Victor Martinez reflects on the love/hate relationship many fans had with Phil Heath during his Olympia reign.
Phil Heath is one of the most winningest Olympia champions in the history of the sport. With seven Sandow trophies he ties Arnold Schwarzenegger and falls one victory behind Ronnie Coleman and Lee Haney. Yet despite this, Phil Heath often received a lot of public criticism. Towards the end of his Olympia streak, that criticism was aimed at his physique – particularly his stomach. But bodybuilding fans also seemed to love to hate on Phil overall as a champion. Many wanted to see him defeated. But why? In our latest GI Exclusive interview, Victor Martinez explains why so many fans criticize Phil Heath.
We are still too close to Phil Heath’s reign as Mr. Olympia to know for sure how he will be seen in history. Certainly, he must be placed in the pantheon of greatest Olympia champions of all time at the very least. But what we do know is throughout his career, he faced a large amount of criticism from fans. He in many was was painted as a villain. The longer he continued to win Olympia, the stronger fans wanted to see him taken down.
But why is this? Was Ronnie Coleman seen as a villain during his eight year run as Mr. Olympia? Was Lee Haney? The reaction seems different. Perhaps that is partly because of social media elevating different kind of voices. Perhaps it’s because of Phil Heath’s being seen as a villain compared to Kai Greene in the original Generation Iron.
During our conversation with Victor Martinez, we had these thoughts on our mind, so we decided to ask him why he thought Phil Heath faced so much criticism. Martinez was a fellow competitor in the same era as Phil. He was also in Generation Iron alongside Phil. So perhaps he has a more direct insight into the public reaction to Phil.
Victor Martinez boils it down to one thing – Phil Heath’s major confidence. That confidence borderlines on cocky – which is an easy thing to villainize. Floyd Mayweather also received a lot of criticism despite being one of the greatest boxers of all time. This is likely due to his confident and cocky attitude.
Victor Martinez finds this unfortunate, as he believes that strong confidence is an important factor in a top tier athlete. Whether they telegraph it publicly or not – all great athletes believe deep down that they are the best in the world. Without the belief, they would hold themselves back. This would cause them to never become great. So that near delusional feeling of greatness needs to exist. It eventually makes it a self fulfilling prophecy – at least for a select few.
On top of this, Victor Martinez thinks that a cocky and confident personality helps make bodybuilding more exciting. He points towards the Olympia press conferences. They would be extremely boring, and sometimes are, if there was no drama. The Phil Heath vs Kai Greene rivalry made for some of the most entertaining press conferences in bodybuilding history. It’s good for the sport.
Ultimately, this kind of confidence and drama leads to fans being swept up in the excitement. The fans pick sides and, for some, they start to engage in the drama as well. Social media allows that to happen much more immediately and publicly. The fans who criticize Phil Heath – whether it’s due to his personality or the flaws in his physique – are swept up in the drama. They get emotional. They’re passionate about the sport and take it personal.
Does this make Phil Heath deserving of so much criticism perhaps even border lining on online abuse? Yes and no. Victor Martinez admits that this is all part of being a public figure. Sometimes it can go too far. Martinez believes that it’s not something that can be stopped. Instead, he hopes that someone like Phil understands how to personally deal with it and not become personally affected by the insults. Rather than fight back and try to get fans to shut up – it’s more important for someone like Phil to not be affected by the hate.
You can watch Victor Martinez go into more detail about the criticism of Phil Heath in our latest GI Exclusive interview segment above!