by Christian Duque
It’s bad enough that reigning the Mr. Olympia lives in one of the most isolated countries in the world relative to the United States but it’s quite another that he is isolated on social media as well. While the reigning champion loves to post content, ranging from training in the gym to eating his meals, it’s not enough. Many fans want to see where his physique is at given the fact that other top-tier competitors are constantly keeping the fans updated with their most current physique shots.
When it comes to the number one bodybuilder in the world, everyone wants to keep tabs on him. He should be setting the standard – not dragging behind the pack. He needs to step it up. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the industry. This applies to the media as much as the sponsors as much much as the vendors, as much as to those who buy the tickets and keep the sport alive. There isn’t much faith in Choopan for the 2023 Olympia.
The previous champion was not known to be outwardly social, either. Ramy didn’t grow bodybuilding and neither has Hadi. In fact, Ramy missed a great number of opportunities and this champion seems to have taken a page from Ramy’s playbook. Many in the sport are wishing Derek had won more than ever!! Posting old photos and being missing in action has become Hadi’s modus operandi.
The fact of the matter is that you can’t pull the same tricks today that were the norm when the magazines were king. Honestly, the fans are way too keen for that. They pay attention to what the athletes are wearing, what gyms they are training at, and at some of the most trivial details that you may think of. A lot of pundits think that it comes down to filters and other technical innovations, but in reality, the way that most competitors that are posting old photos get outed is simply by the fans’ attention to detail. Some fans have a sharper eye than some of the most seasoned A&R people at supplement companies.
When you stop to think about it, it can be pretty surreal. The fans are more aware of the bullshit than people whose careers depend on it. In other words when you’re dealing with a marketing director, they have to know everything under the sun or it’s their job. Many fans can run circles around people tasked with keeping tabs on athletes. If athletes aren’t posting good content they’re basically getting paid to do nothing and products aren’t selling.
Look at Derek for example. I know that this will probably anger Hadi, but he’s carrying the sport as Olympia runner-up. The reigning champion probably hears and reads this name ad nauseam but there’s a reason for it.
Lunsford is acting like the champion without trying to usurp his fellow brand mate. That’s right, my friends, the champ and the runner up share not only the same supplement sponsor, but also the same coach. I feel like the former Mr. USA is going out of his way not to step on the coattails of the reigning, Mr. Olympia. Then again, that is going to be very hard to do given the fact that the champ is nowhere to be seen.
Anything that Derek does is going to outshine what the largely MIA Mr. Olympia does. You can’t live and train in Iran and allegedly grow the sport from your Instagram. It just doesn’t work that way.
At the end of the day, Hadi’s absence from the sport also hurts his chances of making significant improvements to his physique. We have often discussed the phenomenon of competitors posting physique shots whilst standing alone. This creates a false sense of security that has come to bite many in the butt when they finally hit the stage. It’s easy to look amazing when none of your peers are around you. But then on top of that if you’re posting old photos or you’re using lighting or other crutches, then you may have even regressed from your last outing. This is also something that has a lot of fans concerned about whether or not we’re dealing with a single year champion or someone who can win multiple years. We don’t see the guy, he doesn’t guest pose, we don’t see him competing or at expos, we don’t see him at all.
The reigning champ is no spring chicken, either. And he didn’t win the Olympia with minimal effort. Even the year where he got the people’s champion award (2020) he took third. Therefore the fact he was able to win last year narrowly should not give him any false sense of security.
Many fans believe Derek should’ve won and the more that I see Derek in the gym with Hany [Rambod] the more I see the hunger in his eyes and his work ethic at play. When Derek took the stage in Pittsburgh, many people believed they were looking at the future Mr. Olympia. I mean he’s up there, paying his dues and cutting his teeth and he’s holding his own whereas the champ is posting videos on Instagram from halfway across the world. That doesn’t bode well for him and it certainly doesn’t do anything against the doubters that are saying he’s going to get washed off the stage come November in Orlando Florida
A lot of guys that win the Super Bowl of Bodybuilding, lose all sense of reality very quickly. If we were talking about a Dorian, a Ronnie, or a Phil, that would be different. But you can’t start feeling invincible after winning just one or even two titles. A lot of guys make the mistake of thinking that they are the best in the world and they have to be knocked out. And while that may have been true for some of these multiyear winners it isn’t the case with a guy with just one title to his name. We have already seen this happen with several guys and several titles.
Champions are getting way too comfortable way too soon and having to learn the hard way. And once you lose a title, it becomes next to impossible to win it back. Let’s not forget that in over 70 years of the Olympia, only one former champion has ever been able to successfully win the title back and that man is Jay Cutler.
I think a strong case should be made for the fact winning the Olympia back is harder than winning it to begin with. To date, I have not seen a champion work harder the year of their title defense as compared to the year they won the title. And that may be exactly what’s necessary in order for us to see another multi-year champion. I mean one look at Hadi and the way that he’s conducting himself as the champ and it becomes very clear to me that whatever he brings to Orlando is not going to be enough. I mean here we are in June well into halfway of his reign and I can’t say that he has done one thing to promote the sport of bodybuilding beyond posting on his Instagram like he has done any other year. There has been nothing different in 2023, than in 2020 or 2019 or 2018. It’s business as usual for a guy that should literally be all over the world.
I still remember when Danny Hester won the classic physique Olympia. Not only did he double and triple his guest appearances, but he took his Olympia medal wherever he went. He was so proud of that title that the entire world knew about it. That is what it takes to grow the sport and to grow your brand. When I look at Hadi, I see missed opportunity after missed opportunity. He literally won the biggest title in the sport of bodybuilding and went home. And now he’s going to come back to Florida in five months time thinking that just because he won last year he’s going to win again this year? It’s just not going to happen. I think 2023 will be to Hadi what 2022 was for Ramy.
It doesn’t even matter whether or not Hadi is posting old photos, doctored photos, or even if he’s posting new photos. Posting photos to Instagram is not enough promotion for the ambassador of bodybuilding to the world. Not appearing in Pittsburgh is not what the champion should do, either. Being totally out of sight and seemingly out of mind is a recipe for disaster. In fact, just to reiterate, I don’t care what this guy brings to Orlando, Hadi is not going to win a second Sandow.