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Gregg Valentino vs Fouad Abiad

by Christian Duque

This is a feud that’s been a longtime coming and it’s not necessarily between Gregg and Fouad, rather, it’s more of an issue of the old guard vs the new guard that rely on social media, popular influencers, and spearheading movements around clothing, supplements, and podcasts.

Fouad isn’t just one guy, not anymore. He’s at the helm of a movement promoting the Hosstile way of life. Fouad built a highly-successful supplement line and the most popular podcast on the planet, BroChat. In addition to the supplements and the podcasts, Fouad has had some of the biggest stars in the sport in his roster. They don’t always work out and the word is his contracts might be a little restrictive but I’m just speculating. I don’t recall seeing any Hosstile contracts. Um.., yean let’s just go with that.

Nonetheless, even if contracts might be restrictive they’re totally legally enforceable in that both sides agree to the terms. Let’s just say that Hosstile’s contract had exclusivity clauses, it makes sense for the signing company to retain as much of the value as possible. That’s just business 101. I’ll expound shortly. But before moving onto that, restrictive contracts that are one-sided are known as illusory. If the terms only benefit one side, then most courts won’t hold the contracts legally enforceable. If the contract is very restrictive but rewards the athlete with big pay, benefits (e.g. medical, dental, maybe a percentage of sales, etc), and maybe gives some stability (renew options, bonuses, etc) then that restrictive contract is now no longer one-sided.

At the end of day, what may be a bad deal to you, might be a home run for someone else. If Sam is making $20k-$50k a month from Hosstile do you really think he cares about making appearances on podcasts for 1, 2, 3 or more hours on platforms that neither promote his sponsor or make him any money? We’re of course talking about bodybuilding social media influencer Sam Sulek. This young lifter commands a subscription base of over 3 million on YouTube. He lifts, but doesn’t really diet. He also doesn’t compete and from what I gather has no desire to earn a pro card. He lifts out of love being in the gym and everything he does is in pursuit of building the best possible physique. He doesn’t claim natty and he doesn’t have a million sponsors. He’s a gym rat tried and true. Fouad Abiad saw the writing on the wall and was probably counseled on how big this kid is. So they signed him. And the rest is history.

Whether or not his contract is too restrictive really isn’t the point. As long as Sam likes it, Sam signs. And what got this whole thing started was over Sam doing a podcast at RX. It’s no one’s fault, rather, one podcaster asked Sam for a podcast appearance and Sam didn’t seem too interested. You can blame that on the contract or you take Fouad at face value when he says the kid doesn’t like doing podcasts – even BroChat. I mean when you stop to think about it why would Sam want to share the airwaves with a bunch of guys? Whether those guys be on BroChat or RX or elsewhere. On his videos, he’s the only one talking, and everyone’s listening.

And the only difference between doing BroChat and some other podcast is money. With Hosstile he’s getting paid and he’s probably getting other income streams like part proceeds from the $80 autographs at the Arnold Classic. If he goes and sits on his computer on someone’s website he’s making them money. After all, they get the hits live, they keep the video, monetize it and their advertisers make money. No one gets paid to go sit on a podcast in bodybuilding. The pay is “in exposure,” but when you have 3,000,000 subscribers someone would have to be one hell of a hustler to suggest that exposure is a viable tradeoff.

Sam could get more hits from puking in a trashcan after training legs than doing a podcast on some random website. That’s just facts. Whether it’s Sam or The Tren Twins, their bread and butter is in training videos and talking about their journey on their platforms. They don’t need a guy two or three times their age asking them how they cook their chicken breast. It’s possible that Sam couldn’t do these podcasts because of contractual obligations. It’s also possible he just didn’t want to.

Before anyone starts calling me a Fouad fanboy, I can assure you I’m not. I don’t like or dislike him. I don’t know him on a personal level. He seems like he’s killing it on the business side and he seems like a Federation man. I’ve been there and done that too. I get how everything works and when you’re that successful you go with the flow. I’m not calling him a sellout, but he does the business of bodybuilding. I have never shied away from speaking my peace. So believe you me, if I have something to say, I’ll say it.

Fouad is sitting on a goldmine but that success wasn’t built overnight. He had to really work at it and he needs to protect his investments. He can deny he’s doing that, but as a business owner it’s his duty to keep his business profitable. If they signed Sam to a big contract and he’s out diluting the product, that’s bad for the company.

I’ll be honest with you. When I ran IronMag TV, we forbade Gregg (who was our biggest star) from appearing on RX Muscle and Muscle Sport Mag. We had no issue with GI because that was grandfathered in, but we saw RX and MSM as rivals to what we were trying to do with our shows at IronMag TV and Muscular Development. We were paying Gregg the highest rate out of all the stars which included Big Frank, Jessica Padilla, Theresa Ivancik, the late great Ric Drasin and others. We didn’t want our top guy doing podcasts on rival platforms because we felt that diluted the shows he did for us and because we wanted his reach to be used to push IronMag Labs products, not the companies sponsoring the other shows he might sit at for hours on end for free. Maybe that was draconian of us. Maybe we were shortsighted to some, but it was my belief that everyone who really missed seeing Gregg on RX or MSM could enjoy all his great content by watching on IronMag TV (which we owned) or Muscular Development (which we sponsored Gregg and my shows exclusively). After all, the name of the game then and the name of the game today, is and always will be, ROI (Return On Investment).

Like I said, I haven’t seen Sam’s contract, but I don’t know Fouad to be a fool. If his company is paying top dollar for the most popular bodybuilding influencer in the world, they’re not going to encourage him to do a lot of free appearances. And that’s even if the contract allows for it. It’s just not a good look.

Gregg knows how the industry works, but Gregg is also a New Yorker and a guy who has no filter. When he made the remark that Fouad was pimping Sam out, that made the legendary Canadian bodybuilder flip the fuck out. It made it seem like Fouad was exploiting Sam. That’s what pimps do. They take advantage of people. That’s if you take the word at the literal value. Gregg was just bullshitting. I know him and have been on plenty of 3-4 hour-long phone calls with him to know that he just says stuff. He knows what he’s saying, but he doesn’t necessarily mean it in the worst possible way. If you call certain folks pimps or hustlers, they’ll say thank you. If you call it to others, they might be livid. It’s all about the context and the subjectiveness at hand.

And while Gregg may seem lighthearted and to not have a care in the world about Abiad saying no one should believe anything he says, something like that really gets under his skin. Whereas Gregg was probably saying something innocently, for Fouad to say Gregg is basically an incredible source is all but a total declaration of war. Gregg wrote his Ramblin Freak column for MD for 15 years, he’s a co-founder of Heavy Muscle Radio with Dave and John, and he’s worked with all the big sites in bodybuilding. He’s been in countless movies, tv shows, and talk shows. He was the main attraction at IronMag TV. To write Gregg off as basically being a nobody most definitely will get under his skin and I think Fouad knew exactly how to fire a nuke that would likely keep this feud going for a lot longer than it did. By nuking Gregg, now Palumbo had to intervene as well. It has all the makings of a new rivalry to replace that of RX and MD. I can see this becoming the new drawn out battle. RX vs Hosstile/BroChat, at least for a good long while.

In all honesty, maybe Sam isn’t into podcasts, and maybe Gregg never goes on BroChat, and neither Gregg nor Fouad apologize to each other. Maybe things just stay as is and everyone moves on. That might certainly work most anywhere else, but in bodybuilding, especially in the weeks before the Arnold Classic, I suspect the troublemakers won’t let up on this for at least another week or two.

I don’t have a side in the fight between Fouad and Gregg. I think they should squash it. However, if I was running Hosstile and I signed Sam, I can tell you that I’d discourage him doing other podcasts. Whether it would be prohibited in the contract or I would strongly discourage it would ultimately be the same thing. He needs to make money and make his sponsor money. Beyond that – there is no beyond that.

Thoughts?

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