2023 Arnold Classic Men’s Open Preview

Who will leave Columbus as champion with the $300,000 prize purse?

The 2023 Arnold Classic is set to take place on the weekend of Mar. 2-5, 2023, in the Batelle Grand room of the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, OH. This is the first pro Men’s Open contest on the 2023 bodybuilding calendar — though Brett Wilkin is the first 2023 Mr. Olympia qualified athlete for his win at the 2022 Big Man Pro.

2023 Arnold Classic Roster | Men’s Open

Ten men are set to take the stage and face the judges, including two past Arnold Classic winners. Aside from the historic $300,000 first place prize money that will go to the champion, the winner of the contest will also qualify for the 2023 Mr. Olympia, scheduled for Nov. 2-5 in Orlando, FL.

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Past Champions

There are two former Arnold Classic winners in this lineup: Nick Walker and William Bonac. Walker won in 2021 and is considered by many to be the favorite to win in 2023 since he ranked third overall at the 2022 Mr. Olympia contest in December 2022. The only two men who placed ahead of him in that show were winner Hadi Choopan and runner-up Derek Lunsford; neither of whom are competing in Columbus.

“The Mutant” Walker is already qualified for the 2023 Mr. Olympia, but entered into the Arnold Classic after the prize money was raised from $200,000 to $300,000. 

Bonac, aka “The Conqueror,” is a two-time winner of the Arnold Classic. He scored gold in 2018 and 2020. He was the runner-up in 2022 to Brandon Curry. Bonac has the opportunity to etch his name in history as a three-time Arnold Classic champion.

The only other bodybuilders who’ve won at least three Arnold Classics are Dexter Jackson (five wins), Flex Wheeler (four wins), Jay Cutler, and Kai Greene (three wins each). Bonac is coming off a ninth-place finish at the 2022 Mr. Olympia and will seek redemption via a third trophy in Ohio.

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Past Olympia Champions

The rest of the field will attempt to become the 20th Arnold Classic winner since the contest started in 1989. There are three former Olympia winners in this show. One is a former Mr. Olympia, while the other two reigned in the 212 division. 

Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay is a two-time Mr. Olympia winner, having won that contest in both 2020 and 2021. He placed fifth at the 2022 edition of that contest. Elssbiay, from Egypt, has never won the Arnold Classic. He made his only Arnold Classic USA appearance in 2020, when he placed third to Bonac. Elssbiay won the Arnold South America in 2014. 

Two-time reigning Olympia 212 champion Shaun Clarida will make his second career Men’s Open appearance at the 2023 Arnold Classic. He was the winner of the 2021 Legion Sports Fest Pro. Clarida is coming off his second Olympia victory in Las Vegas, NV, in December 2022.

Kamal Elgargni won the Olympia 212 title in 2019 and placed third in 2022. Like Clarida, Elgargni has Men’s Open experience, having placed second in the 2022 Tampa Pro and fourth in the 2022 Texas Pro two weeks later. Elgargni of Libya has a chance to make some unique history — when Arnold Classic had a 212 contest, Elgargni won it in 2018. No athlete has won the Arnold Classic in two divisions.

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Top Contenders

There are other contenders who feel they can steal the spotlight from the other favorites. Among them is Samson Dauda, who is considered by many to be the breakout star of 2022. The “Nigerian Lion” placed sixth at the 2022 Olympia, and was one of the first men to commit to the Arnold Classic. He was fourth in the 2022 Arnold Classic. 2023 will be his second appearance in this contest.

If the IFBB Pro League had a “Rookie of the Year” award, Andrew Jacked would’ve likely won it. Jacked is in a position to make his mark in bodybuilding history, having turned pro by winning the 2022 Arnold Amateur contest.

No Arnold Amateur winner has ever won the Arnold Classic the following year. Jacked won both the 2022 Texas Pro and 2022 Arnold Classic UK contests. He was eighth at the 2022 Mr. Olympia contest.

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Dark Horses

The rest of the field may not be as widely discussed, but they are certainly capable of upsetting the apple cart. Akim Williams has competed in this contest three times, and his highest finish came in 2021 when he placed fifth. He had to withdraw from the 2022 contest due to testing positive for COVID-19. Williams has four wins as a pro, with his last coming at the 2022 Tampa Pro.

Justin Rodriguez was fifth in the 2022 Arnold Classic and fourth in the 2021 contest. That is his highest placing thus far. He will make his fourth career Arnold Classic appearance in 2023.

Patrick Moore will make his Arnold Classic debut in 2023. Clarida is the only other athlete debuting at this contest. After placing 14th at the 2021 Mr. Olympia, Moore took the 2022 season off. Moore has won two shows in his career: the California Pro in 2019 and 2021. 

Fans who want to purchase tickets to see the 2023 Arnold Classic live or buy the pay-per-view to watch at home, courtesy of Fanmio, can go to the Arnold Sports Festival website for more information. BarBend will provide updates and coverage of the 2023 Arnold Classic as well as the other pro contests that are scheduled to take place on the first weekend of March. 

Featured Image: @nick_walker39 on Instagram