by Christian Duque
The world of Men’s Physique needs to be the talk of the town again. The Classic Division has grown by leaps and bounds, thanks in large part to the dominance of 4x Mr. Olympia Chris Bumstead. C-Bum has been to Classic what DLB was to Women’s Physique or what James “Flex” Lewis was to The 212.
Back in the day, Jeremy was the face of MPD. Not only was he seen as the greatest Mr. O the Division ever had, but in his prime he was totally unbeatable. There was no shortage of guys who wanted a piece of him. He’d get challenged wherever he went. Very much like the late great “Mighty” Mike Quinn would talk about in his interviews, wherever he went he had guys challenging him. Mike was the bad boy of bodybuilding but he never won an Olympia. Buendia was the bad boy of Men’s Physique, but he was able to back-up the talk with winning physique after winning physique. Even during years when he wasn’t at his best, he was still good enough to contain the biggest trash-talkers and the most serious contenders for his title.
The magazines absolutely loved him. YouTubers constantly name-dropped him and anything that involved him. Jeremy could go viral just by snapping his fingers. This is why his sponsors paid him as well as they did and even when he was seemingly on the verge of losing it all, when all his haters aligned and united with the common goal of ending his days in the sport, he was still able to regroup and find sponsors. Jeremy Buendia IS Men’s Physique. He put the division on the map and went to bat for it against anyone that he perceived didn’t show it respect. I mean he even feuded with 10x Arnold Classic champion Dexter “The Blade” Jackson. Most guys didn’t want any of that smoke, but Jeremy couldn’t care less. If he thought MPD was disrespected, he’d go after you.
Let’s face it, physiques alone don’t make the sport interesting. Training alone wouldn’t have made Pumping Iron a hit and no one would be watching it 50 years later. That’s just how it is. We can sit here and talk about positivity and karma all we want, but drama sells. I’m not saying Jeremy was a drama queen or that he relied on sensationalism to be relevant, but he was such a great champion that the compounded frustration of all the guys who couldn’t beat him created a climate where there were constant feuds in the division. This is why the division looked as chaotic as it did.
We saw something similar during the Haney and Coleman eras. We even saw some inklings of it during Lewis’ run, even though The 212 is the most drama-free division that’s ever seen the light of day in physique-based sports. And that’s just it. A lot of times the drama isn’t fueled by negativity, much less malice – it’s just sheer frustration. It’s the typical conflict between the haves and the have-nots.
For all the people who have thrown water on Jeremy comeback rumors and even Jeremy’s bonafide attempts at putting together a return to the stage, the fans want it. The fans have been wanting it since Buendia left active competition. Most of the division’s diehards weren’t too interested in the accusations being made against him. That’s not to say that they weren’t serious and that they didn’t warrant scrutiny, it’s just to say that the division’s adherents followed the champ because of his work ethic in the gym, the way he took the stage, and the way he carried himself. There was no on and off switch when it came to being the greatest competitor in MPD. He knew that when he was on, no one could beat him. It got to the point, very similarly with Haney, Coleman, and Lewis, that Buendia didn’t even think he could be challenged. That’s not common in subjective sports because you never know what a particular panel of judges will be looking for.
We’ve all heard the old saying from Bob Cicherillo that bodybuilding is a sport about “apples and oranges.” You win some, you lose some, but when you’re the absolute best, then you can rest assured that wherever you compete, against whoever is there, you’re going to win. When you have that level of confidence, it radiates in every context. Whether you’re in a press conference, on stage, or doing a podcast. You’re it. You’re the man. And you can and have – backed it up – time in and time out.
The more impressive Buendia looks, the greater the fear of those who have enjoyed great success in his absence. They don’t want the Jeremy of old back. They will say the division isn’t the same, they’ll laugh at his chances of regaining the title, and the ones who are really scared will say he’s washed up and/or is a has-been. Little do they know from history that when you do that to a legitimate dreamkiller that that only lights a fire under them. It makes them want to come back more.
This is why when Frank Zane disrespected Arnold at the 1979 Mr. Olympia, The Oak came back just to put The Chemist in his place. Arnold didn’t compete in 1981, 1982, or beyond. He was retired and done with the sport, but Zane pissed him off, so he had to get even. As they say, revenge is a dish best served cold.
A lot of people made a lot of jokes at Jeremy’s expense over the years. A lot has been said and very little of it can be backed up. Some of the top guys from then till now have also suggested that his look wouldn’t be competitive today. Even though the champ has evolved into becoming a family man and exploring new business ventures, I can all but guarantee you that he follows the sport closely – particularly when his name gets mentioned. He’s put up with a lot and who’s to say this comeback isn’t fueled, at least in part, to shut certain jokers up.
Moreover, I don’t think this decision to return is financially-motivated. The MPD Olympia check isn’t going to change anyone’s life, let alone Jeremy’s. He’s not going to land any major sponsors for winning one more Sandow. Print media is dead and online news sites don’t pay for photoshoots or covers so winning another Olympia title won’t mean a big payday secondarily speaking, either.
If he won’t make major money directly or indirectly from competing, then it’s safe to say that money isn’t the main motivation for him competing again.
There’s certainly money to be made, but it’s not contingent on competing. Jeremy could very well have done what Jay Cutler did with his Fit for 50 challenge. If money was the motivation, Jeremy could have linked up with a private label for supplements, slapped a Buendia Nutrition sticker on the tubs, got in Olympia-like shape and appeared at booths at all the major fitness expos in the world. In one year, he’d probably make a million dollars after taxes and expenses. That’s an approach that would have had money written all over it.
Coming out of retirement to compete in the Olympia is about something else. It’s about showing everyone – including the Division’s current best – how it’s done. I have no doubt Jeremy will win, but my real curiosity is whether he’ll do a one and done – or – if he’ll wipe the floor with everyone and then make himself comfortable for a longer stay. A 100% Jeremy Buendia was invincible in his day, this day, and probably any day to come. If Buendia is firing on all cylinders in Orlando, FL, the real question will be who places 2nd, 3rd, 4th and beyond. 1st will be Jeremy’s and only Jeremy’s.
Do you agree or disagree? The fear in the ranks is real. BELIEVE THAT!