and exercise?
That’s the crux of it. I genuinely don’t think there was any other way to get there, and if there was, I probably would have done it now.
What did your physique look like beforehand?
I was pretty fit. At 44 years old, I could do a lot of pushups and all of these things, but at the end of the day, I had chest fat that I could not reduce, and belly fat that just would not move. It was really interesting talking to the doctor and learning that there are areas of fat that you don’t even realize exist.
What was the consultation process like?
It was actually done through video because of Covid. I took my shirt off, and he looked at everything. It’s like, “hey doc, you know, I’ve been exercising my whole life and this isn’t changing, can you make this look like that?” I’m sure other people might have a different conversation. I’d already done a lot of research, and I was aware of Dr. Mata’s reputation and credentials, so really we were just talking about what I wanted to get out of the experience.
Typically, the ‘Gladiator’ consists of two liposuction procedures. And then there are add-ons, like abdominal sculpting. What did you opt for?
I did everything. I made a lot of money in crypto, and I figured this is part of a big lifestyle change, so why not go for all of it in one surgery. So I did the Lipo 360, which means that fat gets sucked back out of the entire torso area, which in and of itself is amazing. But then I also did do the skin tightening procedure that you pay extra for, and the ab etching, and I had fat transferred into the flat area of my chest to make it pop.
When you went in for the procedure, how did you feel? Were you apprehensive or anxious?
I had very minor liposuction done five years prior to the surgery, but during that first procedure I was actually awake the whole time. I was a little taken aback when I learned that I’d be going under anesthesia for several hours this time around. But I wouldn’t say I was apprehensive at all, as I already had an idea of how horrible the following weeks after surgery were going to be.
How long was the surgery? Were all of the different procedures done in one session?
They did everything in one go. My understanding is that it was about a five-hour operation. It could typically be anywhere from four to eight hours would be blocked out, but I’m pretty sure it was a five-hour procedure.
How did you feel when you woke up afterwards?
So you don’t really see or feel the difference when you wake up because you’re so spaced out. You’re barely conscious, very tired, and you just want pain pills, and you’re wearing this special vest. So you don’t really see your results until the day after the surgery. You go back when the doctor wants to see you, and then you get undressed and take off the vest and you can actually see the results.
What was the recovery process like?
The swelling starts to kick in over the next few days. And it could take weeks to months for it to kind of do this crescendo thing where you get very, very puffy. And then it all starts to settle down, and the abs, the pectoral muscles, the back, everything just naturally heals quite quickly.
How did it compare to your previous experience of getting liposuction?
My first experience of liposuction was not very good at all. And it’s my understanding that once you’ve had a surgery, the scar tissue and the stuff that exists in there, because someone else operated on you, makes the procedure even more difficult, and Dr. Mata still did an absolute, amazing job. You would have never even known that he had to work through any kind of old scar tissue from any kind of previous surgery.
What did you think of the final result?
I’m blown away. It has surpassed my expectations. I feel like I paid Michelangelo to use my body as a lump of clay. It’s unbelievable, it genuinely blows my mind. You don’t realize how far you are from what you want until you get it.
How much scarring was there?
You could honestly just tell somebody you got a mole removed, it doesn’t even look like a scar, it’s like a little pinhole. The only thing that’s visible, if you were at a beach, the only thing that anybody would ever notice is a tiny dot below the belly button area. Then there’s more on the back, which I don’t really see every day or think about, but I know there’s one on the back too. There are these tiny little things at your arm at the front of your armpits, but with your arms down you can’t even tell they’re there.
The real scarring is in the pubic area, there are two holes below the waistline that they use: these are what healed the slowest and have probably done the most damage to the skin, but even then your pubic hair covers them. As far as the etching on the six pack, there’s no scarring from that whatsoever. He approaches from a different angle down low where he does not focus your stomach at all. So in the whole front of your torso, there’s no visible scars in that area or holes.
How did your friends and family react when they saw the results?
Nobody knows I had the surgery. I told people I had a hernia. I actually thought the recovery was going to be easy enough that I wouldn’t be so beat up. But I told everyone I had a hernia surgery except for my friend that drove me, and my massage therapist, who does the lymph node stuff. And I don’t care that she knows. So really, I set that as a little secret. I don’t want anyone to know, and I have very tight-lipped. Because I was already in good shape, I think people just think I’ve been going extra hard in the gym.
How long after the surgery were you able to start exercising again?
You’re clear to go back to the gym about four weeks after the procedure if you want to, but for me personally, I didn’t go back for a couple of months. I was training at a gym doing really hardcore CrossFit at the time, and I just didn’t want to go rushing back into all that stuff because I was still in that healing zone. So in general, I was more conservative in moving forward with things. I kept telling myself I’d just gotten the results I wanted, what’s another month or two, just let the body relax, don’t try to shock the system while it’s healing.
Has it made you feel more confident?
I mean, it has to, because by default you look better. I’ve been in bars where, wearing the right shirt, I’ve had women grab my stomach and be like, “are you with anyone.” That didn’t happen before the surgery. So there is a huge difference, and that is fun and cool. And that is part of the result that you want. My confidence was already at a 95, and it’s pushed me to 100.
Has it all been worth it? Now that you know what the full experience entails, would you do it again?
There’s no doubt about it, the results are worth the money. Even with all the pain that I had to go through while recovering. I will tell you it is a horrible recovery process. Horrible, horrible, horrible. That first week, your minutes, minutes feel like hours. And even now, after six months, it’s still healing. But I would absolutely do it again.
Are the results you got through the procedure sustainable through just diet and exercise?
It is 100 percent sustainable. I’ve actually probably lost a couple of pounds since the surgery, I think I’m closer to 170 now. Obviously it depends on your DNA and your body’s size, but if you’ve gone through what I went through and you had the surgery, if you’re consuming the right amount of calories and expensing the right amount of energy to other activities, I would argue that you don’t even necessarily need to work out to maintain this look.
How has it affected your own workout routine?
The nice thing is now is that I can actually go to the gym and work on what I want to work on, and not be so focused on trying to burn these calories and burn this fat. It’s like I’ve spent decades in the gym trying to conquer something that I personally don’t think can be conquered. So that’s frustrating, because now when I go to the gym, I can actually focus on something that is conquerable, increasing my arm by an inch or two, making my lats stronger, instead of being so focused on trying to get the core the way I want it, which was an impossible task. So even working out is more enjoyable.
Would you consider having more work done in the future?
So for me, I know I would never get further work. It’s not because of a bad experience with this, but because there’s nothing that I want to change, there’s no need for a modification or a touch-up.
Would you recommend it to anybody else?
It’s hard for me to recommend it because nobody knows that I had it. In theory, if somebody was like, hey should I get this, there’s one thing I want them to understand. If you’re not active and you don’t go to the gym, but you want the results, I would tell you no, you should really go to the gym, because the surgery is going to take you three to six months to fully recover and get the results you want. So why not just go to the gym and try to do it? In my opinion, as great as Dr. Mata is, it’s a last resort, not a first, second, or third choice. And not just because of the cost. If you can do it naturally, why would you want to cheat yourself out of that?
This article was originally published on menshealth.com.