Bodybuilding legend Jay Cutler earned four Mr. Olympia titles and three at the Arnold Classic while competing as an IFBB Pro. In a recent episode of Cutler Cast, Cutler discussed the prestige and prize money of the annual Arnold Classic competition.
“I always thought [the money] couldn’t over-rule the Olympia, that was my thought, but I don’t think that’s the truth,” Jay Cutler said.
Hadi Choopan was crowned Mr. Olympia last December. At the event, over 25 men from the Open class battled for gold. By the end of the weekend, over $1.5 million was awarded to successful participants at the show, spanning 11 categories total.
The Arnold Sports organizers released a final competitors list a few weeks after 2022 Olympia. However, two athletes – Blessing Awodibu and Charles Griffen pulled themselves from the contest shortly after the list was revealed. As a result of their actions, the IFBB issued new disciplinary action for any bodybuilders who withdraw from an invitational after the list is made public.
To entice others to join the show, the Arnold promoters boosted the prize money from $200,000 to $300,000. Shortly after making the decision, Nick Walker, Mamdouh ‘Big Ramy’ Elssbiay, Andrew Jacked, and Patrick Moore entered the contest.
Cutler, who etched a legacy with a handful of Arnold and Olympia titles, discussed the show’s growing prestige. In addition, he compared the prize money from now to back when he competed, mostly from the 1990s-mid-2000s.
Jay Cutler Says Arnold Classic Prize Money ‘Is Almost’ As Much as What Mr. Olympia Is Awarded
When Jay was competing, he shared that the Mr. Olympia winner was guaranteed a purse of $100,000.
“So we talk about the shows okay… the Olympia is obviously the biggest title right. The Arnold Classic we have coming up. We don’t have the schedule yet; we talked a little bit about that. We are going to be present there in the first week of March. Everyone kind of picks what the biggest contest is, but damn, the Arnold this year is almost as much prize money for the Men’s Open as the Mr. Olympia.
If you remember, back when I did it, remember: the Olympia was $100,000 or $110,000 and the Arnold was paying $100,000 – I think it was only 10 grand more, but once the Arnold started giving out the H2 Hummers, the Olympia started adding the Escalade. Then, obviously the money is bumped up. Then, it got bumped up to $130,000, now it’s $300,000, they’re not going backwards.”
Cutler believes the Arnold Classic competition is an ideal show for competitors to cement their status as one of the best bodybuilders in the world.
“Remember, it’s about how much sponsorship comes in, how much recognition. Obviously, with Arnold’s name he has a lot of influence right,” says Cutler. “I had that one, two, position for quite some time.”
Cutler on Building Legacy: ‘If I Won Just Olympia and No Arnolds,’ I’m Not Sure My Name Would Be What It Is Today
The 49-year-old maintains that Arnold Classic titles are essential to building a lasting résumé in bodybuilding.
“Yeah, I mean, it was like I said, it’s always an honor to be there [at Arnold Classics] but remember, I hadn’t won an Olympia title yet. This was the biggest title. I had already won the Night of Champions, which is now the New York Pro. It was kind of a step forward. It was another check on that list.”
“That Arnold every year meant so much to me. Arnold was a huge reason people attended the show and the name was so large. But at the same time, I was looking at it like a steppingstone to Mt. Olympus or building a legacy in bodybuilding. I think if I just won four Mr. Olympias and no Arnolds, would my name be what it is. Because I had that hype so much. Time and time again, I defended a title or positioning.”
Aside from talking prize money, Cutler also named his favorites ahead of the 2023 Arnold Classic. Other than Big Ramy entering the show at ‘100%,’ Cutler doesn’t see anyone else challenging Nick Walker in Ohio. He added that Nick’s mindset and vision are dialed in a month before the show.
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The last time Jay Cutler talked about the 2023 Arnold Classic prize money; he couldn’t believe the lack of participants, but that’s since changed. Given what three AC titles did for his career, Cutler stands by the show being worth more to competitors than simply prize money.