The 2023 Arnold Classic is a stone’s throw away; the 35th edition of the second most prestigious bodybuilding show will take place between Mar. 2-5, 2023, in the Battelle Grand room of the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, OH.
The 2023 Arnold Classic will be this calendar year’s first Men’s Open Bodybuilding contest. To make the show more exciting and encourage participation, the AC promoters raised the prize money for the Open division to a mind-boggling $300,000, a big jump from the $200,000 winner cheque awarded to the 2022 AC champ Brandon Curry.
Ten elite Open division pro bodybuilders will be locking horns for the Arnold Classic trophy. Although the coveted 3/4 back pose trophy is the second most prominent trophy in the sport, after the Mr. Olympia Sandow trophy, the Arnold Classic show is much bigger than the Olympia weekend. The 2023 Arnold Classic will host 50-plus sports and events and see 10,000 athletes from 80 nations compete for the top prize in their respective divisions.
2023 Arnold Classic Men’s Open Division Roster
Here are the bodybuilders that will take the stage on Mar. 3 and 4:
- William Bonac
- Shaun Clarida
- Samson Dauda
- Kamal Elgargni
- Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay
- Chinedu Andrew Obiekea “Andrew Jacked”
- Patrick Moore
- Justin Rodriguez
- Nick Walker
- Akim Williams
2022 was an exciting year for pro bodybuilding. We witnessed a new crop of bodybuilders take over the sport. The competition at the 2022 Olympia was so intense that the reigning Mr. Olympia champ Big Ramy and the 2019 Mr. O winner Brandon Curry finished in the fifth and the fourth spots.
This major rejig in the upper echelons of pro bodybuilding had an unexpected outcome. Most top dogs declined the Arnold Classic invitation, leaving the talent pool of the second most prestigious bodybuilding show shallow. The Arnold Classic promoters, however, found a clever way to fix the problem; they upped the winner’s prize from $200,000 to $300,000. Many elite bodybuilders like the 2021 Arnold Classic champ Nick Walker, Andrew Jacked, and Big Ramy tossed their hats into the ring after the prize hike.
Interestingly, the Mr. Olympia winner gets $400,000 for being crowned the best bodybuilder in the world. Experts believe that Arnold Classic’s prize money hike will blur the lines between Mr. O and AC, and AC will see an uptick in athlete participation in the coming years. Notably, Arnold Classic is an invite-only competition, whereas Mr. O follows a qualification system (OQS).
2023 AC will be the fourth consecutive year the Arnold Classic reigning champion will not defend his title. Besides being the second most prestigious bodybuilding title and a big payday, the AC champ wins a direct qualification for Mr. Olympia. Furthermore, he is considered the biggest threat to the reigning Mr. Olympia’s throne.
2023 Arnold Classic Preview
Going into a sporting contest without knowing the current standings and athlete form can be confusing and take away from your experience. Learning about each athlete before they take the stage will tell you who you should keep an eye on.
Although not cramped, the 2023 AC lineup has some incredibly talented and in-form bodybuilders. We will see two formed AC champs — Nick Walker and William Bonac — stake their claim for the top prize. The roster also has a former Mr. Olympia champ, Big Ramy, who will be looking for his maiden Arnold Classic title. Furthermore, the reigning 212 Olympia champ Shaun Clarida and former 212 O winner Kamal Elgargni will challenge the big dogs in their first Arnold Classic appearance.
Here is a primer on each 2023 Arnold Classic contestant:
William “The Conquerer” Bonac is the lineup’s most experienced Arnold Classic competitor. He also has two AC titles under his belt, which he won in 2018 and 2020. The Dutch bodybuilder got a lukewarm reception at the 2022 Olympia, where he ended ninth. He had placed sixth at the 2021 Olympia.
The Conquerer has a reputation for bouncing back sharply after a lousy performance. Bonac is known for his freakish size and always comes in top conditioning. Although Bonac took a backseat in most experts’ opinions after Walker, Jacked, and Big Ramy entered the show, counting the 2020 AC champ out would be a mistake. Bonac had bested Ramy in 2020 to win his second Arnold Classic title. The Egyptian bodybuilder had placed third behind Bonac and Dexter Jackson. Bonac’s career-best finish at the Olympia has been a runner-up position at the 2019 Mr. O.
Bonac finished second behind Curry at the 2022 Arnold Classic, making him one of the frontrunners to win the crown this year. He’ll be back with a vengeance this year, as many people believe he was denied the AC throne in 2022 despite coming in better shape than Curry.
If Bonac wins the 2023 Arnold Classic, he will match bodybuilding legends Jay Cutler and Kai Greene’s record, who have both won the AC title thrice.
Clarida is a two-time 212 Olympia champion, having won the title in 2020 and 2022. The reigning 212 champ won his maiden Open division show, the 2021 Legion Sports Fest beating the likes of Sergio Oliva Jr. and Regan Grimes, earning him the moniker “The Giant Killer.”
The 5-foot-2-inch bodybuilder was among the first competitors to sign the 2023 AC contract. Bodybuilding legend Flex Wheeler, in an interview, claimed that Clarida could beat Walker if he came with his signature conditioning.
Clarida is one of the freakish bodybuilders in the game. His dense muscle mass on his small frame makes him stand out. Although bodybuilding shows mark symmetry, balance, and conditioning, it’ll be interesting to see how The Giant Killer hangs with mass monsters such as Big Ramy, Nick Walker, and Samson Dauda.
The 2022 212 Olympia champ was being considered the frontrunner for the 2023 AC throne when the first list of competitors came out, but that changed quickly after Walker, Ramy, and Jacked put in their contention. Clarida might not win the 2023 AC, but he can upset some of the biggest names in the division.
Saying that Dauda surprised bodybuilding fans at the 2022 Olympia would be an understatement. “The Nigerian Lion” stepped on stage with Big Ramy for the eight mandatory poses, giving the reigning champ a run for his money in each shot.
Dauda placed sixth at his Olympia debut, which is very impressive, given the depth of the lineup at the 2022 Mr. O. He beat big shots like Andrew Jacked, Hunter Labrada, and Bonac to enter the upper echelons of pro bodybuilding.
Dauda has one of the most symmetrical and balanced physiques in the industry. Plus, he can skew a contest in his favor with his impeccable posing skills. This will be Dauda’s sophomore year at the Arnold Classic. He placed fourth at the 2022 AC.
Elgargini is a 51-year-old Libyan bodybuilder who is showing no signs of slowing down. The 2019 212 Olympia champ finished third behind Clarida and Angel Calderon Frias at the 2022 Olympia.
The 2023 Arnold Classic will be “The Lion of Libya’s” third Open division contest. He placed runner-up at the 2022 Tampa Pro and fourth at the 2022 Texas Pro.
Interestingly, Elgargni won the Arnold Classic 212 division when it was introduced in 2018. The Libyan will be the first bodybuilder to win an Arnold Classic USA title in two divisions if he can seize the throne on Mar. 4.
Although Elgargni will be looking for his maiden Open division win at the 2023 AC, it is unlikely that he will come out on top when the dust settles.
Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay
The 2020 and 2021 Mr. Olympia champ is looking for redemption. He fell to fifth place and lost his throne to Hadi Choopan at the 2022 Olympia when he showed up for the apex bodybuilding contest with dents in his quads and missing triceps and lower back.
The Egyptian bodybuilder is undergoing stem cell treatment in Dubai to fix his muscle atrophy issues. His doctors are claiming that he is already showing improvements and will step on stage with picture-perfect quads and much-improved triceps and lower back.
Although many pundits are claiming that Ramy is over his prime, the two-time Mr. O champ has no plans to pull down the curtain on his competitive career.
Big Ramy was the last competitor to sign up for the 2023 AC. He has never won an Arnold Classic USA title but wants to change that. The Egyptian bodybuilder won the Arnold South America in 2014.
Fans look forward to seeing the 300-pound-plus bodybuilder on stage and seeing if his muscle atrophy has improved. Big Ramy is keeping his physique under wraps for the 2023 AC, and fans can’t wait to see him take the stage.
Chinedu Andrew Obiekea “Andrew Jacked”
Andrew Jacked is one of the most exciting bodybuilding prospects. He is the cream of the crop that entered the pro circuit in 2022. Jacked had a dream run in 2022. The Nigerian bodybuilder competed in four shows in 2022, winning three.
He turned pro by winning the 2022 Arnold Amateur; he then won the 2022 Texas Pro and 2022 Arnold Classic UK. He took eighth place in his rookie year at the Olympia. Jacked’s then-coach, George Farah, had later revealed that he had a 102-degree fever at the 2022 Olympia.
Many bodybuilding fans, gurus, and other pro bodybuilders consider Jacked a future Mr. Olympia champ. The 6-foot-2-inch bodybuilder is one of the biggest and most aesthetically appealing physiques in the pro circuit.
Although Jacked has a flawless front and sides, his posterior chain lacks separation, size, and definition. Jacked is working with the late Shawn Rhoden’s coach Chris “Pyscho” Lewis, and Chris Aceto for the 2023 season. His coach and nutritionist have confirmed that the Nigerian bodybuilder looks much better than his Olympia package.
Jacked, along with Walker and Dauda, is one of the favorites to win the 2023 Arnold Classic.
This will be Moore’s rookie appearance at the Arnold Classic. He took a break from competing to work on his physique after finishing 14th at the 2021 Olympia. Things, however, didn’t go as planned, as he suffered a career-threatening Achilles tendon injury.
Moore has incredible potential but hasn’t been able to convert it on stage. He has won two pro shows in his career — the California Pro in 2019 and 2021. Although Moore has an aesthetical and balanced physique, the top dogs won’t likely be bothered by him.
Moore has an uphill battle in front of him. He will go head-to-head with some of the best bodybuilders in the division and will be stepping on stage after a long absence from the competitive circuit.
Rodriguez has become one of the most unpredictable bodybuilders lately. He shows up shredded to the bone for some shows but then is soft and puffy in the following contests.
Rodriguez finished fifth at the 2022 Arnold Classic and fourth at the 2021 contest. He scored a disappointing 15th-place finish at the 2022 Olympia and will be looking to clear his name at the 2023 AC by bringing a much-better package. 2023 AC will be Rodriguez’s fourth Arnold Classic appearance.
It’ll be interesting to see the improvements Rodriguez has made in his physique in the last couple of months since he will be going up against five bodybuilders that beat him at the 2022 Mr. O. It’ll be a big achievement for Rodriguez if he can crack the top five at the 2023 AC.
Walker is the 2021 Arnold Classic champion. He surprised the bodybuilding community by winning the AC and New York Pro in his rookie year. Walker vacated his throne in 2022 to focus on his 2022 Olympia campaign, which paid dividends as he placed third behind Choopan and Derek Lunsford at the 2022 Olympia.
“The Mutant” entered the Arnold Classic after the promoters raised the prize money. The New Jersey native is one of the two bodybuilders on the 2023 AC roster that is already qualified for the 2023 Olympia in the Open division. According to the OQS, the top five finishers at the Olympia earn automatic qualification for the following year’s contest. Big Ramy is the other contestant. Mr. Olympia champions earn a lifetime qualification for the Olympia in their respective divisions.
Walker is known for his monster size and razor-sharp conditioning. He has mastered his physique in a short period and has earned a reputation for always showing up crisp for competitions.
Walker’s recent physique updates show that he has got his varicose veins removed, which has majorly improved his lower leg aesthetics. The Mutant, however, has rejected the allegations.
The Mutant beat all the other Open division competitors at the 2022 Olympia, making him the favorite to win the 2023 AC. If Nick wins the 2023 AC, he will match Bonac’s, Kevin Levrone’s, Branch Warren’s, and Curry’s record for winning the coveted title twice.
He recently revealed that the 2023 AC prep has been the hardest prep of his bodybuilding career. This disclosure has psyched up his fans, and we can’t wait to see the package he brings to the 2023 AC.
Williams is one of the underdogs going into the 2023 Arnold Classic. The 2022 Tampa Pro champ has things to prove on the first weekend of Mar. 2023, as he didn’t place at the 2022 Olympia. He had finished ninth at the 2021 Mr. O.
This will be Williams’s second Arnold Classic outing. He placed fifth at the 2021 AC. Fans and judges will expect better definition and conditioning from Williams than he brought at the 2022 O.
Given the tough competition at the top of the lineup, Williams will likely compete with Elgargni, Rodriguez, and Moore for a seventh to tenth spot.
2023 Arnold Classic Predictions
Now that the Arnold Classic USA is a few days away, most bodybuilding pundits have come out with their top picks. Here is a brief overview of where experts have these bodybuilders finish at the 2023 AC:
- Nick Walker
- Andrew Jacked
- Samson Dauda
Fourth to Sixth
- Big Ramy
- William Bonac
- Shaun Clarida
Seventh to Tenth
- Kamal Elgargni
- Justin Rodriguez
- Akim Williams
- Patrick Moore
Note: This is an overview; the athletes are not placed in numerical order.
2023 Arnold Classic Men’s Open Bodybuilding Schedule
- Prejudging: Friday, Mar 03: 7:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m (Columbus Convention Center, Battelle Grand)
- Finals: Saturday, Mar 04: 7:00 p.m.-10:00 .p.m (Columbus Convention Center, Battelle Grand)
* Times are in Eastern Standard Time (EST)
Since the 2022 Arnold Classic champ Curry is not competing at the 2023 AC, the throne is up for grabs.
The Arnold Classic USA is the second-biggest bodybuilding contest after Mr. Olympia. Each bodybuilder will put everything on the line on show day to hoist the coveted trophy. The competition has clear frontrunners such as Walker, Jacked, Bonac, and Samson, but we must not count out the dark horses — Williams, Rodriguez, and Moore.
Will one of the two previous Arnold Classic champs get the judge’s nod, or will we see a 20th AC winner crowned on Mar. 4, 2022? Only time will tell.
Every Arnold Classic Champion Since 1989
Below is the list of bodybuilders who have hoisted the Arnold Classic trophy:
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Fitness Volt will cover the 2023 Arnold Classic and bring you all the latest news and updates from the contest. Stay tuned for the latest and greatest updates from Columbus, OH!