by Christian Duque
This is a question that seems to have resonated with a number of experts and influencers in the fitness industry lately, but why now? For starters, 2019 was the second year that The Arnold Classic didn't offer the division, and there was no talk of bringing it back to Columbus, OH. 2019 was also the first year in which the division was not led by its 7-time Olympic showdown champion The Welsh Dragon, James "Flex" Lewis. 2019 also lacked one of the division's hardest working athletes, The Boston Mass, Jose Raymond. The industry press not only missed two of their best-known athletes, but spent the whole year cheering only one of their athletes. When this athlete didn't win, it became more of a piece of news than news from a new 212 champion.
When Derek Lunsford took the stage, he looked good, but he lacked the flawlessness that everyone expected. In fact, he looked like he was holding water. A practically unknown professional in Kamal El Gargani defeated Lunsford, who is almost half his age. Shaun Clarida, another practically ignored bodybuilder, fought hard against Lunford and almost relegated the young champion to 3rd place.
The 2012 Olympic Showdown had another problem. When Iranian bodybuilding sensation Hadi Choopan finally received a visa to enter the United States, he opted for the Open Division, as opposed to 212.
One final factor that got many talking was that the Olympia changed hands in 2020 when AMI sold the competition and its media to Jake Wood, owner of Wings of Strength and Digital Muscle. Taking all aspects into account, some experts have indicated that the days of the 212 division could be counted. However, I do not agree. Not only is the division alive and well, it will grow, and maybe we'll even see it return to The Arnold Classic.
I see many similarities between women bodybuilding and 212 bodybuilding. When a media expert or influencer presents a point, it is either one person's point of view – or – piggybacks another from that person's perspective, and it creates a snowball effect.
For some reason, both women's bodybuilding and now 212 bodybuilding have an unfavorable snowball effect. In women's bodybuilding, it was first removed from the Arnold, then from the Olympia, and its days were counted in every way. Similar to women's bodybuilding, many of the speakers say that 212 bodybuilding is not so popular with fans, that it doesn't sell enough tickets, and that his two-year absence from The Arnold will have an impact on his future. This also happens with a division when the largest star leaves the company (or retires). We saw this game with Women’s Physique and DLB, Women’s Bodybuilding and Iris Kyle as well as the 212 and Flex Lewis. But are these business areas less popular – or has the industry not marketed them properly?
Take bodybuilding for women, for example. Check out the great success that Wings of Strength has had and enjoys. See what they have accomplished in a little over five years. They organized a number of world-class events, set up a media empire, and even had a world championship where muscular women not only had a wonderful stage to compete in, but also a huge payday and a decorated jeep! Beyond that, WOS is not a charity. If anything, WOS is an empire. How did you do that?
A key component to their success is an obvious, hard job. You can't build anything essential without rolling up your sleeves and really walking. Another component is great athletes and great fans. The final component is knowing how to market your product. If you have great athletes and great events and know your audience, you will have a blockbuster.
I don't think 212 bodybuilding was marketed properly. In fact, I know that it is not. There's no way that a department with athletes at this level, with fans celebrating their work in the gym, on stage, and on social media platforms, could ever be pulled from the world's second largest bodybuilding show.
If Joe Weider were alive, not only would the 212 never have been removed from The Arnold, but the only question would also be how many competitions would run for it to be added. From what I hear, the division will have a place at Athleticon, the all-new event everyone is talking about. If this is true and you know how deep your pockets are, fans should ask yourself why (A) Columbus no longer offers them and (B) why on earth anyone doubts the future of the division.
Unfortunately Joe Weider is no longer with us, but Jake Wood is. I know that the 2020 Olympic weekend will be different than any other, and I am confident that it will bring some fresh new ideas to put the 212 division on the map. Again, the Olympics is the Super Bowl of bodybuilding and it might take Jake, Dan and their new team to show everyone how to do it.
New additions to the division such as George "Da Bull" Petersen and Keone Pearson will also attract significantly more attention. In the meantime, the Libyan lion, Kamal El Gargani, will do his best to successfully defend his title against newcomers and Vetaran competitors like Shaun Clarida, who will most likely give their most aggressive shot at victory. There's also media favorite Derek Lunsford, who honestly could have won in 2019, but saw himself sabotaged just a few hours later. While problems related to bodybuilding disorders are incredibly common, losing a title over a few minor misconceptions is a bitter pill. Imagine how restless he must be to finally win this title !!
The fact that the Boston Fair, Jose Raymond, has expressed interest in making a comeback adds even more fuel to the 212 fire. In this case, stage 212 is all about the fight, which includes other impressive rivals like Charles "The Tank" Dixon, Guy Cisternino and even highly decorated former defending champions like David Henry.
Nobody can tell me that fans aren't excited to see the fight above – and aside from a preliminary poll on every ticket purchase – I would call anyone who says otherwise. Anyone who says bodybuilding is the main attraction of a competition, but from the other side of his mouth says that 212 bodybuilding isn't popular is clearly full of it. What is 212? It's bodybuilding! In addition, I've seen more competitions than I can count on with both hands, where the 212 bodybuilders are drier, torn, and freakier than the open guys. 212 Bodybuilding not only holds its own, it may have performed open bodybuilding in some competitions.
I firmly believe that The 212 is alive and healthy. And even though I understand that 7x Olympic Showdown Champion James "Flex" Lewis switched to Open Bodybuilding, I think that his role at The 212 should be much more pronounced than before. Even if he doesn't play in this division, I think he's the best-known ambassador – and I think he always will be. That being said, I understand and respect him very much for retiring, giving the others a chance to win, and maybe going somewhere where he would be the outsider again, where he might be able to prove something.
Nobody would beat Lewis in 212 – and – rest assured, nobody kicked him out. He could have won 8, 9, 10 – as many as he wanted. That's nothing against the insanely hard-working and hungry 212 athletes, but it's just an honest, unfiltered assessment of Lewis' dominance. I think he can give his name and influence to widen the split without treading on your toes and without overshadowing the current defending champion. The 212 will always need Flex Lewis.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article here in Iron Magazine. I am looking forward to read your comments. Please don't forget to use the discount code IML15 to save 15% at IronMagLabs.com – iincluding the new CBD Gummies !!!