by Christian Duque
The anticipation of the Arnold Classic 2021 is spreading like wildfire, with fans and media making predictions about who will win the world’s second highest bodybuilding competition. Although the actual organizers seem to be distancing themselves from the namesake of the competition and several companies have stated that they will not support the event and there are rumors that the event could change its name, this is still on everyone’s lips.
Aside from the problems related to the “Screw your Freedom” debacle, the fact that the event takes place in September instead of March, and the fact that contestants do not qualify for this year’s Mr. Olympia, has made the contest a success unaffected. Even if there won’t be an Expo, the fans are still enthusiastic. Nonetheless, the event presents one of the deepest lineups in its over 30-year history.
There are defending champions, emerging stars, and seasoned bodybuilders who have received many acclaims and awards. There are even guys so popular and respected that we might see them at Arnold, but not at Olympia. It is a very interesting year because although we are somewhat clear from 2020, we are still not entirely clear about Covid 19. In addition, despite the fact that so many people are now vaccinated, there are new mutations like the delta and lambda variants emerging.
The organizers are still skeptical about going back to the pre-2020 numbers as they have so little say. If cities, counties or government officials arbitrarily decide to tighten the rules, project promoters have no opportunity to appeal. Take the Arnold 2020, for example. Countless athletes who had traveled from all over the world to compete at the Arnold Amateur slept there the night before the competition without knowing whether they would have a stage to step on. Can you imagine that? Sixteen weeks of calorie restriction, strenuous exercise, and international travel only to find there is no competition. Learning from the chaos of 2020, the Arnold 2021 takes no chances. The show has to go on, even if it looks very different in some ways. In terms of depth of competition, the event landed a home run, and that’s largely because the ASC is an invitational tournament. Unlike Olympia, which requires qualification, this event selects who they want on stage. The venue is fantastic, the prize money is huge, and the bragging rights make it very hard to pass up. However, it is crazy how close Arnold is to the Olympics this year. For many fans, this competition will be the biggest show of the year for them.
For me, this is William Bonac’s show that I have to lose. The two-time Arnold champion and Mr. Olympia runner-up brings a physique that will clearly dominate the vast majority of the competition. While not one of the most outspoken types, his competitors view him as a major threat. The media is a bit mute on The Conqueror, however. He doesn’t give them much to work with (e.g. soundbites, drama, or controversy).
Bonac is an old school bodybuilder who lets the body do the talking. It’s not about being on RxMuscle and shooting at competitors who might want a piece of him. After all, what else do you have to prove when you’ve won Arnold twice and been runner-up in the Olympics? You don’t care what some asshole on the boards has to say, and you don’t care if a YouTuber like Nicks Strength And Power writes you off as “the best on paper”.
Nonetheless, the media’s disregard takes its toll over time (e.g. with sponsors, guest appearances, etc.). Still, it’s about principles. If you are a real athlete then you work hard to improve and get better every time. You’re not thinking of taking an unfair advantage or destroying your coworkers just to get extra attention. Other types, like Bonac, are Akim Williams, Roelly Winklaar, and Maxx Charles. These guys are old school, they work hard and they stay on course. I’ve always respected bodybuilders who are loyal to the fans and the sport. That being said, the fitness press wants hits and I suspect they will do whatever it takes to create rivalries, exploit weaknesses, and anger fans. As soon as there are bickering matches, the hits pile up. It will only get hotter in the next few weeks.
I know I moan a lot about Nick’s strength and power, and I know a lot of people think my criticism is because of jealousy, but I assure you that it is not. You can think what you want, and I can understand that anyone who criticizes him often can be written off like that, but I assure you my criticism is not meant to be offensive.
The fact is, I met Nick and I like him. I like him even when he felt the need to block me on Instagram. The fact is, he’s the greatest YouTuber there is. And as such, he has a lot of influence. The fact is, when Nick Miller says that William Bonac is “the favorite on paper,” he is really saying that Bonac is only talked about because of his past. There is an implication that there is one guy who is the best on paper, but there is one who is really the best. The two are not mutually exclusive. On the one hand, comments like this can be made to fuel the anger of Bonac fans – or fans in general.
Another factor may be that the commenting person is trying to create clickbait – or – there’s always the possibility that it’s just media playing favorites. We have seen this over and over in a lot of sports, not just physical. Miller doesn’t like Bonac too much, but he puts all his trust in Sergio Oliva Jr .. In his opinion, Sergio Jr., son of The Myth and his rivalry with Arnold, would make him one of the most famous Arnold champions in the world Story. I can’t say that I share this vision or that enough people would focus on this detail, but each one his own.
When it comes to marketing and hype, I’m all for it, but I think muscle, symmetry, and pose should get us excited, not marketing. That being said, I’m a purist, and I think the vast majority of Iron Magazine readers are too.
I would love to see Sergio Jr., Akim and Bonac fight hard in a tough pose right?!?! I would love to see what Nick Walker, Maxx Charles and Justin Rodriguez bring with them. Another big name in the mix is Steve Kuclo. Everywhere you look there is a legend. You call that a great bodybuilding contest !! Whether you take part in the contest in person or watch via PPV, you will definitely get your money’s worth – that’s for sure.
When it comes to predictions, I think this competition is going to be an uphill battle. If I had to pick a top 3 (in no order) I would go with William, Roelly, and Akim. I would have William to win, but 2nd and 3rd place could go either way. I think Winklaar just kept getting better and I think Williams, now with Abdullah, only built up where he left off last year with his huge Olympia Top 6. I just don’t think we’ll see them in the top 3. Other than that, that’s the fun part of bodybuilding – you just never know; you just never do that.
I’m very excited to see what drama will stir up the media in the coming weeks. I’m also curious to see whether athletes will swallow the bait. For me, it’s all about weighing, prejudice and the final. I think we’re going to see some mass monsters, aesthetic sizes and types that are more than shredded. I don’t know if Arnold will be part of The Arnold (crazy, right?) And I don’t know if half of the people who boycott the event will have a change of heart by the eleventh hour. All I can say is that the event will definitely be a record for records. You can rely on it!!
Who do you have in your Arnold Classic Top 6? Top 5? The top 3? Who did you win everything with?