The Arnold Sports Festival is one of the biggest weekends on the fitness calendar, and there is normally something new and exciting happening every year. Even though there are lot of events taking place in Columbus, Ohio — including one of the world’s premiere strongman competitions — the main event of the weekend has been and still is the Arnold Classic bodybuilding contest.
The 2020 contest features one of the most star-studded lineups in the contest’s 32 year history. Four previous Arnold Classic champions are in this field with one also being a former Mr. Olympia winner. Among the rest of the field are athletes that are being looked at as the future of bodybuilding.
Favorites and Past Champions
Three of those four previous champions are among the favorites to win this contest as well. William Bonac won this show in 2018 and was runner-up in both the 2019 Arnold and the 2019 Mr. Olympia. Brandon Curry won both contests. With Curry not in this lineup, Bonac is considered the favorite going into March.
Among those looking to spoil Bonac’s plans is Dexter Jackson. The 2008 Mr. Olympia has won five Arnold Classic titles as well as four other Arnold events internationally. That makes him the most decorated competitor in the field. If he were to leave Ohio victorious, it would be his 30th pro win which would add to his current record for most ever.
There is also the 2017 winner of this show, Cedric McMillan. He normally brings his best look of the year to this contest and would love to elevate himself as a top contender for the Olympia. Knocking both Jackson and Bonac out of the top spot would certainly move him up the ranks of contenders to Curry’s title later this year.
The fourth past winner is 2007 champion Victor Martinez. While he’s not being looked at as a contender for the 2020 event, he has showed up and surprised people in past shows, even into his 40’s. If he’s on and someone comes into prejudging off, he will move past them in the finals.
Other Top Contenders
When you’re looking at the rest of the lineup, the first name that jumps out is “Big Ramy” Mamdouh Elssbiay. He missed the entire 2019 season and has made it known he’s on a mission to make 2020 his best season yet. He could be the heaviest man in the lineup but has had issues with appearing sharp on game day. This will be his debut on the Arnold Ohio stage.
Another competitor returning after a hiatus is Josh Lenartowicz. He had to skip the 2019 Olympia due to having a tumor removed from his skull as well as issues with recovery following that surgery. The Australian athlete wants to earn his qualification for the Olympia early and while not as big as Elssbiay, he will be among the bigger guys in this field.
Two competitors that will be first-timers on the Arnold stage are Patrick Moore and Sergio Oliva Jr. Moore finished 10th in the Olympia which surprised many bodybuilding fans and followers. No one is sleeping on him now but he appears prepared for the contest. He posted photos on Instagram showing his progress four weeks out which is not common for bodybuilders to do. He appears to be very confident.
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It’s been a pleasure and an honor to share my first @arnoldsports prep with all of you guys up to this point! Now it’s time for me to really dig in and focus on these last few weeks, so there won’t be any more progress pics. This gives me the opportunity to have some element of surprise lol. Huge thank you to @johnjsherman and @greg_one2one for taking some time with me today to get my mind in line. It’s almost game time guys and I look forward to meeting everyone in just under 4 weeks!! Have a great week!💪🏼👊🏼 #NEWBLOOD #arnoldclassic #thefuture #bodybuilding #ifbb #fitness #fitnessmotivation #mondaymotivation
As for Oliva Jr., the significance of him in this show is not lost on anyone following him. His father, Sergio Oliva Sr., competed against Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1970 Mr. World and lost in an upset. That show is what led to the partnership between Schwarzenegger and promoter Jim Lorimer which is what ultimately led to the creation of this very contest. Oliva Jr. wants to share the stage with Schwarzenegger as the winner 50 years after that 1970 contest.
Another contender to watch is Steve Kuclo. He’s coming off a 6th place finish at the Olympia and is always a fan favorite. He has stated his prep is going as planned and that means he can’t be ignored. His presentations make an impact too which is important since posing is judged at this show.
Other Athletes to Watch
Longtime veteran Johnnie O. Jackson is ending a two-year retirement to return to the stage and the Arnold Classic is his first appearance post-retirement. Pre-retirement he won two shows in 2017 which was his last full season. At 49 years old, he will have mature muscle but the question is if it will compare well to the younger men in the field after his sabbatical.
A late entry into this show is Nathan DeAsha who replaced Roelly Winklaar. The 2019 British Grand Prix winner was unable to compete in the Olympia so he hopes to rebound with a high placing in Columbus. The rest of the lineup includes dark horses who can upset anyone previously mentioned if they are off. Akim Williams, Lionel Beyeke, and Maxx Charles have all placed high in lineups comparable to this one.
The one unknown is Morgan Aste who was the 2019 Arnold Amateur Champion. He’s making his pro debut and the social media star has never faced a lineup like this before.
2020 Arnold Classic Competitors in Alphabetical Order
Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay
Sergio Oliva Jr.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Arnold Sports Festival