by Christian Duque
2022 Mr. Olympia Hadi Choopan has fired shots at a number of pro bodybuilders doing the 2023 Mr. Olympia by addressing them as “photoshop” bodybuilders. The implication being that many of today’s top Olympians may be doctoring their photos in order to gain buzz and notoriety. The only problem is no one knows who The Persian Wolf might be talking about.
One look at the most likely Olympia Top 10 guys and we’re left without any telltale clues. Ironically, it’s Hadi who’s been posting some suspicious photos that show off marks in his rear delts and other areas. This could be SEO’s like Synthol or it could simply be gear injection spots. While a lot of guys use site enhancing oils sparingly, I highly doubt that the reigning champ would be using that much filler and making it so obvious. The more likely explanation, as countless other commentators have stated, is that Hadi has simply run out of spots to pin the gear. Who knows what’s really going on with Hadi, but it’s kind of silly that he’d be taking shots at unnamed top guys when his camp is posting photos of him that are less than flattering.
The greatest bodybuilder in the world looks anything like the top guy in the world. Not only that but his entire reign has been marred by speculation that he shouldn’t have defeated Derek Lunsford last year, that Derek is going to get the title in 2023, but also that Hadi will be hard-pressed to stave off guys like 2023 Arnold Classic champion Samson Dauda, perennial underdog Nick “The Mutant” Walker, as well as the two other Mr. O’s in the mix Big Ramy and Brandon Curry. In many regards, Hadi’s reign has had some similarities to that of Dexter Jackson.
When Dexter beat Jay at the 2008 Mr. Olympia it sent shockwaves throughout the fitness industry, but no sooner than he won the title, were people practically crowning Jay with the comeback Sandow. Even just a few months into his reign many of the top commentators started to sour on the prospect of The Blade being able to retain the title. And as the 2009 Olympia neared, very few commentators, writers, and super fans had Jackson winning his second Sandow. Some had guys like Branch Warren and Victor Martinez, but the vast majority pinned their hopes to Jay Cutler. They figured Jay only lost because he was off. They never thought Dexter could beat Jay at his best.
And while very few people think that Big Ramy is going to come back and take the title back from Choopan, very few big names in the sport want to predict Hadi will win his second Sandow, most especially in 2023. They’re of the opinion that he could potentially win again, but they don’t see it in 2023. And to be honest, if he doesn’t do it in 2023, he’ll probably never win another one again. The only man in the history of bodybuilding who’s lost the title and regained it would be Jay Cutler. No other Mr. Olympia has ever been able to accomplish this feat.
I can totally understand why Hadi is butthurt, and there really isn’t a better way to describe how the champ is probably feeling. He worked so hard to climb the ranks of the 212. Back when he competed in that division, he was chasing the GOAT of the 212 James “Flex” Lewis. Choopan was heralded as the top contender, sometimes sharing the distinction with Brazil’s Eduardo Correa. When The Welsh Dragon retired, Choopan lost interest and moved on to the Open. He had to pack on a tremendous amount of size and more or less start from the bottom – all over again. And that’s exactly what he did. He got as high as 3rd place the year Brandon Curry won the title in 2019. Then he had to sit back and watch Phil come back in 2020, where Ramy won the title, Brandon took 2nd, and Phil took 3rd.
While Phil looked amazing, did he actually beat Hadi? Or did The Gift get a gift? It didn’t matter. Hadi knew that 2022 was his year to lose. He had been pounding on the door and he knew that although Ramy outsized him, he was far freakier and he had the people behind him. Finally, in 2022 Ramy got toppled – and toppled badly. Curry got beat and rising stars like Walker and Lunsford were kept at bay. Hadi had won one of the most competitive Mr. Olympia’s in the last ten years; however, no sooner that he was dubbed Mr. Olympia did he start losing the spotlight. This is a champion who has enjoyed little to no massive support since being crowned. He was actually more popular when he was trying to win the title then when he actually won it!
Even though this article is about Hadi calling out bodybuilders for photoshopping it’s really more about the champ’s own insecurities. The fact he feels so threatened and so overlooked that the only way he knows to get attention is to lob grenades at pretty much everyone he’s competing against. It’s a really bad look.
Whether it’s hand grenades or shotgun shells, he’s not taking aim at any one particular rival. It’s like he’s potentially attacking everyone. This tactic isn’t totally novel. We’ve seen it before with guys that just don’t get any love from the press. What I don’t get is what the champ stands to gain by casting such a wide net that all but certainly will result in a lot of negative blowback.
I mean I could see it if this was the 80’s or the early 90’s where the champ needed print media and tv coverage badly. Maybe a tactic like this would be necessary to gain some relevance. But in today’s bodybuilding world, everyone has their own social media platforms. Plus Hadi is backed by Evogen Nutrition. That’s a powerhouse company and they push him hard as well. If Hadi wants to go viral, he can easily accomplish that with his Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. He doesn’t need to attack his contemporaries to get that kind of attention.
But maybe he wants to lash out at the competition. Maybe that’s the purpose and the motivation behind it all. Maybe he’s got a score to settle with the guys he’ll be posing against. Who knows why he might have sour grapes with them? I have a theory that I’ll share. It’s just speculation, but I think it might have some answers.
Bodybuilders don’t decide who gets press and/or who’s popular with the fans. That’s for the media to decide all on its own, as well as the sport’s adherents. Sometimes guys get famous because of their mannerisms, maybe because of how they train, and sometimes it’s purely because of the physique they’ve built. There’s all sorts of reasons for why someone gets famous and I think the champ knows that. I also think the champ has picked up on the vibe that most of the top guys see Derek as the next Mr. O. It’s not because Lunsford buries Choopan. In fact, by most people’s accounts they’re pretty much in a dead heat. If you were to poll most bodybuilding fans, between Derek and Hadi, I believe you’d wind up with a sort of stalemate. That’s how close these guys are. They’re both pretty much perfect and if they both bring 100% to the stage this November in Orlando, FL, the judges will really have their work cut out for them.
So if it’s that close, why do most Olympians prefer Derek? Is it because he’s American? Is it because he’s young? I’d say no to both of those questions especially because bodybuilding is such an international sport. So then what is it?
I think most pro bodybuilders like Samson, Labrada, and Walker like Lunsford more than Choopan for the same reasons a lot of people soured on Big Ramy. Hadi and Ramy are basically recluses. In fact, neither guy guest posed in Pittsburgh while holding the title. Do you have any idea how weak that looks?
Mr. Olympia is supposed to be the sport’s ambassador to the world. So when you have a champion that’s nowhere to be found, that doesn’t grow the sport, and the top guys don’t really appreciate that. While Hadi hides, Derek tours the world, signs autographs, guest poses and roots for all the bodybuilders he comes into contact with. For most of 2022 and 2023, Derek was the sport’s de facto ambassador to the world, even if on paper it was The Persian Wolf. That lack of hustle didn’t do any favors for the reigning champ.
Maybe this photoshop comment is Hadi’s way of giving the bird to many of his fellow competitors who he believes haven’t shown him the respect a Mr. O deserves. And maybe those same athletes don’t give it because they don’t believe Hadi has earned it.
What say you? I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Hadi’s pettiness and I hope you’re excited for an all out war on the 2023 Mr. Olympia stage. Maybe we’ll even see some verbal sparring at the press conference. Wouldn’t that be a hoot?