Mr Olympia has been running since 1965 when Larry Scott won the first of his two consecutive titles.
Since then there has been a total of 13 champions in 52 years, or one champion every 4 years.
This is despite a period in the late 70s, early 80s when there were six champions within six years (Frank Zane 79, Arnold Schwarzenegger 80, Franco Columbu 81, Chris Dickerson 82, Samir Bannout 83, and Lee Haney 84).
Since Lee Haney won in 1984 there have been just six champions in 33 years. Haney won it from 84-91, Dorian Yates won it from 92-97, then Ronnie Coleman won it 8 years in a row.
Jay Cutler looked set to dominate, winning the ’06 and 07 championship, but was undone in 2008 by Dexter Jackson’s surprise victory. One of the very few upsets that has occurred in the last 30 years!
Jay won two more titles in 2009 and 10, but ever since then Phil Heath has dominated winning 7 titles in 7 years.
2018 could be the year that Heath joins Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman on 8 titles. But are there any challengers who can knock him off his throne? In this article we will take a look at some of the best challengers.
Before starting though, we should analyse what has changed since last year.
Changes since 2016/2017 season
Before the 2017 Mr Olympia a lot of people were talking up Cedric McMillan, citing him as the next big thing in aesthetic bodybuilding.
A lot of bodybuilding fans who dream of a return to the likes of Frank Zane had pinned their hopes on a high placed finish for Cedric. Sadly this did not materialise.
You could say that the judges are biased against aesthetic bodybuilders (Arnold Schwarzenegger certainly thinks so) , but the fact of the matter was that Cedric wasn’t quite as good as we’d expected or hoped he would be. Hopefully 2018 will see a vast improvement or another tenth place position beckons.
2017 was another competition lessened by the absence of Kai Greene, whether you like him or not (and there are plenty who don’t), Kai is potentially one of the biggest names in modern bodybuilding, and his absence casts a shadow on the competition. It’s like having a Football World Cup without Brazil or Germany in it.
But Kai has been linked with the 2018 Mr Olympia, this could be another false dawn but if he does make it he could definitely upset the applecart slightly.
We’re going to put him on our list of possible contenders, but don’t be surprised if he again fails to turn up to a tournament.
Possible Contenders for the Throne
At the moment there are probably six men who could challenge Phil Heath for the title, and of those six one definitely stands out.
#1: Mamdouh Elssbiay
Mamdouh Elssbiay, also known as Big Ramy is an Egyptian bodybuilder who came second in last year’s competition.
At 33 years old he is five years younger than Phil Heath, and is just entering his peak competitive years. While he may have come second by quite some distance in 2017, he is continually improving as a bodybuilder.
He’s always had the size, but aesthetically he is looking better than ever.
Could Egypt’s best bodybuilder win bodybuilding’s greatest title? If his most recent progress pics are anything to go by, he really could.
#2: William Bonac
This 35 year old bodybuilder has been competing for almost 20 years now, first training at just 13 .
He was last year’s surprise package, coming in third place – just behind Big Ramy, and above Dexter Jackson. This was an improvement on his 5th place in 2016.
Bonac has just won the 2018 Arnold Classic in Ohio, beating Dexter Jackson, Cedric McMillan, Roelly Winklaar, and Steve Kuclo (in that order).
Yes, Big Ramy and Phil Heath were absent, but other than that this is a list of some of the biggest competitors for the 2018 Mr Olympia contest.
Winning this tournament has sent a strong message out that Bonac could cause a massive upset and overtake Ramy and Heath to claim the Sandow.
#3: Cedric McMillan
Cedric McMillan had a very disappointing Mr Olympia in 2017 but managed to recover slightly with a third place in the Arnold Classic.
While many fans are worried that last year was a sign of things to come , it would be a mistake to write him off.
At his best, Cedric represents a possible changing direction of bodybuilding. A strong start to 2018 and who knows what can happen.
#4: Kai Greene
Kai Greene, it seems like every year we go through the same conversation. Will Kai Greene compete? If he does, what will that mean? Could he challenge Phil for his title?
The truth is that a few years ago he could have given him a good run, Kai will always be a popular bodybuilder for people who like their heroes built like a tank. But if Kai thought that he could beat Phil, then surely he would be competing?
Some people claim that the reason Kai avoids the Mr Olympia is that by representing the Arnold Classic and snubbing Mr Olympia he hopes to lessen Mr Olympia .
If this is his intention then he will surely be disappointed.
But the reality is that if Kai did compete, he could struggle to hit the top three. Partly due to politics (he’s not exactly popular with many elements in bodybuilding) and partly due to Phil’s dominance.
But could Kai beat Big Ramy? Perhaps not. Any other year that question would be easily answered, but Ramy has made such insane progress over the last couple years that this is no longer a certainty. Kai is 42 now, and looks to be set on pursuing a career in acting, does he really have the fire to beat Ramy and Heath?
#5: Shawn Rhoden
After his second place in 2016 the 2017 Mr Olympia must have been a disappointment to Shawn.
At 42 he is the same age as Kai Greene, but seems to have more focus and less distractions than Kai.
He recently pulled out of the Arnold Classic in Ohio due to a stomach ulcer, but has promised that he will be fine to compete in September. His progress pics before pulling out of the competition, showed his amazing progress so far.
Could he beat Heath? It’s highly doubtful, but he really does look good and a top five finish should be a minimum goal for Shawn. Provided he is not further hindered by medical issues.
#6: Roelly Winklaar
Roelly Winklaar is the final possible contender on our list.
After coming 4th at the Arnold Classic in Ohio, Roelly managed to win the Arnold Classic in Australia. Beating William Bonac and Dexter Jackson.
While it is nice to see Roelly getting some well deserved success, it seems unlikely that he will jump from 6th place in 2017 to being crowned Mr Olympia in 2018.
Not that he would be a bad champion, but he would have to beat Heath, and Ramy which seems like a step too far.
There are a couple names that we haven’t mentioned as possible Mr Olympia winners 2018.
The first is Dexter Jackson, while it would be ridiculous to write him off completely, Dexter will be almost 49 years old by the time of the competition.
He has managed top four places in his last three Mr Olympias and has not been outside the top 6 since 2005. But is it likely that he is going to topple Phil Heath after 7 years of trying? No.
Nathan De Asha is another notable absentee. Last year we tipped him as a wild card, and he didn’t disappoint. Managing a very creditable 7th place. But it would be extremely unlikely for him to manage a top 3 placing.
Nathan would probably be very happy with a top 5 this year, and could well be a name for the future.
Phil Heath to Win 2018's Mr Olympia?
At the moment the bodybuilding community seems to be split between two camps – both of whom have little respect for the opinions of the judges.
One camp believes that the judges will do everything within their power to prevent Phil Heath from claiming another title and equalling the records of Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman.
The other camp believes that the judges see Phil as the golden boy of bodybuilding and will do everything in their power to see him win.
Obviously both camps can’t be right, in fact neither camp is likely to be correct.
While judging in the past has not been without controversy, it’s difficult to see what benefit there would be to screwing Phil out of a deserved title. Nor would there be any reason to ignore a new champion.
Both scenarios would lead to an increased interest in the sport.
So if we take judging bias out of the equation, does Phil have what it takes to win an eighth title in 2018? While he was the clear winner in 2017 his physique was not quite as polished as usual, with a surprising amount of water retention in qualifying.
He did enough to beat Ramy, and when you compare him to Bonac he looks bigger and has better separation.
But if he wants an eighth title he will have to come to Mr Olympia in peak condition.
Predictions for Mr Olympia 2018
It’s very difficult to properly predict a bodybuilding competition, so much is based on how the athletes prepare for it.
You can have someone like Flex Wheeler who dominates the sport for several months beforehand but then gets attacked by Nunchuk wielding ninjas a week before the event (yes he genuinely claimed that).
But we’ll give it a go anyway, and risk looking extremely foolish if Kai Greene enters and wins by a landslide!
- Winner = Phil Heath
- 2nd Place = Big Ramy
- 3rd Place = William Bonac
- 4th Place = Roelly Winklaar
- 5th Place = Shawn Rhoden
- 6th Place = Cedric McMillan
- 7th Place = Dexter Jackson
- 8th Place = Nathan De Asha
As you can see, Kai Greene is not on our list. Not because we don’t rate him (he’s one of the best in the business) but because we genuinely don’t believe he will compete at this year’s event. Even if he did, it would be hard to see him beating Phil.
Phil will almost certainly retain his title, the only thing that can stop Phil is Phil himself.
A poor training camp before the competition, peaking a week too early, or just not having the same motivation as the other competitors, could all lead to a bad showing.
If that is the case then expect Big Ramy or William Bonac to capitalise on any weaknesses.
But with the chance to put his name up with two legends of the sport, and to surpass Arnold Schwarzenegger, Phil is probably going to be more motivated than ever to win his eighth title. He may even shoot for a ninth title in 2019!
Whether you like his particular brand of physique or prefer the more aesthetic but smaller look you have to admit that Phil has been a worthy champion these past seven years.
He’s helped rebuild the sport to brand new heights, his rivalry with Kai Greene has brought a lot more drama and interest in the sport, his dominance has been unquestionable, and not surrounded with the controversy of past years.
He is a great ambassador for the sport, and if he does win in 2018 he will deservedly be mentioned in the same breath as some of the greats of the sport.
Whatever happens at Mr Olympia this year, the sport is in good health, and the competition will be as fierce as ever.