Time is running out for athletes to secure their qualifications for the upcoming 2023 Mr. Olympia contest this November. Over the weekend, Terrence Ruffin won the Classic Physique title at the Dubai Pro, which guaranteed him a spot on the big stage. In a recent Rx Muscle YouTube video, bodybuilding veterans Shawn Ray and Chris Cormier discussed Ruffin’s performance and the potential relocation of the Mr. Olympia contest.
Having existed since 1965, the annual Mr. Olympia extravaganza has crowned bodybuilding champions from around the world for decades. These prestigious shows have taken place across different continents, countries, and cities, though they first began running in New York City, New York.
In 2020 and 2021, the Mr. Olympia brand decided to move its operations to Orlando, Florida after the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily shuttered public gatherings in Las Vegas. In 2022, the Olympia was welcomed back to Sin City for a massive event that ultimately saw Hadi Choopan come out on top. However, for the 2023 season, competitors will once again return to Orlando, Florida for the biggest event of the year.
Last weekend, the IFBB Pro League headed to the 2023 Dubai Pro. In attendance as spectators were 1990 bodybuilding stars Chris Cormier and Shawn Ray. With time to process the event and the popularity of bodybuilding in the Middle East, Shawn Ray contends that moving Mr. Olympia to Dubai could greatly benefit the sport as a whole.
“Everything You Need Is Going to Be Here” – Chris Cormier, Shawn Ray Make Case Mr. Olympia in Dubai
Ray said if the decision were left in his hands, he would “definitely consider” moving the Mr. Olympia show to Dubai, adding that “the region is probably growing faster than any other region.”
“Speaking of right shows… this one [Dubai Pro] was off the hook. This felt – this had all the makings of a Mr. Olympia Weekend to me. It felt like it. It was grand, it was — all the personalities were here. The prize money was on par. This was a very good weekend in Dubai,” shared Shawn Ray.
“If I’m running the show, I mean I’m definitely considering it. Like Chris said, it’s a vacation destination. It’s Vegas without the casinos, but those casinos won’t be far behind, I can tell you that. It’s a bucket list place to go. I’ve been all around the world. There’s more to see.
Not only are businesses thriving in the Middle East, but Ray emphasized that public interest surrounding the sport is higher there. Should the Mr. Olympia brand embrace the Dubai location, Ray says it could “open a whole other door of growth in our sport.”
“The hotels are competing, they are all five-stars. Even the cheap hotels are five-stars, it’s very affordable for the tourists, but for the sport of bodybuilding… this region is probably growing faster than any other region and it’s very close to Oman and Saudi and other countries that are participating in our sport. I wouldn’t count it out that the Mr. Olympia winds up here on some level,” explained Shawn Ray.
“The bodybuilders on their way up are making their way through Dubai and the bodybuilders that have been around are coming to Dubai. This seems like the movement of like the Gold’s Gym California kind of shifted to Las Vegas a little bit. Now, it just seems like it’s gym warfare over here. Every gym is competing and has state-of-the-art equipment.”
“It’s going to be a matter of time before I think the Mr. Olympia winds up here on some level, and it’s going to open a whole other door of growth in our sport,” added Ray.
As for Terrence Ruffin, Shawn Ray called him a “master of illusion,” comparing him to aesthetic mastermind Tony Pearson.
“Well, it wasn’t the Mr. Olympia lineup number one because that lineup last year was stacked. This one, he was challenged by one person individually by way of Brazil. Terrence brought exactly what I thought he was going to bring. He had the time to make the corrections he missed out on in Las Vegas.
I think he’s actually going to improve. He’s got another six weeks or so to run up to this Mr. Olympia, but him by himself…he’s a master of illusion. He’s like Tony Pearson, he looks a lot bigger, like the magic Egyptian Mahamed Makkawy. Very well put together, standing next to some of the other guys, he had to expose them with his professional posing. I think his posing separates himself from the challenge he had from the Brazilian here tonight.”
Shawn Ray isn’t the only high-profile Men’s Open Pro hoping for changes at the annual Mr. Olympia competition. In early September, former four-time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler recommended the Olympia brand start ‘UFC-style’ post-event press conferences. He also added that if Olympia allowed media personnel at conferences, it would make for more entertaining content.
It is possible for the Mr. Olympia event to be held in Dubai, given its history of switching locations. With that, Shawn Ray believes the potential move would only benefit the sport and its growth on the horizon.