Brandon Lirio shares his thoughts on the upcoming return of the Masters Olympia this August

The Masters Olympia is finally returning after an 11-year absence. Announced in 2022, the big 40 and over event will be taking place in Romania on August 25-27. But can the big event succeed after a decade long absence? In our latest episode of the U-Natty States Of America, natural bodybuilder Brandon Lirio analyzes the 2023 Masters Olympia from all angles based on the information released thus far.

Though they get much less press and publicity, masters events have long been in existence in professional bodybuilding. These are bodybuilding competitions designed for older athletes towards the later stages of their career. Typically the cut off for entry is 40+ years old.

The Masters Olympia has long since been the pinnacle event in the Masters circuit. Much like the Mr. Olympia proper, the Masters Olympia would determine who is the greatest bodybuilder of the year over the age of 40. The last competitor to win the event before it was shuttered was Dexter Jackson in 2012.

Ultimately, after Dexter Jackson’s big win, the Masters Olympia was cancelled. This was likely due to lack of interest by competitors. Many bodybuilders continue to compete in the main divisions well over 40. Jackson himself continued to compete in the Mr. Olympia well up until nearly 50 years old.

But the new Olympia owner, Jake Wood, is a man who wants to bring classic competitions back. He did this first by reviving the Ms. Olympia. Now he has his signs on the Masters Olympia. But will this 2023 Masters event be the show stopper needed to continue forward? Brandon Lirio shares his thoughts – let’s jump into it.

The 2023 Masters Olympia application process is a unique experiment

The first thing that Brandon Lirio focuses on is the process for qualifying into the Masters Olympia. Unlike the typical Mr. Olympia, there is no way to qualify by competing in an earlier event. It is also unlike the Arnold Classic – which simply does direct invites. The 2023 Masters Olympia is instead going off of an application process.

Brandon Lirio looked over what the application entailed – and highlighted the following items required for submission:

  • Career biography
  • Competition history
  • Social media accounts
  • Video submission no longer than one minute
  • Photos of current physique

This is not the complete requirement list for the application – but ones that Brandon Lirio found most notable. This is particularly true for the request for social media accounts. This sets the precedent that the popularity of the athlete is an important factor beyond the actual quality of their physique.

Brandon Lirio wonders if this opens the door for discrimination against certain types of athletes – or even discrimination against a certain aesthetic of physique or lack of popularity. Lirio isn’t saying this is inherently bad. It opens the door to a longer discussion as to how subjective a bodybuilding event is allowed to be. After all, judges will always have an inherent bias when scoring.

Will the Masters Olympia prize money be enough to draw in big names?

Brandon Lirio describes a funny story from his time reporting on the Mr. Olympia last year alongside Victor Martinez. As they would walk throughout the expo, fans would yell at Victor asking him one question over and over again – will he compete in the Masters Olympia? Martinez, in a joking manner, would simply sing back – “Show me the money!” Martinez has also said this previously on our Generation Iron Podcast.

While the anecdote is funny, Brandon Lirio think that Victor Martinez has a good point. There was a big announcement about the prize money for the Masters Olympia being $229,000. But it seems that the amount is the total prize pool. This will be split among the top winners – not to mention that there will be multiple Masters divisions for this event.

Add this fact to the location of the event as well, all athletes will need to travel to Romania in order to compete. This seems like a series of hurdles that will dissuade retired legends from wanting to come back for the Masters Olympia.

This concept is something that Phil Heath has spoken about in general various times in the past. He would often be asked to return to the Arnold Classic. His response was always that he needed the right price point to be worth it. He even recently said this on Bob Cicherillo’s podcast directly in relation to the Masters Olympia (or a theoretical PPV event where he faces off one-vs-one against Kai Greene).

Is the Masters Olympia about legends making a comeback or current older competitors gaining more longevity?

Despite this possible prize money issue, Brandon Lirio also understands that the Masters Olympia is not meant to simply be a comeback party for retired legends. The big positive part about the Masters Olympia (and all Masters competitions) is that it provides new opportunities for current competitors who are growing older in age. Many bodybuilders over the age of 40 are still actively competing. Their passion drives them to continue.

But the reality is that only a select few of elites would still be able to win a Mr. Olympia as they age towards 40 and beyond. The Masters Olympia provides an opportunity for a second life and realistic opportunities at winning more trophies.

Brandon Lirio points out that this is great thing. But on the flip side, the fans seem to be hoping for legends to come out of retirement and compete. The marketing of the event seems to be leading into that fan desire. Perhaps this makes sense for the very first Masters Olympia after an 11-years absence. The question is whether or not they will come for the price.

Wrap Up

Brandon Lirio breaks down various other elements of the Masters Olympia that we couldn’t recap here. You can watch him go into full detail by watching the latest episode of U-Natty States Of America above. Don’t forget to check back every Wednesday for new episodes only on the Generation Iron Fitness Network or wherever podcasts are downloaded.

Derek Dufour
Derek Dufour has been managing all digital operations on the Generation Iron Network for over six years. He currently manages a team of editors, writers, and designers to provide up-to-date content across the GI Network.