Johnnie O. Jackson opens the question: Are we rewarding NPC bodybuilders enough?

Beyond being an IFBB Pro bodybuilder and notable athlete in the sport, Johnnie O. Jackson also runs and promotes his own NPC bodybuilding competition. Due to this he is familiar with the ins and outs of the rules, guidelines, and regulations for NPC competitions. Recently, he was asked by a bodybuilder – why do NPC shows not provide prize money for winners? This led Jackson to wonder if NPC competitors are rewarded enough before turning pro. In our latest episode of Hardcore Truth,  Johnnie O. Jackson debates the idea of prize money for NPC bodybuilders.

All IFBB Pro bodybuilders start of as amateurs. The battle to earn a pro card is an exciting and challenging one. Bodybuilders need to earn their way into the pro ranks – it’s not something given as a handout. Many aspiring bodybuilders never make it to the pro league. However, during the period competing as an NPC bodybuilder – the expenses are largely the same. Entry fees, supplements, meal prep, possible travel to important competitions – these are all large costs that might not necessarily end in a pro card. Currently, there is no real cash-in hand prize money offered for NPC competitions.

In this week’s episode of Hardcore Truth – Johnnie O. Jackson takes a hard look at the current culture behind NPC competitions. Jackson, of course, went through the NPC league himself. But he is also now a promoter for a NPC competition. He understands both sides of the coin. But until recently being asked, Jackson did not ever question the status quo of no prize money for NPC winners.

Johnnie O. Jackson understands that there are heavy costs on the promotion side – and providing prize money to top place athletes would add to the cost. However, he also understands the cost of being an amateur athlete. Jackson muses that perhaps, at the very least, a prize comping the cost of entry can be rewarded to the winner. Or perhaps, if it’s Nationals qualifier, travel and entry fees can be comped for entering the NPC National Championships.

Johnnie O. Jackson makes a good point. Perhaps there are talented young individuals who simply cannot afford to be a competitive bodybuilder before turning pro. Are there young phenom talents who simply never have a shot due to monetary issues?

For quite a long time, college athletes were not allowed to earn sponsorship money while competing in college leagues. This has recently changed, allowing athletes to earn money off of their talent, hard work, and attention gained via America’s love of college sports.

Currently, there are no rules against gaining sponsorship as an NPC bodybuilder. However, perhaps opening up this guideline further to NPC prize money should also be considered. Johnnie O. Jackson points out that this isn’t a handout. It’s earned. The work that a NPC bodybuilder puts in is valid.

However, Jackson also understands the counterpoints. Bodybuilding competitions are already expensive to run – adding prize money might ultimately put too much pressure on promoters and hurt the overall sport. Some might also argue that adding prize money on the amateur level will remove the “edge” or “passion” of the young athletes.

This second argument might not hold water. Bodybuilding is a lifestyle and niche sport. Prize money or not – passion will be the key factor in an amateur bodybuilder going pro. Jackson doesn’t believe money will hurt the quality or intent of athletes.

Currently, the NPC league is seen more as a proving ground compared to the pros. This is not just in terms of on-stage battles but also in terms of personal commitment. Are you willing to invest money into this with little reward? Are you willing to invest so much time into something that might not work out?

But bodybuilding leagues should also take care of their athletes. Perhaps an NPC amateur is not the same as a pro competitor – but the leagues could not exist without the athletes. Perhaps some middle ground option for prize money can be discussed to help motivate less fortunate aspiring bodybuilders rise up to pro status.

Johnnie O. Jackson doesn’t see this as a pressing or issue that requires mandates – but for the first time in his career, he questioned what should change and what should stay the same for the NPC league guidelines.

What do you think? Watch Johnnie O. Jackson’s full comments in the latest episode of Hardcore Truth above and let us now your opinion! Don’t forget to check back every Thursday for new episodes each week!

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.