Dino, Arnold, Miraclebear / Arnold Sports Festival

The Arnold Classic 2023 is fast approaching. The prestigious Arnold Classic is the only IFBB Pro League contest that is invitation-only, so there’s always anticipation surrounding which competitors get an Arnold invite. The competitor lists were released on January 6 for the March 3-4 event in seven categories: wellness, wheelchair, men’s physique, fitness, bikini, classic physique, and men’s open. What follows are the lineups of the latter two categories as well as our preview of the top contenders.

For the lineups of all categories, including strongman, go here.

ARNOLD CLASSIC 2023 CLASSIC PHYSIQUE LINEUP

Jason Brown

Alex Cambronero

Neil Currey

Urs Kalecinski

Kyrylo Khudaiev

Mehdi Larijani

Courage Opara

Ramon Rocha Quieroz

Mike Sommerfeld

Darwin Uribe

CLASSIC PHYSIQUE PREVIEW

Terrence Ruffin, winner of the last two Arnolds, and Chris Bumstead, winner of the last four Olympias, are not competing. That makes Brazil’s Ramon “Dino” Rocha Quieroz, second in both the Arnold and Olympia last year, the prohibitive favorite in this 10-man lineup, vying for a record $60,000 top prize.

Arnold Classic 2023
Ramon Dino hits a classic pose. / Instagram

Dino’s biggest challenge will likely come from Germany’s Urs “Miraclebear” Kalecinski, who was third, just behind Dino, in both the Arnold and Olympia last year. Can Miraclebear catch Dino this year? Fellow German Mike Sommerfeld is also on the rise. His tremendously balanced physique earned a fifth in the recent Olympia. He’s your best wildcard bet. Costa Rica’s Alex Cambronero is coming off a disappointing ninth at the Olympia, but he’s the only previous Arnold winner in this lineup, having earned the Arnold classic physique top prize over Ruffin in 2020.

ARNOLD CLASSIC 2023 MEN’S OPEN LINEUP

William Bonac

Andrew “Jacked” Chinedu

Shaun Clarida

Samson Dauda

Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Ellsbiay

Kamal El-Gargni

Patrick Moore

Justin Rodriguez

Nick Walker

Akim Williams

MEN’S OPEN PREVIEW

Two-time (2018, 2020) Arnold Classic champ William Bonac is coming off a humbling ninth in the Mr. Olympia, but he was second in last year’s Arnold; and the 40-year-old will get a chance to redeem himself at this year’s Arnold and join Jay Cutler and Kai Greene as a three-time champ. (Dexter Jackson has the record with five wins; Flex Wheeler, who will be honored at this year’s Arnold, has four.)

However, based on the recent Mr. Olympia, Samson Dauda is favored over Bonac. The Nigerian Lion, with his excellent X-frame, finished an eye-opening sixth in Vegas in his Olympia debut. In Columbus on March 3-4, he’ll be making his Arnold debut, and was, for six days, the favorite.

Arnold Classic 2023
Samson Dauda strikes a front double at the 2022 Mr. Olympia. / Instagram

However, on January 12, shortly after it was announced that the 2023 Arnold Classic winner would received a record $300,000 payday, Nick Walker, the 2021 Arnold Classic champ and third-place finisher in the 2022 Mr. Olympia, declared he too will enter the lineup. “The Mutant” instantly became the favorite to take home the $300k check and join Bonac as a two-time champ.

Nick Walker also locks in his front double at the 2022 Mr. Olympia / YouTube

The next day, it was announced that Andrew “Jacked” Chinedu, who won the Arnold Amateur and Arnold Classic UK last year and finished eighth in his debut Mr. Olympia, will also be entering the open lineup. With an aesthetic 6’2″ frame, Jacked will offer an interesting contrast to Walker and, like Dauda, could push “The Mutant” for the $300K, if he can bring the crisp conditioning that he lacked at the Olympia.

And then on January 20, came the big news that Big Ramy is also entering. Ramy won the Mr. Olympia in 2020 and 2021 and seemed to be coasting to a third straight title, but his body was blurry and bodyparts (back and arms, especially) were deflated at the 2022 Mr. Olympia in December and he fell to a humbling fifth. Can he correct the flaws so quickly? And were the flaws a matter of timing his contest peak or the result of deteriorating muscles, perhaps because of nerve damage? Ramy will have more than enough muscle to win the Arnold, but what will that muscle look like? He’ll be the biggest wildcard in Columbus.

Big Ramy hits a side chest at the 2022 Mr. Olympia / YouTube

Also fresh from December’s Mr. Olympia are Justin Rodriguez and Akim Williams, but they were way down the line at 15th and DNP (did not place), respectively. (Update: Charles Griffen, 14th in the Mr. Olympia, and Blessing Awodibu, DNP in the Mr. Olympia, was originally invited to the Arnold Classic but withdrew. Jan. 13 Update: Patrick Moore announced he will be competing.)

What also makes this year’s Arnold intriguing is the inclusion of two 212 champs: Shaun Clarida and Kamal El-Gargni. The 5’2″, 40-year-old Clarida, who weighs only 175 lbs., just won his second 212 Olympia title. The ageless 51-year-old El-Gargni placed third in the recent 212 Olympia and took that title in 2019. How will these consistently conditioned “Samsons” fare against goliaths like Walker and Samson? Well, William Bonac himself was a former 212 champ, so anything is possible.

The Barbell will keep you posted on any further developments as the Arnold Classic 2023 approaches.