‘Leave it as it was’ – Fitness Volt
Bodybuilding veteran Lee Priest is challenging the Arnold Classic’s decision to exclude a number of bodybuilding divisions from their upcoming show. In two videos shared via Instagram, Priest called out Brian Powers for removing the categories and said bodybuilders would continue to compete even if the prize money was cut in half.
A wave of backlash has followed Brian Powers, an Arnold Classic executive, who recently announced that a number of bodybuilding divisions will be excluded from the 2023 Arnold Classic. At the time of this writing, Women’s Physique, Women’s Bodybuilding, Figure, and 212 Bodybuilding will be omitted from their next event.
The controversial decision prompted two-time Women’s Physique Olympia champion Sarah Villegas to take action on social media. From 2015 to 2020, Women’s Physique was a staple of the competition. While a handful of divisions were ruled out at last year’s event, many in the community attributed this to the coronavirus pandemic. However, we now know that these divisions will not return in 2023.
The annual Arnold Sports Festival is one of the most notable events on the bodybuilding calendar. Each year, the festival offers a range of different sports disciplines and competitions. In addition to bodybuilding and strongman, the show also hosted a Slap Fighting Championship show this year. The Arnold Classic is held in high regard and many consider it the second most important bodybuilding event of the year, behind only Mr. Olympia.
Executive Brian Powers argues AC scrapped splits because there weren’t enough bodybuilders willing to compete. Veteran Lee Priest disagrees and thinks excluding divisions such as women’s bodybuilding, figure and women’s physique is a step in the wrong direction.
Lee Priest defends bodybuilders: ‘The title is worth more than the money combined’
In a pair of videos posted to his Instagram page, Lee Priest dismantles Powers’ thought process behind the removal of divisions from the 2023 Arnold Classic.
“I still believe that 212 and the Figure should be in [the Arnold Classic]. He said it was because of the depth – not enough people wanted to do it or he thought the caliber wasn’t there. But I think I know seven female Figure Olympians who would love to do it.” said Lee Priest.
In a follow-up video, Priest explained the importance of winning the Arnold Classic, regardless of the prize money. Given the prestige of the AC title, Lee said bodybuilders would attend the show even if the prize money was cut in half.
“I forgot female bodybuilding and male physique – hey, just leave the Arnold Classic as it was. If it’s all about the money, I can guarantee the pure hearts of female bodybuilders, male, physical , female and male, Figure – everyone you’ve ruled out… I guarantee that if you got half the prize money or had no prize money, they’ll still compete for the title. the Arnold Classic title is right up there with Olympia.
Preist doesn’t think prize money should determine whether or not a division can participate in the Arnold Sports Festival.
“Sometimes people do things not just for the money, but for the love of the sport, the heart, the name and that title. Maybe, if it’s about money, see how you you take it in. You’ll always have competitors who want it because sometimes the title itself is worth more than the money combined,” says Lee Priest.
After stepping away from competitive bodybuilding, Lee Priest took on the role of a retired sports ambassador. He’s an open book, regularly sharing his career cycles, memories and training methods with his fans and followers. In June, Priest was inducted into the Muscle Beach Hall of Fame in Long Beach, California.
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Following Brian Powers’ controversial decision, Lee hopes to make changes and bring those divisions back to the next Arnold Sports Festival. Preist believes the athletes would still participate in the event even if they reduced the prize money.