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+{{+ Official 2020 MR OLYMPIA Thread , Dec. 17th - 20th +}}+

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A New Era Begins – The 2020 Olympia Weekend
By Christian Duque, June 12th, 2020




First and foremost, let me just say that the old Spanish saying, “no hay mal que por bien no venga,” (there’s no bad that won’t bring good) rings true. We’ve had a horrible 2020 as a result of the COVID19 pandemic. The coronavirus left gyms closed indefinitely, it resulted in the cancellation of the largest fitness expos in the world (i.e., The Arnold Sports Festival), and it was the direct result of countless contests being either cancelled or postponed. One of the biggest and most hyped contests of all, The Rock’s Athleticon in Atlanta, GA, was postponed to 2021.

With everything that was going on, with people forced to social distance, many being laid off or forced to work from home, the chances The Olympia would happen started looking bleak for many. I always knew the show would go on, especially after I interviewed my good friend, Chief Olympia Officer Dan Solomon. Dan is the type of guy, who if life gives him lemons, he’ll make lemonade. That’s the kind of guy you want at the helm, someone who isn’t going to complain and fold under pressure, but really shine. I was also confident the Olympia Weekend would in fact happen because the contest changed hands. Nothing against David Pecker and AMI, but that’s a huge company, where bodybuilding is just one of many assets. Fitness was also not a key moneymaker for them, either, it was just one of many. When Wings of Strength mogul Jake Wood bought the event, I knew the Olympia would happen. With that said, there’s a big difference between it simply happening – and – it truly being a new era.

There’s a lot of pieces at play here. For starters, when Dan Solomon sold Digital Muscle to Jake, that was the first step in my opinion. DM is unlike any other website in the fitness industry. If I had to compare it to any other, I’d be inclined to say Generation Iron, but that’s not entirely accurate, either. Digital Muscle is a bodybuilding hub and Dan realized his vision by recruiting some of the biggest names from the print era, to collaborate with him, digitally. The page has always put out cutting-edge content without falling prey to a lot of the industry pettiness and squabbles. Solomon has always looked beyond that. He’s not interested in the he-said/she-said because it’s a never-ending war. There are plenty of sites who have hung their hat on gossip, fake news, and fueling the rumor mill. While they get hits and they can sell advertising, at the end of the day, they’re not really building anything. They’re paying the bills, but they’re not growing the sport. Between his role with Digital Muscle and the major motion film, Bigger, Dan put himself on the map. Once Jake bought DM, IFBB Hall of Famer “Sugar” Shawn Ray was put at the helm. Dan moved on, reaching a pinnacle in his career, as Chief Olympia Officer. Less than a year later, Digital Muscle has continued upping its game, and now, Jake owns the biggest bodybuilding contest on Earth.

It’s all about building, making moves, and growing the sport. The new graphics are fire. You can tell that a lot of time was invested – from the conceptualization to the execution. They picked great photos, they worked on the wording, and now these images will create a level of hype that will fuel us for the next six months. To see 7x 212 Olympia Showdown Champion James “Flex” Lewis (aka The Welsh Dragon) on stage against 2019 Mr. Olympia Brandon Curry, that’s got blockbuster written all over it. The fans want to see 2018 People’s Champion Roelly Winklaar back!! They want to see the return of Hadi Choopan.

The thing is, each division has a roster of real superstars, but bodybuilding reigns supreme – as it should! What I love most about the new direction, is the fact that everyone who’s involved loves bodybuilding. This isn ‘t just another way to make a buck and the fans are thought of at every turn.

The fact the new venue is at the heart of the Las Vegas Strip is huge!! The Zappos Theatre is a new, updated, and state of the art venue. The host hotel has been totally renovated, the rooms are beautiful, affordable, and contest-goers have a million things to do, just walking out of the hotel lobby. Nothing against the old venue, but when the Olympia left the Mandalay Bay for The Orleans, I highly doubt that that move was one that was made with the fans or competitors in mind. Nonetheless, the old venue gave the sport some great memories. The fact there’s a new era, doesn’t mean the old wasn’t great, but we sure can use a change, as well.

One other, big plus for the 2020 event is the return of Women’s Bodybuilding and from a recent episode of Digital Muscle, it seems that 10x Ms. Olympia Iris Kyle may be returning. How huge is that?!? Jake Wood is directly responsible for the renaissance of muscular women and women’s bodybuilding through his Wings of Strength empire, but Iris has been the one superstar notably absent from the Rising Phoenix events and the World Championships. The fact there’s any possibility she’d return to the Ms. Olympia stage is unreal. At 150lbs ripped and symmetrical, Kyle would be very hard to beat. In fact, the only woman who ever did beat her, was 2005 Ms. Olympia Yaxeni Oriquen. Yaxeni is also expected to compete. Much like Men’s Bodybuilding, the Women’s Bodybuilding stage will have so many different things going on – from its return, to the showdown between generations, to which ladies will make that Top 6 and posedown for the world!!

212 Bodybuilding is another nail-biter, with a new champion in Kamal El Gargani, the expected return of The Boston Mass, Jose Raymond, the undeniable ascent of The Giant Killer Shaun Clarida, and a whole roster of veteran competitors, giving 110% to win the title than Flex Lewis held for seven consecutive years. You also have the heir apparent from 2019, Derek Lunsford, very much ready to vindicate himself after 2019.

As December 17th-20th approaches, I know I’ll be getting more and more excited!! I have already booked my hotel reservations and soon will book my airline tickets. I hope to see you there!! Who do you have winning?
 
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Olympia Dark Horse: Has Everyone Already Forgotten About Flex Lewis?
By Matt Weik, June 14th, 2020




2020 has been one of the most #%$*&@ up years any of us has experienced. If there was a box of bad event dominoes, 2020 would be pushing the first one over and causing the snowball effect we’ve experienced thus far (hopefully we are done for the year). That being said, everything that has been going on has crushed the bodybuilding industry as competitors aren’t able to hit the gym nor are shows allowed to take place due to the inability to have large gatherings.

Many are hopeful that shows are going to start rolling back into full swing, but currently, they are left without a paycheck in their hands and uncertainty as to when their next show will be. That is unless you’re Flex Lewis. If you were to look at Flex Lewis and what’s in his hands, you’d find an Olympia invite.


Why Is No One Talking About Flex Lewis?
It’s interesting to me that fans and media are talking about everyone other than Flex Lewis. Talks of if Kai Greene is going to come back. Mentions of Phil Heath hinting at coming back to win his eighth. Questions of whether or not Shawn Rhoden will be able to grace the stage once again depending on his pending trial. And doubters who think Brandon Curry was a one and done Olympia winner.

Flex Lewis has nothing to prove. He’s a seven-time Mr. Olympia 212 winner and arguably the greatest 212 competitor to ever walk on a bodybuilding stage. With the announcement that he was going to retire from the 212-division and move up to men’s open, many wondered if he would be able to put on enough size to stand next to the likes of Phil Heath, Big Ramy, Roelly Winklaar, and the reigning champion, Brandon Curry.

We’ve never seen a side-by-side comparison of Flex Lewis next to any of those guys. Heck, we haven’t even seen him stand next to guys who didn’t even make it into the top 10. So, the question remains if he has a physique that can crack the top 10 or even make his way into the top five?

Maybe the lack of excitement for Flex has to do with when it comes to the men’s open, we aren’t used to seeing his name. But I will say this… people better be prepared come the 2020 Olympia in Vegas at the end of the year. Flex was given a special invitation very early on which allows him more than enough time to prepare his best physique to date.


Flex WILL Be Ready
I don’t have any insider information nor am I personally friends with Flex Lewis (the guy probably doesn’t even have a clue who I am), but I believe Flex will be ready in December to shock bodybuilding fans across the globe. I think Flex is using his time flying below the radar to put all of his focus into his prep, without all of the distractions. In fact, no one talking about Flex has probably taken a lot of the stress and pressure off of him and therefore he can have fun with his training and simply put his head down and get to work without people breathing down his neck and wanting to see what he looks like throughout the year.

Even during the lock down and stay-at-home order, Flex has the ability to train at his gym (Dragon’s Lair Gym in Boca Raton, FL). He owns and operates it and just because others aren’t able to train there during the lockdown doesn’t mean he can’t – and I think he’s been if I were a betting man.

I’m sure he hasn’t been missing his meals or supplements and is somewhat still on cruise control during his prep. Being that most things are closed, I’d bet he’s getting some good rest and recovery which can only help improve his physique as well.



There’s Strength in Silence
One thing I’ve taken notice of is that Flex Lewis has not been very active on social media when it comes to his workouts or showing off his progress. In my opinion, this is smart. I also believe this is at the direction of the Olympia promoters as they do not want anyone to see what Flex looks like until he walks out onto the Olympia stage.

It’s been quite some time since we last saw Flex Lewis on a bodybuilding stage. One thing that concerns me is that due to the fact that he needs to put on a ton of size to get ready for men’s open, while he knew his body well when in 212, will he be able to nail his conditioning after taking so much time off and not knowing how his body will respond to the new size he has added. I can only assume that he will start his diet a few weeks earlier than normal to give him enough time to make the necessary changes should things not go as planned leading up to the show.

But being that Flex Lewis is lying low and not in the spotlight should have Flex smiling – it makes him the forgotten competitor. THE UNDERDOG. Personally, I’m not ruling out that Flex could land within the top five at the 2020 Mr. Olympia competition. I actually think it would be pretty cool to see him come back and win the whole thing.

With that being said, I need to slow my roll. We still don’t know who all will be stepping on that stage in December. Right now, Brandon Curry is looking pretty dang good. We haven’t seen some of the other guys like William Bonac, Dexter Jackson, Hadi Choopan, Big Ramy, or Roelly Winklaar. And how can we forget about the lack of commitment from Phil Heath and Kai Greene?

If you were to add Phil back into the fold, I think it’s game over. I think Phil will win his eighth Olympia title. Should Phil come back and not regain his title, I think his competitive career is over and he’ll retire.

That said, how many years will Flex Lewis compete in men’s open? Who knows? But I, for one, can’t wait to see the package he brings to the stage at this year’s Mr. Olympia.
 

Harley00

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Guys just keep getting bigger and bigger each year, dam those shoulders ..... huge
 
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WILL SHAWN RHODEN COMPETE AT THE 2020 OLYMPIA?
By Christian Duque, July 13th, 2020




This has got to be one of the biggest what-if type questions out there, largely, because the outcome is beyond speculative. Rhoden has been a fan favorite all over the world since 2016 when he took a controversial runner-up to Phil “The Gift” Heath. This is for a couple pressing reasons.

For starters, sports get boring whenever there’s a team or player that wins everything. People love competition, they like the suspense, and it’s that contentious climate that creates some of the best debates on the message boards, in between sets at the gym, and of course in the audiences of some of the biggest contests. Fans like close, tough battles, where pundits and handicappers can break down each pose, speaking to the strengths and weaknesses of each competitor. Whenever you have complete dominance, however, it can get boring. Phil Heath wasn’t the dominant force he was marketed to be, but held on for seven years. There were years Kai was so close, a strong case could have been made for him. In 2016, Rhoden pushed the champ hard. Then there were other years, like 2017, where The Gift was the legitimate victor. All in all, however, fans were growing tired of Phil’s blocking critics, feuding with social media stars like Luimarco, and taking great exception at any competitor who openly challenged his reign.

The fans liked Shawn because he didn’t back down. They also liked Shawn because he wasn’t considered to be the guy to be the next champion. If we were to go by marketing, it would have been Kai or Ramy, maybe even James “Flex” Lewis coming up from the 212, but not Rhoden, never Rhoden. You have to realize, I took A LOT of abuse on the message boards because I was one of the few who constantly predicted Shawn would go all the way. Everybody laughed at me and everyone said that was the longshot of the century. Flexatron was a real longshot – then and, interestingly, now.

The fact is 2017 was a tough year for Rhoden. He was sidelined because of a jaw injury that literally prevented him from eating. There was such a build-up after 2016 and his then sponsor, Pro Supps, was pushing hard for him. If you were active on the bodybuilding websites, you couldn’t help but noticing the very strong push behind the 2016 Olympia runner-up. Rhoden was taking the Olympia so seriously for 2017 that he skipped the Arnold Classic. That could have been an easy pay day for him, especially given the fact that was one of the weakest lineups in ages. No disrespect to Cedric or Dallas, but Rhoden would have cleaned house, fresh off of taking 2nd at the Olympia. Still, everything was going into the 2017 rematch. When he didn’t win, didn’t take second, and took a tough, but respectable, placing, he lost his main sponsor and once again, people wrote him off.

Some guys are the people’s champions. Other guys are the blue collar workers of the sport. Some guys, like Rhoden, are the underdogs. They’re overlooked by the press, largely overlooked by the fans, and sometimes lose big money because even their own sponsors don’t see what they see. I’ll still say, how colossally dumb would a supplement company CEO feel like, if the guy they dropped the year before, went on to win the biggest title in bodybuilding the year after.

Some guys lose their biggest sponsor and fall to pieces, but the real fighters, the real champions, they’re un-phased. They know what needs to be done and they do it. Shawn fought so hard in 2018, I can still remember watching the videos where he was literally assisted to walk. That’s some Rocky Balboa shit right there, tenth round, holding onto the top rope and beckoning Apollo Creed to come back for one more go at it. Phil was definitely not Apollo, but Apollo would be the industry, the naysayers, the critics and of course the haters. When Shawn won in 2018, he shut everybody up.

Now we have an understanding of what he’s facing legally and while I would never speak as to guilt or innocence, I will say that I hope the process is carried out, that Shawn’s rights are respected, and that his legal team be able to ensure he receives a fair trial. With that said, there may or may not be a trial. In the event Shawn is acquitted or the case is disposed of, I believe he’s owed the right to compete and I do believe that’s always been the plan. If and when the charges are dropped or the case is won, then everyone on the planet yearns for the day Shawn hits the stage. Whether or not he can beat Brandon Curry, Flex Lewis, or any other competitor really isn’t the point. The fans simply want to see their 2018 champion back up there.


To those who argue that had he never had to leave the sport, that he would have won in 2019, all I can say is that that’s mere speculation. I’m not one to speak in hypotheticals; I’m not one to compare photos of competitors from different eras and pontificate over what the results would have been on in some kind of bodybuilding celebrity matchup. I leave that nail-biting content for the YouTube stars and wannabe influencers.

I, personally, don’t think we’ll see Shawn on stage – any stage – competing in 2020, simply because I can’t imagine his case will have concluded by that point. Most of the courts are backed up as a result of Covid19 and while many are using innovative features like Zoom for select hearing and motions, I would think that given the gravity of the charges, that Rhoden’s legal team would opt to do things in-person and all in their due time. This is not the kind of trial that either side would want to speed through. At least that’s my opinion.

That being said, we all see Shawn training and packing on muscle like someone who is planning to compete. There’s really no reason that any competitor would hit it that hard in the gym, eat that strictly, and post so many updates, simply for hits. That’s never been Rhoden’s style and I can’t imagine it is now. That’s something a new name in social media would do, someone looking to get Instafamous and/or drum up some noise for their YouTube channel. The bottom line is, Rhoden wants it, he’s fighting in the trenches, and he’s not going to put himself through the emotional rollercoaster of leading his fans on, just for shits and giggles. He’s not that guy – in fact I don’t know anyone who is.

Ok, so sure, Kai Greene has been known to tease the fans over the years. Maybe he’ll imply something, laugh at a certain time, maybe he’ll be subtle and maybe not so subtle, but that might be a sound bite or two. Rhoden has been looking and sounding like someone who’s on prep for the biggest contest of their life. One things is marketing and another is living the life of a competitor. Maybe Rhoden is taking a page from the Kai Greene manual or maybe living the life is the closest thing to feeling like an active competitor. Maybe this is more than a labor of love, maybe this is all that’s keeping Rhoden grounded.

Again, I won’t speak to guilt or innocence, but what I will say is this. Imagine IF you were totally innocent, but you had serious charges over your head. You’re innocent until proven guilty in terms of your personal freedom; however, you can no longer compete, you see all your sponsors leave you, and you even a lose a lot of fans in the process. You’re basically a spectator. You can’t defend yourself, you can’t do anything, hell, you can’t even say anything. Maybe training for a show, even if you know deep down you probably won’t be able to compete, is all you can do. Maybe Shawn’s whole prep rests on whatever bleak light can be seen at the end of the tunnel. Maybe his whole prep is fueled by hope?

Do you think Shawn will compete at the 2020 Olympia?
 

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Olympia Dark Horse: Has Everyone Already Forgotten About Flex Lewis?
By Matt Weik, June 14th, 2020




2020 has been one of the most #%$*&@ up years any of us has experienced. If there was a box of bad event dominoes, 2020 would be pushing the first one over and causing the snowball effect we’ve experienced thus far (hopefully we are done for the year). That being said, everything that has been going on has crushed the bodybuilding industry as competitors aren’t able to hit the gym nor are shows allowed to take place due to the inability to have large gatherings.

Many are hopeful that shows are going to start rolling back into full swing, but currently, they are left without a paycheck in their hands and uncertainty as to when their next show will be. That is unless you’re Flex Lewis. If you were to look at Flex Lewis and what’s in his hands, you’d find an Olympia invite.


Why Is No One Talking About Flex Lewis?
It’s interesting to me that fans and media are talking about everyone other than Flex Lewis. Talks of if Kai Greene is going to come back. Mentions of Phil Heath hinting at coming back to win his eighth. Questions of whether or not Shawn Rhoden will be able to grace the stage once again depending on his pending trial. And doubters who think Brandon Curry was a one and done Olympia winner.

Flex Lewis has nothing to prove. He’s a seven-time Mr. Olympia 212 winner and arguably the greatest 212 competitor to ever walk on a bodybuilding stage. With the announcement that he was going to retire from the 212-division and move up to men’s open, many wondered if he would be able to put on enough size to stand next to the likes of Phil Heath, Big Ramy, Roelly Winklaar, and the reigning champion, Brandon Curry.

We’ve never seen a side-by-side comparison of Flex Lewis next to any of those guys. Heck, we haven’t even seen him stand next to guys who didn’t even make it into the top 10. So, the question remains if he has a physique that can crack the top 10 or even make his way into the top five?

Maybe the lack of excitement for Flex has to do with when it comes to the men’s open, we aren’t used to seeing his name. But I will say this… people better be prepared come the 2020 Olympia in Vegas at the end of the year. Flex was given a special invitation very early on which allows him more than enough time to prepare his best physique to date.


Flex WILL Be Ready
I don’t have any insider information nor am I personally friends with Flex Lewis (the guy probably doesn’t even have a clue who I am), but I believe Flex will be ready in December to shock bodybuilding fans across the globe. I think Flex is using his time flying below the radar to put all of his focus into his prep, without all of the distractions. In fact, no one talking about Flex has probably taken a lot of the stress and pressure off of him and therefore he can have fun with his training and simply put his head down and get to work without people breathing down his neck and wanting to see what he looks like throughout the year.

Even during the lock down and stay-at-home order, Flex has the ability to train at his gym (Dragon’s Lair Gym in Boca Raton, FL). He owns and operates it and just because others aren’t able to train there during the lockdown doesn’t mean he can’t – and I think he’s been if I were a betting man.

I’m sure he hasn’t been missing his meals or supplements and is somewhat still on cruise control during his prep. Being that most things are closed, I’d bet he’s getting some good rest and recovery which can only help improve his physique as well.



There’s Strength in Silence
One thing I’ve taken notice of is that Flex Lewis has not been very active on social media when it comes to his workouts or showing off his progress. In my opinion, this is smart. I also believe this is at the direction of the Olympia promoters as they do not want anyone to see what Flex looks like until he walks out onto the Olympia stage.

It’s been quite some time since we last saw Flex Lewis on a bodybuilding stage. One thing that concerns me is that due to the fact that he needs to put on a ton of size to get ready for men’s open, while he knew his body well when in 212, will he be able to nail his conditioning after taking so much time off and not knowing how his body will respond to the new size he has added. I can only assume that he will start his diet a few weeks earlier than normal to give him enough time to make the necessary changes should things not go as planned leading up to the show.

But being that Flex Lewis is lying low and not in the spotlight should have Flex smiling – it makes him the forgotten competitor. THE UNDERDOG. Personally, I’m not ruling out that Flex could land within the top five at the 2020 Mr. Olympia competition. I actually think it would be pretty cool to see him come back and win the whole thing.
 

NOVITEC

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Flex's shoulders and back...damn!!! Thats fire👌👌
 

XANIMAL

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dexter says he wont retire if there no crowds
Dexter probably has inside information that there will most likely be no crowds. It wont be good for him or the show to go out like that.
 

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FLEX LEWIS OUT OF 2020 MR. OLYMPIA
By Christian Duque, October 19th, 2020



We have a WORLD of respect for #FlexLewis for withdrawing from the 2020 #MrOlympia !! He’s an exemplary Pro #Bodybuilder who was able to make a very tough decision. As opposed to competing just to compete, he did the right thing by his health. That’s very, very important.

 

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WILL SHAWN RHODEN COMPETE AT THE 2020 OLYMPIA?
By Christian Duque, July 13th, 2020




This has got to be one of the biggest what-if type questions out there, largely, because the outcome is beyond speculative. Rhoden has been a fan favorite all over the world since 2016 when he took a controversial runner-up to Phil “The Gift” Heath. This is for a couple pressing reasons.

For starters, sports get boring whenever there’s a team or player that wins everything. People love competition, they like the suspense, and it’s that contentious climate that creates some of the best debates on the message boards, in between sets at the gym, and of course in the audiences of some of the biggest contests. Fans like close, tough battles, where pundits and handicappers can break down each pose, speaking to the strengths and weaknesses of each competitor. Whenever you have complete dominance, however, it can get boring. Phil Heath wasn’t the dominant force he was marketed to be, but held on for seven years. There were years Kai was so close, a strong case could have been made for him. In 2016, Rhoden pushed the champ hard. Then there were other years, like 2017, where The Gift was the legitimate victor. All in all, however, fans were growing tired of Phil’s blocking critics, feuding with social media stars like Luimarco, and taking great exception at any competitor who openly challenged his reign.

The fans liked Shawn because he didn’t back down. They also liked Shawn because he wasn’t considered to be the guy to be the next champion. If we were to go by marketing, it would have been Kai or Ramy, maybe even James “Flex” Lewis coming up from the 212, but not Rhoden, never Rhoden. You have to realize, I took A LOT of abuse on the message boards because I was one of the few who constantly predicted Shawn would go all the way. Everybody laughed at me and everyone said that was the longshot of the century. Flexatron was a real longshot – then and, interestingly, now.

The fact is 2017 was a tough year for Rhoden. He was sidelined because of a jaw injury that literally prevented him from eating. There was such a build-up after 2016 and his then sponsor, Pro Supps, was pushing hard for him. If you were active on the bodybuilding websites, you couldn’t help but noticing the very strong push behind the 2016 Olympia runner-up. Rhoden was taking the Olympia so seriously for 2017 that he skipped the Arnold Classic. That could have been an easy pay day for him, especially given the fact that was one of the weakest lineups in ages. No disrespect to Cedric or Dallas, but Rhoden would have cleaned house, fresh off of taking 2nd at the Olympia. Still, everything was going into the 2017 rematch. When he didn’t win, didn’t take second, and took a tough, but respectable, placing, he lost his main sponsor and once again, people wrote him off.

Some guys are the people’s champions. Other guys are the blue collar workers of the sport. Some guys, like Rhoden, are the underdogs. They’re overlooked by the press, largely overlooked by the fans, and sometimes lose big money because even their own sponsors don’t see what they see. I’ll still say, how colossally dumb would a supplement company CEO feel like, if the guy they dropped the year before, went on to win the biggest title in bodybuilding the year after.

Some guys lose their biggest sponsor and fall to pieces, but the real fighters, the real champions, they’re un-phased. They know what needs to be done and they do it. Shawn fought so hard in 2018, I can still remember watching the videos where he was literally assisted to walk. That’s some Rocky Balboa shit right there, tenth round, holding onto the top rope and beckoning Apollo Creed to come back for one more go at it. Phil was definitely not Apollo, but Apollo would be the industry, the naysayers, the critics and of course the haters. When Shawn won in 2018, he shut everybody up.

Now we have an understanding of what he’s facing legally and while I would never speak as to guilt or innocence, I will say that I hope the process is carried out, that Shawn’s rights are respected, and that his legal team be able to ensure he receives a fair trial. With that said, there may or may not be a trial. In the event Shawn is acquitted or the case is disposed of, I believe he’s owed the right to compete and I do believe that’s always been the plan. If and when the charges are dropped or the case is won, then everyone on the planet yearns for the day Shawn hits the stage. Whether or not he can beat Brandon Curry, Flex Lewis, or any other competitor really isn’t the point. The fans simply want to see their 2018 champion back up there.


To those who argue that had he never had to leave the sport, that he would have won in 2019, all I can say is that that’s mere speculation. I’m not one to speak in hypotheticals; I’m not one to compare photos of competitors from different eras and pontificate over what the results would have been on in some kind of bodybuilding celebrity matchup. I leave that nail-biting content for the YouTube stars and wannabe influencers.

I, personally, don’t think we’ll see Shawn on stage – any stage – competing in 2020, simply because I can’t imagine his case will have concluded by that point. Most of the courts are backed up as a result of Covid19 and while many are using innovative features like Zoom for select hearing and motions, I would think that given the gravity of the charges, that Rhoden’s legal team would opt to do things in-person and all in their due time. This is not the kind of trial that either side would want to speed through. At least that’s my opinion.

That being said, we all see Shawn training and packing on muscle like someone who is planning to compete. There’s really no reason that any competitor would hit it that hard in the gym, eat that strictly, and post so many updates, simply for hits. That’s never been Rhoden’s style and I can’t imagine it is now. That’s something a new name in social media would do, someone looking to get Instafamous and/or drum up some noise for their YouTube channel. The bottom line is, Rhoden wants it, he’s fighting in the trenches, and he’s not going to put himself through the emotional rollercoaster of leading his fans on, just for shits and giggles. He’s not that guy – in fact I don’t know anyone who is.

Ok, so sure, Kai Greene has been known to tease the fans over the years. Maybe he’ll imply something, laugh at a certain time, maybe he’ll be subtle and maybe not so subtle, but that might be a sound bite or two. Rhoden has been looking and sounding like someone who’s on prep for the biggest contest of their life. One things is marketing and another is living the life of a competitor. Maybe Rhoden is taking a page from the Kai Greene manual or maybe living the life is the closest thing to feeling like an active competitor. Maybe this is more than a labor of love, maybe this is all that’s keeping Rhoden grounded.

Again, I won’t speak to guilt or innocence, but what I will say is this. Imagine IF you were totally innocent, but you had serious charges over your head. You’re innocent until proven guilty in terms of your personal freedom; however, you can no longer compete, you see all your sponsors leave you, and you even a lose a lot of fans in the process. You’re basically a spectator. You can’t defend yourself, you can’t do anything, hell, you can’t even say anything. Maybe training for a show, even if you know deep down you probably won’t be able to compete, is all you can do. Maybe Shawn’s whole prep rests on whatever bleak light can be seen at the end of the tunnel. Maybe his whole prep is fueled by hope?

Do you think Shawn will compete at the 2020 Olympia?
Just announced he is not. Unfortunate .
 

~Dr Juice~

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BIG RAMY GETS SPECIAL INVITE
By Christian Duque, October 22nd, 2020



The Egyptian Phenom, Big Ramy has been given a special invite to compete at the 2020 Mr. Olympia. This means he will not earn the right to take the stage, either through automatically qualifying (Top 6 previous year), winning a pro show, or qualifying by points. He will compete because the federation decided to invite him. Although he competed at the 2020 Arnold Classic, for the first time in his career, he placed 3rd behind previous champions Dexter “The Blade” Jackson and William “The Conqueror” Bonac.

He did not compete at either the Tampa Pro or New York Pro, but did throw his hat into the Spain contest where the Top 3 would earn Olympia qualifications. Unfortunately, Ramy tested positive for Covid 19, and was unable to compete. Had he been any other bodybuilder he’d a been SOL (shit out of luck), but because Ramy is a fan favorite and because 7x 212 Olympia Showdown champion, The Welsh Dragon, James “Flex” Lewis had to withdraw because of an undisclosed injury, it’s my opinion, that Ramy was given this opportunity.

The Olympia needs to have many draws and with losing Lewis, it suffered a major blow. Ramy’s presence will not fill that void and they may argue that his special invitation is a federation-move, not an event one, and that they’re totally unrelated. To each their own. I’m of the opinion that without Lewis, it’s going to be harder to fill the seats for a contest just a week shy of Christmas. That being said, everyone wants to see what Brandon Curry brings, as well as his fellow Oxygen Gym colleague Roelly “The Beast” Winklaar. This contest MAY also be Dexter Jackson’s last, though, I don’t believe a guy who nearly wins the Arnold Classic and who could win the Olympia, should be considering retirement. It’s very possible that Dex has a change of heart. People are allowed to change their minds, especially the winningest pro in the history of the sport, right?

Before speaking more on Ramy’s good fortune, I’d also like to go on record as stating that I don’t think Phil Heath will compete. I’ll believe it when I see it, but something tells me, he will drop out. I have nothing factual to back this up with, except a hunch. Phil cannot beat Brandon. He could beat him years ago, but he can’t beat him now. If Heath gets on stage looking like he did in 2018, he’ll get his ass handed to him. Dexter, Roelly, William and most definitely, Brandon, will wipe the floor with him.

What makes Heath’s comeback even more doubtful as far as I’m concerned, is the big-dollar documentary that’s in the works around his prep. If this is to be like Pumping Iron, with a modern twist, and The Gift fails to bring an impressive look by peak weak, I could see where he jumps ship under any number of pretexts.

Could you imagine a huge film behind a 7x Mr. O going into contest where he places outside the Top 3?!?! Who’s going to buy that? It’s quite possible that this is Kai Green 2015 all over again. Unlike Greene’s special invite, then, Heath is a former Mr. Olympia, he can pretend to do the O every year and pull out. Even with a signed contract, would the Olympia really try to enforce it, sue for breach? They have far more pressing matters, like ensuring they have a successful event. In the rare instance that Phil is another no-show, then having Big Ramy makes sense.

I love Ramy. He’s a down-to-Earth, super chill guy, and he’s always been extremely nice to me. That being said, this isn’t personal. I’m stating the facts. Does Ramy deserve to be on that stage? No. Look at Nick Walker. Many have made a case for him winning Chicago. Akim Williams won and deserved it, but why doesn’t Nick Walker get a special invite? He looked amazing. He’s a rookie and won his procard in a tent. That’s a pretty hardcore story. Why doesn’t he get an invite? Maxx Charles has competed in a ton of shows, taking some tough placings, but never gave up. He was never considered for a special invite. If Maxx had come short on points, would he have gotten the call? Hell, no. That’s simply not fair. I don’t like what’s not fair, especially in a year like 2020.


If this is the Super Bowl of Bodybuilding, then it should be just that. This isn’t even comparable to a wild card. Ramy basically just got a free qualification and if Brandon is off, Ramy could be Mr. Olympia. No one who’s ever been granted a special invite has ever achieved that, but just the idea of it, seems like a major injustice. Ramy won’t be in the Top 3, but he will sell tickets. The Top 3 will consist of Curry, Roelly, and Bonac or Jackson. Ramy, Heath, and whoever else will be outside of that pack. I’m sorry, but that’s that – oh yeah and that includes Hadi. Mr. Choopan is not going to best The Prodigy, The Beast, The Conqueror or The Blade – not this time. It’s just not going to happen.

That being said, I’m excited to see what Chad Nichols and Ramy can put together in the next couple of months. The real bodybuilding fans will know that I’m being critically objective – that it isn’t trolling or sour grapes. This pairing can still come up with a formidable Top 6 outing, building from what they did in Columbus in March.

Can Ramy one day win the O? I say no; I say his time, if ever, has passed, but he can still do very well as a top guy, make a ton of money, and be very competitive in the 5th-9th range. The only way Ramy becomes a top contender again is in the unlikely instance where mass monsters take over the sport.

With the huge popularity of Classic Physique at the amateur level, coupled with the consistent popularity of Men’s Physique, fewer and fewer mass freaks are turning pro and doing damage. Nick Walker is a bit of a throwback to the 90’s and 2000’s, but that’s one guy. Ramy may be the one guy on the Olympia stage still pushing the mass card. And 2017 may have been the best he’ll ever do on the Olympia stage – and that’s awesome, but you can’t tell me that Ramy beats a 100% Curry, Bonac, or Jackson. Winklaar has a different look, but when he’s 100%, Ramy would have an extremely hard time edging him out.

2017 was Ramy’s golden opportunity and he couldn’t connect. Afterwards he ditched the Camel Crew, ditched Neil Hill, and ultimately settled with Chad Nichols. I’m glad to see him back in the mix, but times have changed. With Ramy’s addition, expect a lion’s share of media fanfare – from message boards to mailers to media outlets stoking the flames on message boards, predictions, and polls. Hype generates views and these sites rely on traffic to sell advertising. This is strictly a business move – nothing more – but it waters down the competition, in my opinion.

If bodybuilding ever wants to be taken as seriously as major league and Olympic sports, then it has to be entirely merit-based. I can see the special invite used for a guy who hadn’t competed in over a decade (e.g. Kevin Levrone) or a guy who served his country’s military (e.g. Cedric McMillan), but using it to give a guy who sat out the season, planning to compete in an easy (Top 3 qualifying), last minute contest, but who couldn’t because he caught Covid, that’s just weak. I’m a loyal guy, but loyalty doesn’t mean you agree with every decision. There’s being loyal and then there’s being a bitch. If I see something wrong, i’m not going to stay quiet.

The only reason, as far as I’m concerned, that Ramy has been given this special invite, is because Flex Lewis withdrew and the contest needs to sell tickets. There’s no other plausible explanation in my mind. That being said, the Olympia isn’t a circus sideshow. It’s supposed to be a stage of professional-level champions – whether it’s previous winners, guys who won a show, or guys who competed in multiple contests, never giving up, and earning enough points to make it to the most prestigious stage in physique-based sports. I don’t agree that Ramy should compete, but I do wish him the best.

What’s your take on the use of the special invite?
 

Old RhynoS

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I didn't agree at all when I first heard of it. It just down plays all the work every one has been doing all year to get there.
He is an impressive bodybuilder but he doesn't have all that of an impressive track record. But then I heard that the " special invite " is common place and happens a lot.
While Regan Grimes works his ass off till the end to qualify Ramy get handed a spot, seems dirty. The Olympia is there to make money tho so they will do what they think will bring in the most ticket sales.


Also just heard Keone is out as well.
 

~Dr Juice~

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Also just heard Keone is out as well.





KEONE PEARSON OUT OF THE 2020 OLYMPIA
By Christian Duque, October 26th, 2020



I first met Keone Pearson aka The Prodigy at my friend PJ Braun’s Braun Army meetup at Flex Appeal Gym in Miami, FL. PJ had been pushing Keone hard, coaching him, looking after him and advising him on how to go all the way to the top. Although Pearson was initially under the wing of bodybuilding Hall of Famer Flex Wheeler, he’d gone as far as he could with him.

The Sultan of Symmetry had coached the aspiring, then, Classic Physique competitor along natural protocols, helping him build an impressive physique and taught him a great deal about sound training, posing, and the ways of being a pro. Everyone was blown away by how much genetic potential Pearson had and very few people could believe he was natty.

There’s countless Youtubers whose entire channels are dedicated to blasting fake natties. These losers had a field day with Pearson. They’d make video after video, all but asserting, that the natty classification was bunk. There was no way someone so young could build that kind of muscle, on that kind of frame, and then retain so much size after a prep. They just couldn’t wrap their little minds around Keone’s God-given genetics.

As Keone got more and more clout and the haters started sounding off more, he’d long been on PJ’s radar and was ultimately offered a contract. Now most company moguls would have only made an offer for the young, aspiring star; however, Braun wasn’t about that. PJ had been a huge fan of Wheeler’s and not only respected his work with Pearson, but he didn’t want to come between the two, at all.

The idea was for both – Flex and Keone – to join Blackstone and continue doing the great work they had. The sponsorship only added to the talk of the town, opening many more doors than ever before. Braun wanted to see Keone compete at The Arnold, the New York Pro, and other big league shows. At some point, though, the question of Pearson’s natural approach did arise. Anyone who thinks that being 100% natty doesn’t hold back an athlete from going all the way in physique-based sports is either very idealistic or very stupid. Keone was placing Top 5 in the biggest contests and the only thing keeping him from winning, was a tiny bit more size and a little bit more condition. He was a genetic powerhouse who could go all the way. As Wheeler became more and more absent, Braun started making up for it.

PJ got started in this business, before anything else, as a competitor and coach. He knows how to prep people for contests. Love him or hate him, the guy knows how to dial people in. That being said, if he had his druthers, Flex Wheeler would have always been in Keone’s corner. When that fairytale started to fall apart, PJ couldn’t walk away from his star athlete.

At the end of the day, Blackstone is a business, and when a business invests in a person or a project, failure is simply not an option. When Wheeler, largely, disappeared, PJ sprang to action. Keone got on the good creatine, he now had Braun as his coach, and the rest is history. He stayed at Braun’s house, he had full access to advice, and in many ways, he became the most important athlete on the Blackstone roster.

A lot of athletes who’d been with the brand longer, who’d proven their loyalty, and stood for ages with the company, gave way to this new superstar. Pearson’s physique warranted it and with Braun’s almost unconditional support – he’d hit the jackpot. When Pearson moved up from Classic to 212, he was looking at a full year of checks. He wasn’t expected to compete, just train, eat, and grow. The idea was to take the division by storm in 2021!! The Prodigy was also looking at getting a full-time job (with benefits) at BSL in addition to his sponsorship and the whole Blackstone machine was at work for him, as he made improvements. What other athlete had it this good? In Blackstone or anywhere?

Keone is a nice kid. I thought he was genuine and I thought he had good values. I still think he’s a nice guy, but I think he made some poor decisions with his break from BSL. The bottom line is, he’s always had someone by his side, whether Wheeler and/or Braun. Flex showed him love and PJ showed him even more. When Keone went to HD Muscle, I don’t think he found that level of support. Sure, they wanted to sign him, as he’d just basically spat on PJ’s face and cut ties with a company that was his family, but I don’t think they loved him. Love is a very powerful emotion. There’s hardly any loyalty in the fitness industry, much less love.

The whole reason for the break with PJ was over Black Lives Matter, comments Braun made on a cardio live, and the heavy pressure exerted – of course, behind the scenes – on him by some big names in bodybuilding. These big names basically bamboozled Pearson into publicly and nastily breaking ties with a guy who thought of him as a son. Keone didn’t give notice, wasn’t gracious; he basically ditched a whole crew, a whole brand, over a difference of opinion.


I marched for BLM in Louisville, KY, Columbus, OH, and Ft. Lauderdale, FL. To date, I don’t know that Keone marched or held a sign anywhere. That’s not to say he didn’t believe in the movement. I’m just saying that he wasn’t actively pushing the message like I was and many others. If he did feel strongly, it certainly wasn’t publicly known. What was publicly known was what PJ said and the backlash from some key bodybuilders. These big-name bodybuilders called up several people on the BSL Team. Keone was one of them. There were others; some who’d been in the family for a very long time. When a top bodybuilder calls a young pro, they have a great deal of sway. Keone wasn’t the only BSL to leave over this pressure. The problem is, these other athletes had back-up plans, Keone did not. And what about the superstars who pushed him – and others – to leave? Once these athletes screwed themselves, these big talkers didn’t have any career advice, they didn’t line them up with anything.

Fast-forward to Brandon Curry’s Carbon Culture grand opening in Murfreesboro, TN. I was there, doing coverage for StrengthAddicts (backed by BPI Sports). Keone was slated to be there with HD Muscle. I was curious what it’d be like running into him. The only thing is, he was a no show. The explanation I was given, is that he was prepping for a show. So what, I thought. Tons of people prep for shows and they honor their commitments. There was also a huge mystery around what show, exactly, Keone was doing. Remember, the plan with PJ for 2020 was no shows and To grow into the 212. Maybe another company wasn’t going to pay him full salary to build over time. That I don’t know; I’m only speculating. BSL was all about the long-term investment in Keone’s career, but maybe HD Muscle wanted a quicker return. Whatever the case may be, Keone competed in Chicago, with soft glutes, and still won. Did he want to do Chicago? Well of course he did, right? I mean if he didn’t, he wouldn’t have competed, right?

Well, in a video released on Thursday, The Prodigy announced he was withdrawing from The Olympia. He spoke of wanting to compete for himself and he implied that that wasn’t the case for Chicago. It seems he didn’t want to compete in his hometown and he may have regretted it – even though he won. He spoke about getting right with God and quite frankly, seemed very unhappy and lost. Soon thereafter, I posted a video with my thoughts that made the rounds. I tagged Keone, but he didn’t comment or contact me about it. His whole demeanor is that of a broken, lost soul.

I for one, hope he can make amends with Braun, try to put his career back on track, and hopefully carry on from where he left off in 2020. This is a guy who at 100% can be a 212 Olympia Showdown Champion. At the rate he’s going, without a solid guy like Braun or even Wheeler in his corner, I could totally see Keone disappearing from the sport. I don’t want to say that he needs someone to hold his hand, but, if the shoe fits…

What’s your take on the state of Keone’s career, his decision to drop out of the Olympia, and his future in bodybuilding?
 

~Dr Juice~

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THE 2020 OLYMPIA IS NOT BRANDON CURRY VS PHIL HEATH
By Christian Duque, October 30th, 2020



Major media outlets are tripping over themselves to try to make this year’s Olympia about a reigning champion and a has-been. Brandon Curry won the Olympia in 2019 against a stacked a lineup which included William “The Conqueror” Bonac, Roelly Winklaar, and Iranian sensation Hadi Choopan. Curry had won the Arnold Classic and then went on to make history, winning the most prestigious title in the sport of bodybuilding that same year. In 2020, given all the chaos and all the insanity, the best bodybuilders in the world answered the call, competing on stages throughout the U.S. and internationally.

Guys like Roelly Winklaaar have been in the trenches, working tirelessly towards stepping on stage in Las Vegas, NV, just one week shy of Christmas. The original date of the Olympia was moved (and many thought the event would be canceled). Shawn Rhoden won’t be on the stage, Flex Lewis withdrew, and Big Ramy received a special invite to compete. This year will also mark the retirement of the most decorated bodybuilding competitor of all time, Mr. Olympia Dexter “The Blade” Jackson. So much is going on that the fans simply can’t wait.

We are witnessing greatness as Brandon Curry, his Coach Abdullah Al Otaibi, and the entire Oxygen Gym family are on the verge of starting a new legacy in the sport. Although Curry brought an impressive physique last year, he brought what was needed to win then. The bottom-line is, all the guys from 2019 have made improvements, most especially the champion. Phil Heath, who hasn’t competed in two years, is only competing because Athleticon was pushed for 2021. That was the show his managers basically created and it’s the show I almost think was made for his comeback. I don’t think Curry had any interest, Rhoden wouldn’t be there, and I don’t think Jackson was jumping to sign their inches-thick contract, either. In the absence of the best guys, it was a perfect scenario for the long absent “Gift” to swoop in, get a big win, and put out a blockbuster DVD. With that event postponed, Heath then started making it known he wanted to compete at the Olympia. I’m told he didn’t receive any incentive to compete at the Superbowl of Bodybuilding so it looks like he’ll be competing for the prize money, alone.

I, personally, don’t think Phil will take the stage. His most recent photo, shows him in a tank top, but not only that – it’s a month old shot. Heath was annihilated in 2018 by Shawn “Flexatron” Rhoden, largely, because his midsection had gotten so out of control that it became painfully obvious. Heath’s issues with that part of this body had been haunting him for quite some time. The myth that 2018 was an isolated instance is absurd. Let’s not forget why Phil and, then, social media sensation Luimarco’s feud erupted.

Phil became Public Enemy #1 for everyone that hated the bubbleguts in bodybuilding. Commentators and fans were dumbfounded as Heath would get wins when he looked like he was pregnant. In 2016, Rhoden embarrassed Heath, but the judges didn’t strip him of the title. In 2017, Rhoden was sidelined because of a jaw injury and Ramy looked like garbage so Heath was able to hold on. In 2018, Rhoden pushed himself to the point he had to be carried off the stage, it was like a throwback to the first Rocky film. It took Rhoden feeling like he had a foot in the grave to knock Phil off and that he did.

Heath didn’t want a rematch in 2019 or 2020; however, when it became clear Rhoden was out for 2020, Heath started disrespecting Curry – one of the nicest guys in the sport. First, Heath started taking direct shots at Brandon, questioning his win, raising doubts with the fans about his reign, and downplaying any chances of a return. Then Phil embarked on his bullshit, 2 month PR makeover. During that bizarre time, Heath continued to attack Brandon through proxies. Now, with his decision to compete being public record, he’s back to taking jabs at Curry, even referring to him as “Beefcake” in promos for his documentary. Phil’s a bum and Curry won’t stoop to his level. That’s why I think Abdullah lashed out this week – if you can even call it that. The legendary Kuwaiti coach merely pointed out the truth – Phil is living in the past, posting old photos, and needs to let go. Like I said, I don’t see him even getting on stage.

For guys like Nick Strength and Power, Dave Palumbo, and others, to make this contest about Curry vs Heath, is just plain wrong. It’s no wonder that both NSP and RX are involved with the Olympia through webcasts, but surely no one is telling them to amp up this angle. This is their own innate and shameless obsession with clickbait titles and whoring themselves out for hits. Both the young superstar and the trailing geezer want to be relevant. The idea of Brandon and Phil going the distance, side by side, battling for each pose as the audience loses their minds is a fairy tale. It’s like Mother Goose, Jack & The Bean Stalk, or WinnIe The Pooh. That’s not going to happen; in fact, if Phil does, in fact, get on stage, I don’t see him being part of the Top 4. He won’t be in that callout. He’ll be lucky to get 5th or 6th.

Jay is the only Mr. Olympia in the history of the sport who returned and won back his title. Jay was able to do that the first time because he was only minorly off in 2008. In fact, Jay in 2009 was sharper than he was in 2006 when he finally beat an ailing Ronnie Coleman. Cutler’s ‘09 look was up there with his ‘01 look. When Cutler came back for the second time in 2013, again from just a minor injury in 2011, he was annihilated. Cutler was blessed to get 6th. Heath is coming back after two years, from a serious injury that totally ruined all his front poses, and he’s STILL not showing his midsection at 7 weeks out. If you don’t think that’s a problem, then you’re either a diehard Phil fan – or – you don’t know anything about bodybuilding.


Before Flex withdrew, I had it as being Curry, Lewis, Bonac/Winklaar, Jackson – that was my Top 5. I was leaving the 6th spot open for any number of guys, including Heath, Ramy, or a wildcard. With Lewis out, the real battle will be between Curry and Bonac and WInklaar. Bonac won the Arnold just seven months ago, shutting out both Jackson and Ramy. Winklaar has spent over a year, working alongside the champ no (no less) in Kuwait, backed by BPI Sports giving his all to redeem himself from 2019 (which wasn’t even a bad year, really).

In 2018, Roelly was the People’s Champion and if the people had their way, he would have won. He was the most beloved competitor on the Olympia stage. If you think Roelly is just going to sit back and give up ground to Heath, a guy who hasn’t even competed in two years, you’re nuts. And what about Bonac? It could have been William last year with the Sandow and with his big win in Columbus this year, he may be looking to do exactly what Curry did in 2019. Both Bonac and Winklaar have given so much to be where they are. This is their time. Phil had his time.

I want the media and the fans to zoom in, get a good look of Phil’s face when he’s not in that first callout because he won’t be. I, certainly, won’t be shocked. The only thing at this point that would shock me, is if Heath actually gets on stage. I can even see him at the press conference and the athlete meet and greet, but i still won’t be sold. I won’t believe he’ll compete until I see him on the stage.

Please understand that I don’t hate the guy, I don’t even really dislike him at this point. It’s just a simple fact, his time has passed. If he wants to follow in Dexter’s footsteps, give it 100%, and become a fixture of the Top 6, i could see him doing that, but he’s not going to win – at least not his first attempt after a two year absence. Therefore, making this contest about a matchup that just will never be, is not only inaccurate, but it’s an insult to all the amazing athletes who, in fact, will be battling for the title.

I understand the Olympia wants to sell more tickets so I held my nose for Ramy’s special invite, but I can’t stay quiet if, now, marketing is dominated by this sham rivalry. Brandon will never pose beside Phil at the Olympia so STOP!

This goes for the media. Have some journalistic integrity, quit doing a disservice to the guys who are really going to be the mix and also have some respect for the sport. Please quit propping up Phil Heath as your favorite to win. Get your hits by releasing factual, thought-provoking content. I know you can do it. I have faith in you.
 

60022947

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All I know is Brandon Curry is looking huge,
and I'm excited to see Roelly on stage as always. Although it's really unfortunate about Flex Lewis dropping out due to injury because I feel he has every right to be there. All I know is I can't wait to watch it.
 

NOVITEC

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Im excited to see Brandon. I like him. I remember years ago seeing pictures of him in the magazines and thinking he would one day win the title. I wasn't wrong. I hope he does it again.

I'd like to see Winkler place high. I like him too.

As for the rest Im kind of meh towards whoever places after them.

Don't really care for Phil. I dont like the image he portrays. Not sure if it's his actual personality we see on camera but, either way I dont like it. I will say though that his physique years ago was fuckin nuts, back before he 'spilled over' IMO.
 

CurtisP

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Regan Grimes (Ontario Canada) won in Romania and will be at the 2020 Olympia now
 
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