HomeArticlesMatt Weik

IFBB Men’s Open Secures the Bag: Screw the Other Competitors?

by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

To preface this entire article, I’m just going to throw out the elephant in the room and get it over with, and that’s the fact that this article is going to rub some people the wrong way. Is that my intent? No. Do I respect their opinion as much as I hope they would support mine? Yes. But there are things I believe need to be said and thrown out there to start some dialog regarding the direction of bodybuilding and the IFBB.

So, to kick things off on a brighter note, I congratulate the IFBB on securing a deal with MIT45 and Uprising Extracts — good for all parties involved. The fact that an additional $210,000 is now going into the pockets of competitors is amazing.

The minimum prize money for shows in the men’s open (a total of 21) will be getting an additional $10,000 in their checks. Bravo. Respect to the big boys in the Men’s Open for what they do to attain the size they carry around, and I do believe they are deserving of the money they make.

According to Tyler Manion, the breakdown for this is that the winner will receive an additional $5,000, and second place will get an extra $4,000. Not bad at all for those guys.

Now, for the part that is going to cause my phone to ring and tell me I need to stop talking about the IFBB.

If You’re Not in the Men’s Open… The IFBB Doesn’t Give a Flying Turd About You

That’s a pretty intense take on things, right? But prove me wrong. I’m sure you will have guys who will want to debate my stance because they get paid by the IFBB to be diplomatic. But let’s be real: before the move to give the big boys more prize money, this was already a topic of debate about how much the other divisions were getting paid.

But go ahead and look at the prize money gap between the Men’s Open and any other division out there. You could argue that thanks to Chris Bumstead, Classic Physique is one of the most exciting divisions to watch and that he (alone) has brought more eyeballs to the sport over the last few years than any Men’s Open competitor out there.

Bumstead has over 23 million followers on Instagram. How many does the reigning Olympia champ (Derek Lunsford) have? Only 1M. Which is odd because Derek seems like a really good dude. But does Chris get anywhere close to what the big boys make in Men’s Open? Who has made a greater impact on the sport between Chris and any of the last several Men’s Open Olympia winners? There’s no debate that Chris has.

If you follow Chris, you’ll see him getting people outside the industry interested in fitness and bodybuilding. Recently, he and his brand collaborated with the guys (Navy SEALS) at GBRS, where they got in some workouts and time at the range shooting guns. If you ask me, he’s way more interesting than pretty much anyone else in the IFBB

I would go so far as to say that if Chris Bumstead weren’t in the mix the past few years, bodybuilding and Classic Physique would have fizzled out. It’s my opinion that while Men’s Open is truly the main event of any IFBB show, Classic Physique is right on its tail.

Chris may never see the kind of money that the Open guys make for winning shows, but why can’t he be close? Now, Chris does just fine for himself outside of winning Olympia titles. Between older endorsements and now owning his own businesses, he’s not going to be walking into a soup kitchen with his hand out anytime soon. And honestly, I applaud everything Chris has done in this industry and give him a huge amount of credit for growing the sport and audience over the last several years.

I’ve even published multiple articles about how I think Chris is the future of the industry, how he’s the main figure in the spotlight these days, and how he can continue to push forward and shape the future of the IFBB. Does that mean he needs to one day step on an Open stage? No. Would it be interesting? Sure. But he’s shaped his persona and his legacy in Classic Physique, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

[PULL IT BACK IN, MATT]

Sorry, I somewhat went off on a tangent there with Chris, so let’s put the blinders back on and get refocused. Specifically, looking at the other divisions, explain to me why it makes sense to compete other than the fact that you truly love it. If you were to get paid zero dollars to step on stage (and you still had all the expenses you needed to pay to jump on stage) while everyone else was making money doing it, would you continue? Because essentially, that’s what’s happening.

You have competitors outside of the Men’s Open winning shows that make way less than the Men’s Open, and I’m not going to downplay their training, dieting, dedication, or anything else. They train and work their butts off to be the best in their respective divisions.

But look at the difference in the 2023 Olympia prize money for the winners:

  • Men’s Open: $400,000
  • 212: $50,000
  • Classic Physique: $50,000
  • Men’s Physique: $50,000
  • Olympia: $50,000
  • Figure: $50,000
  • Fitness: $50,000
  • Women’s Physique: $50,000
  • Wellness: $50,000
  • Bikini: $50,000

Sadly, the smaller shows throughout the year pay out a fraction of these amounts for winners. For instance, Bikini competitors can walk away with only a few thousand dollars for a win, and this is after anywhere from 12-20 weeks of prep.

Imagine your entire life revolving around getting ready for shows, and you only walk away with a few thousand dollars (if you even win the show). Many competitors walk away with zero dollars after investing all the time and money just to compete and be on stage. You might as well go work at McDonald’s, where you can make more money.

Again, I’m sure this article is going to ruffle some feathers. I agree that Men’s Open deserves the big paychecks as they put butts in seats. But $50,000 for the other divisions at the Olympia doesn’t even cover their “supplements” for the year.

It makes you wonder if this move to pay the Men’s Open even more money and say the heck with the rest of the divisions could make people rethink competing. Is it worth the time being invested, the damage it may be doing to their body… for what? A few thousand dollars (maybe more if they place well at the Olympia)? They can make more as an influencer and training clients at a local gym.

It’s my opinion that the IFBB should look into what can be done to help the other divisions outside of the Men’s Open. The latest move to give Open winners even more money throughout the year is a direct slap in the face to all the other competitors out there who support your organization and help pull in money for YOUR shows. Without them, you don’t have an organization unless you’re willing to shed divisions and only have Men’s Open.

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