by Christian Duque
It has been said Lee Priest is the greatest bodybuilder to emerge from Newcastle Australia and many believe he may be the greatest of all time from New South Wales. The 50yr old former Top 6 Olympian has risen to the top of the IFBB, NABBA, and the PDI. He has been able to do so without ever playing the size game. Lee has alway understood what bodybuilding is about and what it’s not. He’s maintained close ties to the sport’s roots and tries to make those who came before him proud. He’s never sought to turn the sport on its head, rather, he’s always advocated for its natural progression.
And the fans have responded in kind. Priest gets mobbed wherever he goes and his supporters just can’t get enough. The towering 5’4 legend has always kept a level head despite his fans hyperventilating when they see him. He had to learn this while competing in the pre-social media 1990’s.
A lot of people fail to realize that Lee has been around a very long time. He’s competed during the reigns of Dorian Yates, Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, Phil Heath and beyond. While all of these guys have long moved on and embarked on many exciting journeys, Lee’s whole life has always revolved around bodybuilding. Whether that saw him compete, making videos in the back of a warehouse, or appearing on sites like RXMuscle, he’s never left.
Lee is a man’s man and has developed a signature approach. Although he may not have taken his physique to the limit and although many think he pissed away what was a very promising career, he’s lived life on his own terms. He knows how to get a rise out of people whether it’s fans on a message board, top federation brass, or company bigwigs. No one is off limits. Priest is both the life of the party and the worst guy you want as an adversary.
One of the best things about Lee is he never stopped lifting and he never lost the slabs of lean muscle he built over the years. While a lot of guys rely on tons of gear and exotic substances, Priest always used minimally. He says the drug dealers hated him because he used so little. When he wasn’t bulking up on Kentucky Fried Chicken, the Aussie kept a very strict diet. When he was on his game, there was no time for whining or cheating. There’d be plenty of time to eat everything in sight after the contest.
For as much as people like to rag on Priest, no one can take his work ethic away from him. He took his preps seriously and when he hit the stage he looked like he could win the contest. And that’s more than just talk. When a guy Lee’s height and weight pushed the likes of Chris Cormier to the wire that said all that needed to be said. Similarly when (now) 2x 212 Mr. Olympia Shaun Clarida toppled guys 100 lbs heavier in open bodybuilding that made me remember the terror that Lee Priest cast over guys who towered over him and who outweighed him back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
The fact is, according to a great many fans, Lee Priest could come back and take up from where he left off. He doesn’t have major injuries. In fact, I don’t know if he has any injuries at all. He’s also been able to give his body a very long and useful rest. Even when he was competing with the PDI and NABBA, that level of competition was still considerably less than what he had to do with the IFBB Pro League. It’s really like apples and oranges.
One of the main reasons guys in their 40’s see themselves forced to retire is that they’ve burnt themselves out. Imagine blasting year-round, training like a beast, and then coming down multiple times a year to single-digit body fat percentages, drying out, and then having to pose under those circumstances. If it’s agonizing for a guy in his 30’s and even for younger cats in their 20’s, imagine what 20 years of it non-stop will do? The fact Lee has been out of that fold for over fifteen years gives him a huge edge. Then of course you have to bring muscle memory into the picture. While some argue if it’s even a thing, I can all but promise you that after 2-3 months of intense eating, training, and supplements that Lee would grow like a weed. Hell, he might bring a better physique in 2022 than he did 20 yrs ago.
The fact Lee has never gone MIA is also huge. This is why there have been constant comparisons. Even while Flex Lewis was winning everything in sight, there was always the comparison of Lewis vs Priest. I know it annoyed The Welsh Dragon just like it would annoy any champ on top to be compared to a guy from yesteryear. Only thing is, guys from yesteryear tend to shrink and tend to tone down their opinionated commentaries. When Lee Priest speaks, he doesn’t hold back, and as you look at him with his arms ready to burst out of his sleeves, you’re left wondering why this guy isn’t on a stage? You start to wonder when and where his comeback will happen. It’s really not a question of if, but when.
To date, no bodybuilder has ever done what Frank Zane did to Arnold in 1979. No bodybuilder has ever challenged Lee – not in gest and certainly not seriously – either. No one wants this guy to come back because if he does he’d be as dangerous as ever.
With the 2022 Olympia in the books, countless fans went to the boards and groups, urging the Aussie IFBB Pro to reconsider a comeback. With more talk of the 2023 Masters Olympia the fans feel compelled to urge Priest even more. Everyone wants to see him back on stage and not just for fun. The fans seem to believe Lee is unstoppable and if he made a comeback I couldn’t imagine him doing it for any other reason than to win. He comes from a time when guys were competitive, when they suffered with a smile, and when being a winner was what got people out of bed in the morning.
If Lee Priest throws his hat into the ring expect WORLD WAR THREE on stage!! If he did return in 2023 for either an open show or the Masters Olympia, how do you think he’d do? I personally think that if he’s able to come back with good size and ultra conditioned that he could easily win the Masters Olympia – if that’s even of interest to him. I could see Lee making a run for the open especially with Hadi Choopan as the defending Mr. Olympia. A guy like Lee Priest won’t be happy competing with the old farts. He’s just too damn good for that.