This past weekend saw the return of major professional bodybuilding shows for the first time in 2021 with the Indy Pro. Hosted in Indianapolis, this show serves as a qualifying show for the Mr. Olympia, the premier show in all of men’s professional bodybuilding. The winner would qualify directly for the 2021 Mr. Olympia, while those finishing in other top positions would earn points toward qualifying themselves, with 2nd place taking 4 points, third 3 and so on. As such, there was a lot on the line in Indy, and the show didn’t disappoint. Several compelling stories came out of the show in both the Men’s Open and 212 divisions. Here’s what went down:
Justin Rodriguez Wins Convincingly
Justin Rodriguez took home the win in the Men’s Open category, taking home his first professional win and earning himself a place in this year’s Mr. Olympia in the process. Justin was a last-minute entry, using the show as simply a warm-up for this weekend’s more prestigious and competitive New York Pro. However, he was convincingly the best competitor on stage, showing impressive fullness and conditioning, which is by no means an easy feat. His closest competition was second place Mokhammed el Emam, whose score he halved (in bodybuilding, lowest score wins). Rodriguez was easily top two in every mandatory pose, running away with the side chest, side triceps, back, double biceps, abs and thighs, and most muscular poses, among others. There is a very real possibility that he makes it back-to-back wins among the favorites for the coming New York Pro.
Blessing Awodibu’s Pro Debut
The talking point of the bodybuilding community entering Saturday’s Indy Pro was Blessing Awodibu. Awodibu managed to take third in his pro debut, a highly anticipated event resulting from his antics in the months preceding the show. His feud with fellow International Federation of BodyBuilding and Fitness (IFBB) pro Nick Walker has been highly publicized, and as a result the greater bodybuilding world eagerly awaited to see the package Awodibu would bring to the professional stage. In the end, he managed third place, a respectable placing considering it was his first pro show and that he was competing against some seasoned professionals like Justin Rodriguez. In the end, however, I believe his placing was fair. While Awodibu’s physique is incredibly aesthetic given his insane V-taper, his legs were tiny compared to his upper body, and his conditioning could have been better. This placing was met with mixed reactions from fans. Many were disappointed following all of Awodibu’s smack talk leading up to the show, while former second place finisher in the Mr. Olympia contest Kai Greene was quick to assure fans Awodibu is well on his way to great things. Awodibu will be back on stage this weekend, where he will face off with Justin Rodriguez, his nemesis Nick Walker and a host of other top professionals at the New York Pro.
Tonio Burton Takes 212 Crown
The winner of the 212 division proved surprising, as Tonio Burton walked away with the title in his first-ever pro show. This win means Burton has also qualified for the 2021 Mr. Olympia, which will likely be only his second ever pro show. Burton took everyone by surprise with his combination of size, shape and symmetry, managing to pip fellow debutant Nathan Epler to first place. He showed incredible detail in his back, chest, shoulders and arms, as well as a crazy roundness that is incredibly rare among first-time competitors. The only point of contention surrounding his win could be conditioning, on which Epler and third place John Jewett could be said to have beaten Burton. That being said, the package he presented on show day was enough to convince the judges, and Burton can now look forward to being a part of the Mr. Olympia show this September.
John Jewett Robbed?
There is a credible case to be made for John Jewett being the rightful winner of the 212 category at the Indy Pro. For starters, the conditioning he brought was insane–if you have the chance to look this man up on Instagram, his updates leading up to the show could even be called disgusting. It looked as if his skin was painted directly onto muscle tissue; the graininess was unreal. On another note, while not the freakiest bodybuilder in terms of size, his physique was still clearly comparably large to the two men who outplaced him. Jewett could also be taken to have won many if not all of the mandatory poses, as he showed incredible detail in the back, abdominals, legs and arms. His legs were firmly the best in the show, his back kept pace with both Burton and Epler, and abdominals and shoulders looked like they’d been surgically implanted they popped so well. I personally think Jewett was robbed of the win, but he will have another chance to prove himself this weekend as he will be competing again in the 212 category at the New York Pro.
Morgan Aste Comes in Ripped
A feel-good story to close things out, Morgan Aste surprised everyone by coming in looking absolutely peeled to the bone. For context, Aste is a huge man compared to the average bodybuilder. The Frenchman stands at 6’3” and weighs over 300 pounds on stage at around 3% body fat–meaning in the off-season, he gets up to around a ridiculous 340-350 lbs! To come in shredded like Morgan did is notoriously hard for larger bodybuilders as well, as on account of their larger organs, blood volume and water requirements, to lose the body fat and water storage necessary to come in shredded can be very dangerous. Paul Dillet, a 6’4” bodybuilder from the ‘90s, would compete shredded at around 285 lbs and would notoriously have trouble holding poses as he would cramp due to dehydration. Aste came in leaner and heavier than Dillet, contextualizing what is an incredible achievement. He has even made a reputation out of his conditioning; Aste does not have the ideal frame for a bodybuilder, with wide hips and narrow shoulders, so his physique suffers. But he certainly makes up for as much as he can. Again, if you have the chance to look up photos of Aste from this weekend, take it–he is the epitome of dedication. He even managed to place an impressive sixth in the Indy Pro and will have the chance to show what he is made of once again this weekend as he too will be taking part in the New York Pro.