by Christian Duque
A few things have happened since we last updated you on the comings and goings of the return of the Masters Olympia. For starters, the promoter has reduced the competing age to 40. This is huge news because it opens up the competitive pool to guys who normally would compete in the Open but who might be looking at a coveted Olympia title. Being crowned Masters Mr. Olympia brings with it tremendous prestige and opens up a great many doors in the fitness industry.
While it may not be the Open Olympia, it’s very much part of the franchise, and whoever wins this crown will join the likes of Vince Taylor, Don Youngblood, and Dexter Jackson. Also, this competition has been in discussions for years and as result has generated tremendous good will and fanfare. Whomsoever wins the title in 2023 may have a pretty good shot at creating a multi-year run.
Just look at what VInce Taylor did. He won several Masters O titles all the while being competitive in open shows. And that’s what I think the idea is. The organizers want a full-on battle and thus they cast a much wider net. With $240,000 up for grabs it also seems the prize money is right.
So the big question as of late has been will Phil Heath do the show? Especially since it seems Jay Cutler is – in fact – not interested and really just doing a personal fitness challenge. The fans see the age move as an open invite to the 7x Mr. Olympia. Moreover, they see Phil’s appearance on Bob Cicherillo’s podcast as an even stronger indication that we may see history made in Romania. There are some issues that need to be addressed though.
For starters, Phil Heath wants guaranteed money. While he wouldn’t specify what that number had to be, he did tell The Chickster that in order for him to compete it would have to make sense. He said that phone calls had to be had, suggesting Dan Solomon (or someone on that level) had to make an attempt at dialoguing with him. He also suggested that in order for him to seriously consider doing the contest that money had to be secured.
This doesn’t mean he’s lobbying for open bodybuilding (within the Masters O) to get the biggest slice of the pie. I mean, that’s probably going to happen anyways, but Phil is looking out for Phil and no one else. Even assuming that open masters bodybuilding gets the lion’s share of the $240,000, there’s still going to be 10 total divisions getting paid. And from what’s been said, the Top 5 of each division will be in the money. So if that’s the case what’s the absolute most they could give bodybuilding without totally insulting the other 9 divisions?
Assuming they gave bodybuilding $100,000 to split among its Top 5, that would only leave $140k to split up over 9 divisions and five earners from each. In other words, 45 people would take from $140k. That’s not going to happen. More than likely bodybuilding will get the top prize but the open masters will probably have a prize chest of about $50k. I’m guessing $30k for first, $15k, for 2nd, $7,500 for third, $5k for fourth, and $2,500 for fifth. Something like that.
The way Phil is talking is he wants x amount of dollars to compete and he wants major money. After all he is a 7x Mr. Olympia and he made a huge point about the value he would bring to the contest. That’s an interesting theory considering that Phil is nowhere near as popular as guys like Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, or even Kai Greene. While he undeniably brings value to any contest he’s a part of, how much value is the question. Other key concerns include the contest’s budget – and – the incentive factor. Let me expound.
From what I’ve heard from some pretty credible sources, Jake Wood overpaid for the Olympia Weekend. He got a contest that was over-valued and he got a series of publications that all went digital after he bought the basket of assets from AMI. Today, FLEX and M&F are websites. The only magazine that’s left in circulation is Muscular Development and you’ll be hard pressed to find it on newsstands.
Here in Kentucky I joined the Barnes and Noble book club just to get it and save 10% off. Well, it’s been months since I’ve seen it there and it’s been ages since I’ve seen it at airports, supermarkets, or really anywhere. Even at bookstores, the magazine section shrinks by the month.
Then you look at pay per view numbers and the fact that the Olympia had to move from Vegas to Orlando during the pandemic for two years. And after its much hyped return to Las Vegas, that only lasted a year. They’re going back to Orlando. While they say that’s all about the athletes and customer service, skeptics seem to think otherwise. Whatever the case may be, the Masters Olympia has a budget and if a guy like Phil Heath were to get $100k, $200k, or more just to show up, where’s that money going to come from? More than likely it’s coming straight from the promoter’s pocket. Vendors and sponsors are already locked in. They’re not going to stand for locked-in rates being re-visited and modified. The promoter would have to pay. And would Phil’s addition to the lineup dramatically boost PPV and/or ticket sales?
Let’s also not forget that the Masters Olympia is not being held with the rest of the Olympia. It’s being held in Romania so unless Phil doing the show is going to trigger fans from all over the world to buy airline fares, get hotel rooms, and buy tickets to a show in Bucharest, then the Olympia would have to have a bonanza with pay per view sales to justify the investment. How many more people do you honestly think will spend $20, $30, or more to watch the Masters O just because Phil is competing? I honestly don’t know. It’s an actual question though. I’m going to say not more than a few hundred and a few hundred extra PPV packages will not even begin to offset whatever Phil would require to get paid in order to compete.
Then there’s the question of incentive.
Imagine if the top prize for the Master Olympia is $25k but Phil were to get $250k on the backend just to appear. What incentive would he have to bring his 100% best? For what? To win 10% of the money he’s getting just to show up? He might come in at 70%, he might come in off, he might not even care about battling hard. Plus, even if he does compete what possible incentive could there be for a 7x Mr. Olympia to win a Masters Olympia title?
While Phil Heath is a big name, I highly doubt he’d take this show seriously. It’s a step down from the heights he’s reached and he’s not going to be battling with the likes of Hadi, Derek, Nick or Ramy. It would likely be him and a bunch of older guys that won’t bring much hype behind them.
Then there’s the potential risk factor of Phil getting dusted by a guy who no one’s ever heard of. Right now he’s got 7x Sandows, a silver medal from 2018, and a bronze medal from 2020. Imagine if he got 2nd or 3rd at the Masters Olympia?!?! That would pretty much be the nail in his professional career’s coffin. And while no one in the Masters O could beat Phil at 100%, I highly doubt he’d bring much more than 70% to a show like this. And a 70% Phil can definitely get beat by a top Masters Pro that’s been training and prepping for years for this very contest.
Another key factor is that bodybuilding isn’t a sport that’s structured to just pay people to compete. If they did this for Phil it would set a very dangerous precedent for other competitions. And it’s not something that if they did they could contain. Even with an NDA. Word would still get out, and it would spread like wildfire. Soon other top guys will ask for the same. So while Phil talks to Bob and hints at the idea of phone calls and back channeling, he will never get offered money just to enter a contest. It’ll never happen.
In my humble opinion, Phil is simply doing what Kai Greene did all those years since he stopped competing. Both Phil and Jay look amazing, as does Kai, but if they compete, they’ll have to compete just like everyone else. The sport’s not going to change so they can grace the stage one last time. That’s just my take, you may have a different point of view. Only time will tell, but from what I’m told they’ll be announcing who’s doing the Masters Olympia next Tuesday, so we shall see. We shall see.