The time to crown Mr. Olympia 2021 has arrived. Joe Weider's Olympia Fitness & Performance Weekend kicked off on Thursday with the opening press conference, and the Mr. Olympia Men's Open finals are set to take place at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday.
The winner of the Men's Open will take home the largest share of this year's $1.6 million prize purse—last year's winner won $400,000 of a $1.4 million pool.
On Friday, fans got to witness the prejudging for Mr. Olympia, and it became immediately clear that reigning champion Mamdouh "Big Ramy" Elssbiay is going to have a battle on his hands.
Elssbiay's biggest challenge may come from 2019 winner Brandon Curry, who showcased an improved overall package on Friday.
"The 15th Mr. Olympia stepped on stage sporting improved legs, very large arms, and a tight—very tight—waist," Roger Lockridge of Bar Bend wrote.
Curry took second at last year's event but has a real shot at reclaiming his crown on Saturday.
Here, we'll take a closer look at Elssbiay, Curry and other top contenders for the title of Mr. Olympia 2021.
Curry was trying to defend his title in 2020, but the massive and well-conditioned Elssbiay was in a league by himself.
By adding more mass to his frame and keeping the same cuts that helped him win the 2019 Arnold Classic and 2019 Olympia, Curry has made himself a real threat. Bulking up was a big part of Curry's strategy from the get-go.
"Big Ramy, in order to compare well against him, I think I have to be a little bit fuller," Curry said on his YouTube channel. "I can't diet down as much because I gotta keep the fullness in the quads, fullness in the legs, fullness throughout. So I've gotta have that pop and that roundness."
According to Derek Hall of Fitness Volt, things appeared to be "neck and neck" at the top of the competition during prejudging.
A tight race gives Curry a real shot at separating himself during the finals.
William Bonac has become a fixture at top International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) competitions in recent years. He has won the Arnold Classic twice (in 2018 and 2020) and was expected to be one of the favorites in Columbus, Ohio, this year.
Unfortunately, travel restrictions from his home in the Netherlands prevented Bonac from competing at the 2021 Arnold Classic. However, Bonac was able to sort out any travel issues and was present for Friday's prejudging at the Olympia.
The Ghana-born bodybuilder is a threat virtually every time he takes the stage. While he doesn't possess the sheer mass of a competitor like Elssbiay, he can set himself apart with a rare combination of symmetry, proportion and conditioning.
Bonac has appeared in the last seven Mr. Olympia competitions and took second to Curry in 2019. He finished fifth in the 2020 competition. While he isn't going to "outsize" the bigger athletes, Bonac is impossible to ignore on the posing stage.
Momentum can be a driving force in the world of bodybuilding, and Nick Walker has it. One of the sport's up-and-comers, Walker didn't earn his IFBB pro card until last year.
Walker made his Arnold Classic debut this year and won. His quick rise has impressed bodybuilding legend and four-time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler.
"He's taking the steps, dude," Cutler said on his YouTube channel. "He's won New York, the same year Arnold Classic, and he's going to go to the Olympia and he's probably going to be in the top five. I mean, not many guys have been able to do that."
Two years ago, Curry rode the momentum of his Arnold Classic win to a Mr. Olympia title. Could Walker do the same in 2021? It's certainly not out of the question.
To be the champ, you have to beat the champ—or, at least, that's how the saying seems to go. If any of the challengers are going to knock off Big Ramy, they're going to have to outshine one massive physique.
According to Lockridge, Elssbiay weighed in at 305 pounds fully clothed before prejudging. His size and stage presence will give Elssbiay an advantage on Saturday evening, though it won't be the deciding factor.
"It's all beautiful that he's 305 on the scale, but let's see tomorrow. Let's see him when his clothes get off, let's see tomorrow," Bonac said, per Hall.
Defending champions have traditionally had an edge at the Mr. Olympia, which is why there have been many repeats—there have only been 16 different winners since 1965.
Of course, we haven't had a repeat champion since Heath reigned from 2011 to 2017. Elssbiay will have to bring more than bulk to defend his title, though as he proved last year, he can peak with the complete package.