Chad Nicholls explains in great detail what happened behind the scenes that led to his son Dom’s altercation with Shawn Ray at the 2023 Arnold Classic
Chad Nicholls has broken his silence regarding the altercation between his son, Dom, and Shawn Ray at the 2023 Arnold Classic. In a recent interview with Desktop Bodybuilding, Nicholls goes into great detail about the events leading up to Dom confronting Ray – and the reason his son made sure it was filmed.
Chad Nicholls has long since been considered a modern legend in the world of bodybuilding for his coaching abilities. Most notably, he is credited as helping Ronnie Coleman become the 8x Mr. Olympia legend with a physique that remains unmatched in the bodybuilding industry.
More recently, he was also the coach for 2x Mr. Olympia champion Big Ramy. As of 2023, Chad Nicholls has been doing a sort of “damage control” trying to adjust Ramy’s bodybuilding prep in order to fix his physique issues and rise back up to champion status. This is after Ramy’s drop from first to fifth place at the 2022 Mr. Olympia and another disappointing (but improved physique!) placing at the 2023 Arnold Classic with a fourth place victory.
Beyond his accolades as a coach, it is also well documented that Nicholls and Shawn Ray have an extreme beef that has lasted nearly 20 years. It’s a long and complicated history of comments throughout the years. But the main source of the tension is Ray’s repeated comments that Nicholls is a dangerous coach. Ray has even insinuated that Nicholl’s is responsible for the death of pro bodybuilders.
The public rivalry has led to an avalanche of opinions in the bodybuilding industry – which only became more pronounced with the advent of social media. Many, if not most, fans believe that Shawn Ray is out of line – and that his comments constitute defamation. Though Ray has also had some defenders in his corner throughout the years.
The discourse around this beef was reignited in March 2023, when Chad Nicholl’s son confronted Shawn Ray at the Arnold Classic expo. The entire altercation was filmed and quickly put onto social media – where it created a firestorm of headlines and comments.
Chad Nicholls opens up about the real reason his son confronted Shawn Ray at the 2023 Arnold Classic
It was widely assumed that Dom Nicholl’s confrontation with Shawn Ray was simply due to the years and years of negative comments Ray made about his father. While that, in part, is true – there seems to be far more to the story. At least, that’s according to Chad Nicholls who spoke candidly about the entire altercation on the latest Desktop Bodybuilding video podcast.
It turns out that many small, but aggressive, events happened behind the scenes that eventually led to a tipping point for Dom. Chad explains below:
“When I saw Shawn [at the Arnold Classic Expo], I had nothing but positive thoughts. I was going to be like, ‘Hey man we need to talk. Let’s go and talk.’ My thinking was let’s just squash this shit. It’s all petty nonsense. He kinda made a smart-ass thing, got my number and we’re both there, let’s go talk. I said let’s go talk and my thinking was we will exit the ballroom because I didn’t want to do in front of everybody. We’re already at the back and so I was going to walk out the back doors. Basically what happened was when Shawn realized we were getting ready to exit, he stopped and kind of backtracked. Dom was behind him but Dom kinda was like, ‘Get moving boy,’ and then Shawn does Shawn and starts screaming, ‘You’re going to go to jail, you want to be arrested, I’m going to end your career, blah blah.’ That was really the end of it. I literally would’ve not thought another thing about it.”
According to Chad Nicholls, he had tried to meet up and speak privately with Shawn Ray first. Nicholls claims this was to smooth things over and end the beef once and for all. In Nicholls’ account of this, Ray backed out last minute when he realized they were goin to discuss in private and not publicly.
“But I guess after that, Ron Harris had sent Dom a message and it’s like, ‘Hey why is Shawn saying you hit him?’ And Dom’s like, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ Because Ron was right there. ‘I didn’t hit him.’ And he’s like, ‘No that’s what I’m saying. Why is Shawn saying that?’ He’s completely lying about it so that kind of pissed off Dom. Then, somebody else came and was like, ‘Hey I heard Shawn was ready to go outside with you. He’s telling everybody he was ready to go outside.’ So at this point, you’re talking about a 19 year old kid and now all these guys are saying this happened and that happened.”
Chad Nicholls explains that Shawn Ray started making false accusations about Dom Nicholls – stating that he was physically threatened or lightly assaulted by Dom. Both Chad and Dom start hearing multiple people speaking incorrectly about the events that occurred – which started stressing Dom out.
Chad Nicholls also highlights that his son is only 19 years old – and for an adult to make false accusations like that and start putting pressure on a teenager is a bit inexcusable. Nicholls continues:
“So, now Dom loses his cool a little bit the next day, goes up and decides to confront him. The reason he recorded it was basically so they couldn’t say something happened that didn’t happen so that was really all that was basically being recorded. He went up basically, said what he said, they recorded it again, only reason they record it so Shawn couldn’t come back and say oh well he was aggressive, put his hands on me, done this, done that and that was basically it. It was done and over with at that point basically… It was basically he had already started saying stuff that was not true. So, Dom didn’t want to do something and all of a sudden, Sean calls up somebody and said he assaulted me at the booth. They recorded it to make sure everybody knew.”
Some have pointed out that it appeared like Dom Nicholls premeditated recording his confrontation with Shawn Ray. This created a bit of a public argument among fans about the intention of the video and the altercation all-together. But Chad Nicholls puts the recording into more perspective. Dom was simply recording the situation to protect himself from legal action. He wanted proof that he did not physically touch Shawn Ray. That way – he wouldn’t be surprised by a lawsuit stating otherwise.
Clearly, what started as an attempt to end a beef between Chad Nicholls and Shawn Ray only ended up agitating it more. It also sucked the entire bodybuilding media and fanbase into it in the process.
Chard Nicholls comments and explanation behind the altercation seems reasonable. It will be interesting to see of Shawn Ray makes a comment of his own – and if they divert away from the series of events described here. But hopefully for everyone involved the issue can be laid to rest.
You can out the full Desktop Bodybuilding video below: