Australian bodybuilding veteran Lee Priest is not one to shy away from ruffling some feathers with his hot takes. The outspoken pro has been vocal about his dislike for the evolution of some elements in the sport. In a recent IFBB AMA YouTube video, Priest responded to the backlash he received after calling for getting rid of the Men’s 212 and more categories in a debate with renowned bodybuilding coach Milos Sarcev.
Lee Priest made a name for himself with his immense muscle mass, size, and symmetry in the Men’s Open division in the 90s and 2000s. He dominated the regional Australian circuit with his massive arm muscle development before making his way to international competitions such as the Arnold Classic and Mr. Olympia.
Although Priest did not win the Sandow trophy, he presented a major challenge to the likes of eight-time champion Ronnie Coleman and six-time winner Dorian Yates in his six Mr. Olympia appearances. His final outing saw him score gold at the 2013 NABBA Mr. Universe.
Priest voiced his disapproval of the Men’s 212 division earlier this year. Given the success of former 212 standouts like Derek Lunsford and Hadi Choopan, Priest suggested dissolving the division altogether and merging the prize money into the Men’s Open class. He argued the best competitors would be able to hold their own next to the mass monsters of the Open.
Priest laid out effective tips for maximizing preacher curl to build bigger biceps and get a better pump four months ago. He detailed various different ranges, machines, and grip variations to utilize for the best results. Then, he took issue with the Minnesota court’s ruling on USA Powerlifting allowing transgender athletes’ participation in women’s sports.
The 51-year-old criticized the eligibility criteria of the returning 2023 Masters Olympia three months ago. According to Priest, the show should raise the age to 50+ instead of 40 and only permit competitors who have been out of competition for about two to three years.
Lee Priest opened up on his secrets to maintaining a high level of personal fitness post-retirement two months ago. While he largely follows the same training plan that he did in his 20s, he’s adjusted how heavy he lifts to accommodate for his injuries. He also reported burning body fat got more difficult with age.
Two months ago, Priest proposed the idea of hosting a ‘Golden Era’ seminar and facing four-time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler in a guest-posing appearance following the 2023 Masters Olympia. Then, he suggested taking on Kai Greene in an Olympia-themed superhero showdown at a bodybuilding show to entertain the fans.
Lee Priest Responds to Backlash on Urging Removal of 212
In a recent YouTube video, Lee Priest went on a rant defending his calls for removing the Men’s 212 and more categories while debating coach Milos Sarcev.
Priest believes the best competitors would rise to the top regardless of the division and those who don’t should not get a pro card.
“I mentioned a long time ago that 212 should be gone and then I hear people saying, ‘yeah Lee but if we don’t have the 212, these guys wouldn’t have an opportunity to compete as pros.’ That’s true but you know why they wouldn’t have an opportunity to compete as pros? Because they’re not f**king good enough,” Priest continued. “To be a pro, you got to be the best of the best. You’ve got to win the Nationals overall or win your class. Stop giving out pro cards like they’re popcorn because what other sport does that? If I want to be in the NBA, they’re not going to lower the hoop five feet and do a layup in the ball and sh**. No other sport dumbs it down.”
Priest bashed hosting divisions such as the Men’s Physique and Women’s Wellness and Bikini.
“Look, you might want to be a pro but guess what? Maybe the genetics aren’t good enough. Be a good amateur. There’s lots of guys who don’t even compete who make a lot of money training people and competing. But now we’ve got Classic, Physique, in the women’s, we’ve got wellness and bikini.
“You want to do that sh**? Go join the Hawaiian tropics and be a male model or bikini girl. We don’t need to sit at bodybuilding shows bored sh**less watching guys do this sh** with their hands and all that crap. Their legs look sh**, they wear board shorts. You don’t want to train your legs go do the wheelchair division for f**k’s sake. We don’t need all these classes.”
Priest mentioned the likes of Lee Labrada, Franco Columbu, and Lunsford to solidify his case. Sarcev pushed back on his argument but found some points of agreement.
“Labrada competed in the Open, Franco did, I did, Derek Lunsford, all these guys who were 212, they would’ve made it to the Open because they got the genetics,” said Priest. “If you don’t have the genetics to be in the Open you shouldn’t be a pro.”
“Back in the day they gave the Open chance like a lightweight and heavyweight Mr. Olympia and then the overall,” Sarcev replied. “Derek Lunsford, it took him years to switch from 212 to the Olympia when he felt comfortable that he can be competitive.”
Priest responded, “If they had to put like Flex Lewis against Phil Heath for an overall, yes I would agree with that. That’s the best of the best.”
‘212 is not Mr. Olympia,’ says Sarcev
They both agreed the 212 winner would not be Mr. Olympia. Sarcev supported the idea of presenting an opportunity to the smaller athletes whereas Priest argued the pool of pro contenders got diluted because of it.
Sarcev said, “Let’s face it, 212 is not Mr. Olympia. That’s a winner of 212 class but it shouldn’t really be called Mr. Olympia because there’s one Mr. Olympia. If they were given a chance to stand and compete that’s a different story. I agree with you. How can you measure it equally? It can’t be.
“Open division is the best bodybuilder in the world. But it gave an outlet for the smaller guys so they can maybe win something. Look at Shaun Clarida, he’s phenomenal but the best he could do is a fifth at the Arnold Classic.”
“He’s good enough for the Open, he’s proved that,” said Priest. “Back in our day, when we saw a pro stage lineup nearly all the pro shows were almost like the Arnold Classic or Olympia generally Mr. Olympia was the only guy missing. The Iron Man would be you, Dillet, Chris Cormier, Flex Wheeler, you knew everyone up there. Now sadly you go to some pro shows and half the guys on stage look like a pot plant, actually the pot plant looks better. Half of them look like sh** standing up there like stage decorations. Nothing against them I’m sure they train hard. We don’t know their names, who they are, they look like bad amateurs on a pro stage because they shouldn’t have got their pro card.”
Lee Priest gave his take on dieting while in prep for a contest last month. He’d target following a strict diet at least 16 weeks out from a show and getting stage-ready about four weeks out.
Two weeks ago, Priest urged for the removal of ‘useless’ bodybuilding divisions, which covered every category other than the Open and Fitness.
Priest’s latest comments might rub some competitors, especially those in the divisions he wants to eliminate, the wrong way. However, it would bring more attention back to the Open class.
You can watch the full video below.