2021 Arnold – Scene Set for Battle

by Christian Duque

Anticipation for the 2021 Arnold Classic is spreading like wildfire, with fans and media outlets casting predictions insofar as who will win the 2nd most prestigious bodybuilding contest in the world. Although the actual promoters seem to be distancing themselves from the contest’s namesake and several companies have stated they will not support the event and there’s rumors the event may change names, it’s still the talk of the town.

In addition to the issues regarding the “screw your freedom” debacle, the event being held in September instead of March, and the fact it won’t qualify competitors for this year’s Mr. Olympia, hasn’t affected the contest’s hoopla. And even though there won’t be an expo, the fans are still ecstatic. Nonetheless, the event is showcasing one of the deepest lineups of its 30+ year history.

There’s defending champions, rising stars, and veteran bodybuilders who have earned many cheers and accolades. There’s even guys who are so popular and so well-respected, that we may see them at the Arnold, but not at the Olympia. It’s a very interesting year because despite being somewhat in the clear from 2020, we’re still not entirely in the clear when it comes to Covid 19. Moreover, despite the fact that so many people are now vaccinated, new mutations, like the Delta and Lambda variants are emerging.

Promoters are still skeptical about returning to pre-2020 numbers because of the fact that they have so little say in the matter. If cities, counties, or state officials arbitrarily decide to tighten regulations, promoters have no ability to appeal. Take the 2020 Arnold, for example. There, countless athletes who traveled from all over the world to compete at the Arnold Amateur, went to sleep the night before the contest, not knowing if they’d have a stage to step on. Can you imagine that? Sixteen weeks of caloric restrictions, arduous training, and international travel, only to find out there is no contest. Learning from the chaos of 2020, the 2021 Arnold isn’t taking any chances. The show must go on, even if it looks considerably different in some regards. With regards to the depth of competition, the event hit a home run, and that’s largely due to the fact that the ASC is an invitational. Unlike the Olympia, which requires a qualification, this event picks who they want on its stage. The venue is fantastic, the prize money is huge, and the bragging rights make it very hard to pass up. What’s crazy, though, is how close the Arnold is to the Olympia this year. To many fans, this contest will be the biggest show of the year, as far as they’re concerned.

For me, this is William Bonac’s show to lose. The 2x Arnold champion and Mr. Olympia runner-up, brings a physique that will clearly dominate the vast majority of the competition. Although he’s not one of the most outspoken guys, he is considered a major threat by his fellow competitors. The media, however, are a bit mum on The Conqueror. He doesn’t give them much to work with (e.g. soundbites, drama, or controversy).

Bonac is an old school bodybuilder who lets physique do all the talking. He’s not concerned with being on RxMuscle taking shots at competitors who may want a piece of him. After all, when you’ve won the Arnold twice and you’ve been runner-up at the Olympia, what else do you really have to prove? You don’t care what some asshat has to say on the boards and you also don’t care if a YouTuber like Nick’s Strength And Power, writes you off as being “the best on paper.”

That being said, being ignored by the media does take its toll, over time (e.g. with sponsors, guest posing appearances, etc). Still, it’s all about principles. If you’re a true athlete, then you work hard to make improvements and come back better each time. You don’t think about getting unfair advantages or trashing your colleagues, just to grab some extra spotlight. Other guys, like Bonac, include Akim Williams, Roelly Winklaar, & Maxx Charles. These guys are old school, they work hard and they stay the course. I have always respected bodybuilders who are true to the fans and true to the sport. That being said, the fitness press wants hits and I suspect they will go out of their way to create rivalries, exploit vulnerabilities, and rile up fans. As soon as bickering matches erupt, the hits start stacking up. Things are only going to heat up more in the coming weeks.

I know that I often whine about Nick’s Strength And Power and I know that a lot of people think that my criticisms stem from jealousy, but I assure they’re not. You’re free to think what you want and I can see how anyone who criticises him often could be written off like that, but I assure you, my critiques are not bad intentioned.

The fact is, I have met Nick and I like him. I like him, even though he’s felt the need to block me on Instagram. The fact is, he’s the biggest 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,” what he’s really saying is that Bonac is only in the conversation because of what he’s done in the past. There’s an implication that there’s a guy who’s the best on paper, but there’s a guy who’s the best in reality. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. On the one hand, comments like these may be made to instigate anger from Bonac fans – or – fans in general.

Another factor may be that the person making the comment is trying to create clickbait – or – there’s always the possibility that it’s nothing more than media outlets playing favorites. We’ve seen this play out time in and time again in many sports, not just physique-based ones. While Miller may not be too big on Bonac, he’s putting all his faith behind Sergio Oliva Jr.. In his mind Sergio Jr., being the son of The Myth and his rivalry with Arnold, would make him one of the most celebrated Arnold champions in history. I can’t say that I share that vision or that enough people would focus on that detail, but to each their own.

When it comes to marketing and hype, I’m all for it, but I think muscle, symmetry, and posing should be what gets us excited, not marketing. That being said, I’m a purist and I think the vast majority of Iron Magazine readers are as well.

I’d love to see Sergio Jr, Akim, and Bonac, battle hard during a tough pose down, wouldn’t you?!?! I’d love to see what Nick Walker, Maxx Charles, and Justin Rodriguez bring. Another big name in the mix is Steve Kuclo. Everywhere you look, there’s a legend. That’s what you call a great bodybuilding contest!! Whether you attend the contest in person or watch through PPV, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth – that’s for sure.

When it comes to predictions, I think this contest will be an all out battle. If I had to pick a Top 3 (in no order), I’d go with William, Roelly, and Akim. I’d have William to win, but 2nd and 3rd could go either way. I think Winklaar has been getting better and better and I think Williams, now with Abdullah, has only built upon where he left off from last year with his huge Olympia Top 6. The other competitors are very good and could definitely pull off an upset, I just don’t think we’ll see them in the Top 3. That being said, that’s the fun part about bodybuilding – you just never know; you just never do.

I’m very interested to see what drama the media stirs up in the coming weeks. I’m also curious to see if any athletes take the bait. For me, though, it’s all about the weigh-ins, the prejudging, and the finals. I think we’ll see some mass monsters, aesthetic greats, and guys beyond shredded. I don’t know if Arnold will be part of The Arnold (crazy, huh?) and I don’t know if half the people boycotting the event will have a change of heart at the eleventh hour. All I can say, is that the event will most definitely be one for the record books. That – you can count on!!

Who do you have in your Arnold Classic Top 6? Top 5? Top 3? Who do you have winning it all?

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