As the most wanted man of the Men’s 212 Bodybuilding division, all eyes are on Keone Pearson and his future. In a recent podcast with Dennis Wolf, ‘The Prodigy’ discussed his budding rivalry with former two-time 212 Olympia Shaun Clarida and his goal of one day testing himself as an Open competitor.
First proving himself in the IFBB Pro League as a Classic Physique standout, Keone Pearson made waves quickly, thanks to his bubbly muscle volume, tight waist, and show-stopping aesthetics. After making the switch to Men’s 212 Bodybuilding in 2020, he never looked back. However, when he pitted himself against the best at Mr. Olympia in 2021, he found himself struggling, ultimately finishing in 14th place.
In 2022, Pearson enjoyed a successful bounce-back season, which started with a resounding victory at the Tampa Pro. With an Olympia qualification in his back pocket once again, he traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada in pursuit of greatness. In the end, he placed sixth behind a group of top-tier threats, including the then-champion Shaun Clarida.
When the 2023 Olympia competition finally arrived, Keone Pearson seized the moment and won gold with a combination of aesthetics and shape. Now, as the number one 212 bodybuilder on the planet, he joined Wolf to map out his future in the sport.
Keone Pearson Opens Up on Rivalry w/ Shaun Clarida, Believes They Are The Next ‘Phil Heath & Kai Greene’
To start off the podcast, Keone Pearson looked back on the first time he met Shaun Clarida, and admits he used to fanboy over the bodybuilding champion.
“I met Shaun, I met Shaun when I won New York Pro my rookie season. I took a picture I was fanboying over him. I was about 177 pounds. Yeah, I forgot what Shaun was in 2019 but he was competing around the 180s now. I think he was still in the 160s when he was competing on stage. He was still like right there before he won.”
“I used to message him a lot on Instagram, I used to tag him in my stuff back then in the Classic days because I looked up to his training. Once I got into 212 and signed with Gasp in 2020, we done a couple of videos, hung out outside, cool guy. I’d say we are pretty cool.
Even though Pearson took the 212 Olympia title from Clarida, he clarified that the former champion has been nothing but respectful since the loss.
“Post-Olympia with everthing, he is a great champion, he gave me the respect that I earned from everyone. He’s been nothing but nice and motivating.
We are still cool to this day. Nothing has changed since the Olympia. Now, I can tell he is more focused. Obviously, when you are the champion and you lose it, you want it back, you don’t want to lose it,” says Keone Pearson.
When asked about his main competition, Pearson didn’t mince words, adding that his rivalry with Clarida reminds him of the Phil Heath/Kai Greene era.
Yeah I see a Kai Greene Phil Heath-type deal. Better terms, no fighting on stage bumping shoulders and stuff like that.
I definitely see me and Shaun for a few years to come. He is pretty much getting close to the tail end of his career. I feel I’m just getting started. I’m only 28 years old. I have a long time, much longer to go than he does. I see him for another two or three years me and him at the top fighting.”
As for Classic Physique ambitions, ‘The Prodigy’ made it clear he outgrew the category rather quickly.
“I was already struggling to make weight in my first year as a Classic. My coach was like you know trying to struggle two more years in Classic, it’s going to be hard to make those needed improvements, so that’s why we moved up right away.
I don’t recommend everybody do that, I don’t think everybody can put on that much tissue in a short amount of time. My genetics are a little different from most people. I knew I wasn’t going to be there long.”
Whether the Arnold Classic re-introduces 212 remains to be seen, but Pearson said one of his biggest bodybuilding dreams would be to claim gold at the prestigious event.
“If they have 212, I’m going to prep [for an Arnold Classic]. It’s at a weird time, because I already prep for the Olympia. I have a little break, let the body relax and get back into the prep, it is a weird time. I definitely would, at least once or twice. You have to, it’s the Arnold Classic, my dream was always to be an Arnold champ, whether it’s Open or 212.”
Concerning a move to the Open, Pearson hinted that it’s only a matter of time, suggesting that he might hop into the 2025 Arnold Classic, should he win Olympia again later this year.
“Yeah, if everything goes right for this year, then yeah, I may jump into an Open show for shits and giggles and come right back down to the 212 prep but it’s not 100 percent. It’s ideal, it makes sense too,” explains Keone Pearson.
While fans are certainly excited to see Keone Pearson in the Open, this wasn’t the bodybuilding star’s first time talking about making a splash. Before he went on to win the sport’s greatest achievement, Pearson joined The Menace Podcast and revealed his plans to one day end his career in the Open class, where he would no longer need to abide by size and weight restrictions.
With the 2024 Mr. Olympia returning to Las Vegas, Nevada later this year from October 10-13, fans look forward to seeing another intense showdown between Keone Pearson and the former two-time titleholder Shaun Clarida.