by Christian Duque
Nine guys will be battling for the second most prestigious title in bodybuilding. The 2022 Arnold Classic is just days away and will draw an insane amount of international viewership. The namesake of Arnold Schwarzenegger has become the lifeblood of Ohio’s capital and largest city; it brings so much income to the city that many businesses, from hotels to restaurants to rideshare drivers, count on the event every year.
In terms of the fitness industry, the Arnold Sports Festival has always been the biggest and baddest expo in the world. It dwarfs the Olympia expo, FIBO, and Bodypower. There’s, simply, nothing that even comes close!! But it’s more than the biggest expo, in terms of the number of booths and/or the number of businesses that come together, it’s also about the star profile that you see there. You always have a who’s who of the sport’s biggest names. You have guys from the 70’s, who pumped iron with Arnold before anyone knew who he was; you have guys from the 80’s, 90’s, and pretty much every other era. I’ve seen 90yr old stars, 20 year old stars, tall, short, skinny and fat. Everyone is there. They’re there because it’s the place to be. There’s every sport you can imagine and everyone wants to win a title there.
With regards to titles, we all know the Olympia is the Superbowl of Bodybuilding, but we also know that The Arnold is the second biggest contest in physique-based sports. We can speculate what the 3rd, 4th, and following shows are, but we know, definitively, what’s the 1st and what’s the 2nd. For a bodybuilder, winning the ASC means winning the second biggest purse on the pro circuit; it also means unlimited bragging rights and buzz. To win the Arnold puts you on the same level as the prior year’s Mr. Olympia runner-up, but it might actually give you a greater edge because the Arnold happens in the same year as the upcoming Olympia. And because the show is usually at the very beginning of the season, its winner is able to capitalize on a huge wave of buzz that lasts well into summer and makes its champion the top contender for handicappers trying to figure out who will do what at the Olympia.
There’s a camp that says hype means nothing. They’ll say there’s no box for hype on the scorecards and that’s a fair argument, but it’s also a stupid one. Sorry, but not sorry. Hype is huge.
If a guy like Lonnie Teper or Dan Dillon predicts you to win, you’re going to make the rounds on social media, Facebook groups, and the various message boards. Lonnie is the swami; he’s the guy that the old magazine bigwigs and major website people look to. If bodybuilding was ever a sport that had bookies and odds, then bettors would hang on Lonnie’s every word. He’s often so accurate, it’s simply astounding.
Dan, on the other hand, is the working man’s handicapper. I don’t even know that he considers himself a handicapper, but he knows bodybuilding inside and out. His credibility is without question and if he thinks you’ll do well, that’s going to get you brownie points with a huge segment of the fans and pundits.
If a guy wins the Arnold Classic, he could have guys like Lonnie and Dan singing his praises for 5, 6, 7 or more months going into the Olympia. It may not have a box on the scorecards, but it definitely matters.
Usually, the Arnold has all the top guys, save for Mr. Olympia. There have been reigning Mr. O’s that have gambled their luck and done both shows. It’s usually a very bad idea. Even when the GOAT, Ronnie Coleman tried doing both, and he nearly lost the Olympia that year.
That said, the Arnold is a great litmus test for where the sport is. If you can hold your own there, you’ll be in great shape for the Olympia. This year this assessment couldn’t be any more true. For starters, you have 2x Arnold Classic champion William Bonac going for #3. Although William, largely, gets overlooked at the O (where he’s placed as high as 2nd), he’s a major celeb and draw in Columbus. Even the year Ramy won his first Olympia, he took 3rd to Bonac in C-Bus. Also in the mix is 2019 Mr. Olympia and 2019 Arnold Classic Champion, Brandon Curry. You all know that I think Brandon bested Ramy at the 2021 Olympia and my money is on him winning his second ASC in less than a week. That said, he’ll have to expect an all out war from Bonac, as well as my pick for 3rd, Brett “The Butcher” Wilkin.
Not only is Brett extremely dangerous for his sheer size and condition, but he represents the changing of the guard. In another 2-3 years, he (along with the likes of Nick Walker and Hunter Labrada) may be vying to win both the Arnold and Olympia titles. I don’t see that happening in 2022, unless Brandon and William are both off, but anything can happen.
Other names to watch closely include blue collar threats like Maxx Charles, Steve Kuclo, Samson Dauda and Justin Rodriguez. I’m very curious to see what Milos and Regan Grimes will bring, largely, because Regan could be a guy who breaks into that Top 3, totally catching Wilkin off guard. Many fans, particularly around the world, think Dauda could win the whole contest – no questions asked. Then again, a longshot could come out of nowhere and shock everyone. I’m not all that familiar with Fabio Rezende, but one look at his Instagram, and no it’s no surprise why he was invited to do the contest.
That being said, with only 9 total guys in the Open, the 2022 Arnold Classic might be the year that makes the ASC promoters rethink the show’s invitational model. Sadly, the pandemic is not behind us and the world remains a very different place than in years past. While I like the fact that the Arnold has his own approach, this is the second biggest title and second richest purse, so to only have 9 guys competing, might leave something to be desired. Fortunately, the 9 who remain, will bring amazing size and condition, not to mention posing prowess. The fans will be very entertained and the production value is second to none; however, 9 guys is still 9 guys. A show this important shouldn’t be in the single digits, so at the very least, I’m sure the powers that be will ensure that everything they’re doing is making for the best contest possible.
I don’t know about you, but I’m VERY excited about the 2022 Arnold Classic. Who do you have winning? What’s your Top 6? I’m sure social media will be buzzing, as well as the Facebook groups and message boards. That said, when you make predictions, live dangerously, and put them in order.
We have so many outlets that refuse to do predictions anymore because they don’t want to offend the athletes. What the f*ck is up with that? Since when do journalists have to tiptoe around predictions? I, personally, would like to see that trend end. If a competitor lashes out – or – blocks an outlet because they get placed lower than they’d like, I think that’s a very sad state of affairs. Only in bodybuilding, I guess, but that too is something elite-level pro’s should work on. If we’re ever to grow the sport, we seriously need to chill out a bit, don’t you think? Just saying.
Good luck to all the competitors!