- First, before we begin, you know that I support the IFBB and the NPC. These organizations have been what I and many have supported, and will continue to support, but since I consider myself an unbiased news web site for bodybuilding, fitness and figure, and the Pro Division (PDI) has been in the news, both on the internet boards, and in magazines, I want to ask you some of the many questions, that people have brought up. Thanks for your time… Well, how are you doing?
I am fine. Regarding Pro Division, it is off and working and we are putting up press releases to give people information on exactly what we were doing. We are not doing anything hidden - we are putting everything right up front.
- What exactly is Pro Division?
Pro Division is a corporation that deals with bodybuilding sports entertainment. We are not a sports federation, so we can go to our own set of rules, so to speak. If you are a sports federation, you have to abide by certain rules, according to the Covenant. Because we are a company that will pay taxes, we have a little more leeway.
- Why are you even starting up the Pro Division?
When I quit, almost two years ago, the Pro Division started as a trickle, then it became much heavier. Then a lot of people contact me - fans, athletes, officials - saying that they don't like the direction the sport has been going, they don't like what is happening, they don't like the way the shows are being run - that they enjoyed it better when I was in control, and many people have asked me to come back. I thought about it a long time, and I didn't make my decision until over the Christmas holidays of 2005, and I explored the possibility, and had many meetings with a lot of people, both here in the U.S. and in Europe, and I had all of the information in front of me, but I wanted to make sure I has all of the energy and enthusiasm to do it. I realized that I did, and the pieces were there, so then we decided to go ahead with the project.
- Are you really serious about this Pro Division, or is this a one year show?
100% percent. I am very serious - I am putting my money into it and all of my time. So yes, we are serious?
- Is the Pro Division going to be just about bodybuilding?
Pro Division is just bodybuilding. I've got other businesses that we are involved with - mixed martial arts, but that is another venture that is separate from this.
- I don't get it? Why is there all of the hype and buzz and Pro Division or PDI, as the internet board members call it? All you have is 8 press releases and that is it.
Eight press releases are out. The hype is, I guess, because this is what people want. For the first time in the IFBB's history's since they have been on top, and nobody knows their history better than I do, this is a legitimate challenge, and the athletes have a legitimate alternative. If they choose not to be in the IFBB, then they can compete in our events. We have different judging - we are trying to accomplish different things - we want the athletes to have a different look, so the athlete has a choice. If they have a certain kind of physique and they want to compete in a certain type of manner, they can compete in the IFBB - and if they want to have a different look, and compete on a more entertaining level, they can come to us here. I think this is great for the sport and great for the fans.
- But you have nothing! The PDI is nothing?
Right now I have nothing, if you want to say that. We haven't run a show yet - but we will.
- So why should these people believe you?
They can believe me or not. I am not forcing anyone to do anything. We know that there are people on Getbig that have been hammering me and saying they don't believe me. That is fine. Time will tell on who is telling the truth. Fact of the matter is - we are getting a lot of publicity. It is probably the best thing for the Getbig boards - it is getting a lot of threads and posts - it's got people in the bodybuilding industry speaking and talking, and asking what are we going to do - is this for real? And when they find out that it is for real - then they will see what they are up to?
- People have been saying that this is a vengeance thing - against the IFBB?
No. Not at all. If I wanted to be vengeful against the IFBB and NPC, I would do it another way, not this way.
- Why can't you just let things be status quo, Let bygones be bygones.
I am letting the IFBB do what they went. I am not stopping the IFBB at all. I am not doing anything to the IFBB. I haven't approached any athletes - athletes have approached me. I haven't approached anyone. Even when I was in the room with the athletes at the Arnold in Columbus, when they come up to do their interviews for the TV show, I was sitting there, I greeted them, and I did not bring up anything? If they brought it up and wanted to speak with me about it, fine. If they did not - fine also. For example, I cordially greeted Branch Warren, he cordially greeted me back, I asked him the condition he was in and what he wanted from the show and that was that. Other athletes asked me point blank questions on what I was doing and I gave them answers of information that was available up to that time. And I won't go after any athlete. If an athlete calls me fine. I won't go to a contest and say you better join me or threaten anybody. It is not my way.
- People on the Getbig boards are calling you delusional and are saying that there is not enough information out there. Why should anyone even think of the PDI?
People can think about whatever they want to think about - I have no control over what they are thinking about. I think Kevin Horton should come up with a better name because Delusional Illusionist is too much of a tongue twister - it won't stick. He's needs work on a better name. But that is his opinion. He is entitled to his opinion like anyone else is. It doesn't bother me. People are asking me if I am upset with Kevin Horton. No. If I saw him, I would greet him as a friend, and if he wanted to go out and have a drink. I would go out with him and get that drink. No big deal. Kevin just doesn't believe it. The whole proof is not there yet. We are ready to reveal all of the details - and then the proof will be there. This is being done in a planned way. It is being done to get the ultimate exposure. The ultimate way is to get people talking about it. We are accomplishing exactly what we wanted to do. We knew there would be people totally not believing what we are doing, and questioning and challenging what we are doing. We are not going to waiver from our plan because he is doing exactly what we planned for people to do.
- Well, how are you going to accomplish this without sponsor support, without magazine support, without even website support?
Well, let's put it this way. Getbig is a popular bodybuilding website. Are you a news organization or are you owned by a certain federation? If you want to be considered a news organization, you have to cover the news of the sport. Right now, let's be honest. If there is a magazine that is not going to cover what is going on with what we are doing with Pro Division, they are not a real news organization. They are owned by another federation.
- But there is nothing to cover at the moment. Just eight 'official' press releases? There is not even an official website?
It is being built. It will come out in due time when we have materials to put on it that we are planning to have on it. Everything is being done with a plan. We are building. The snowball is small and it is on top of the mountain. It is just starting to roll down. By the time it gets down to the bottom, it will be big, it will be fast, and it will be powerful. Anyone can contact me if they are interested. I have been contacted, by amateur and pro athletes, by over a hundred, easily. I guess some people are taking it seriously.
- The Night of Champions, the only 'pro' show, was announced, yet when you call the theater, there is nothing there?
Wait a minute, in Press Release #6, we announced three European pro shows. But regarding the Night of Champions, if you call the Town Hall Theater box office, at this point and time, they will say there is nothing listed, because when you book at the Town Hall Theater, you get four weeks of box office availability. If you want more, you need to pay $700 a week. So it doesn't make sense to me to spent $14,000 for box office support for people that are just going to go to that window and buy it. Tickets will be available at Ticketmaster very soon. They have already been printed. Why aren't they up there yet? We have to pull out the comps, and what we need that we are selling via the gyms, and the ones that we have already sold via mail order. All of this has to be done before we put it in Ticketmaster because once it is in Ticketmaster, once you sell it, it is gone and you cannot get it back. So we have to make sure that we have what we need - gym tickets, mail order tickets, comp tickets, press seats, judges seats and so forth. And regarding the mail order, so far, since we announced it, a lot of people have bought tickets. And more people are buying tickets every day.
- What do you tell to someone, a magazine, a website, a sponsor, who is saying that they won't support you or your new venture?
It is their prerogative. I am not forcing anyone. What I am saying, is that you are not a real news organization and doing justice for bodybuilding fans if you are being coerced by someone else. That is a violation of the first amendments rights. You know, we can get into legalities here. If you are threatened that if you cover the Pro Division, that you will lose your press credentials, well, people can be sued over that. It is called 'Freedom of the Press'. You know, for example, here in New York, if the New York Times covers the Jets, then they can't cover the Giants??? No...they cover both! When there were two leagues in football, two leagues in baseball, or two leagues in hockey, newspapers covered both. They covered what they felt the readers wanted to read, and what is newsworthy. The same should be done in this situation. Now, if they choose not too, they can't force them, unless they decided to get legal. If a magazine says to me that I am being forced not to cover you, there may be ground for a lawsuit. But we don't want to go that route, do we? We think that what we are doing is good for bodybuilding. It's good for the sport, it is going to make people talk, add a little bit of interest - and when there is competition, everything gets better - the fans, the athletes, everything.
- Will you yourself go to the IFBB New York Pro bodybuilding contest?
I won't go to it, because it will make people uncomfortable. They will think I am there to try and get athletes away. It would be unethical for me to be there, now that the Night of Champions is announced. I won't do that.
- What is your current relationship with the IFBB?
I don't think there is one. But that is fine with me. When I left, I left. When Ben Weider said goodbye to me, I said goodbye to me. He wished me well in my future endeavors in his letter.
- Many athletes, promoters, and people are afraid too even speak of the PDI ---
Whoa - hold on, what are they afraid of? I tell every athlete that you have do what is best for you. You have to look at your situation openly and say ok - if another organization has other rules, and my physique fits their criteria of judging better, I have to look at that. For most people, this sport is nothing more than a hobby, even on the pro level. Very few people are making a living directly from it, so you have to look and say what is best for me. There have been athletes that have been contacting me that are older than 35 years old. Some of them fit our criteria to be a pro, and some of them don't. The amateurs that don't fit our pro requirements can look at our qualifying procedures and methods and ask themselves if they have a better chance at being a pro with us than with other amateur organizations. The people that fill our pro criteria, who are amateurs now, but have titles from other organizations that don't give them a pro card, it is a chance for them to do something.
What I am realizing too is that a lot of guys are really looking forward to stand onstage at the Night of Champions. The Night of Champions is the second longest running show other than the Mr. Olympia. The Arnold Classic started in 1989. The Night of Champions started in 1978. The Night of Champions was the first pro show other than the Mr. Olympia. Up into that time, the only pro show was the Mr. Olympia and I came along with this idea, and that is where Night of Champions came from. So the Night of Champions has a history and it has credibility. We have done crazy things there that people remember. There are versions of the Night of Champions on the amateur levels all over the world. There is the Dutch Night of Champions, there is an Indian Night of Champion, and there is a New Zealand Night of Champions for amateurs. But everybody knows that the real Night of Champions, where all of the craziness takes place, is in New York City.
- Well - some people are saying, where it was on the radio show, or on the boards, is that the PDI will not be around in two years from now?
Is there a guarantee that you will wake up tomorrow morning? There are no guarantees in life? Who is to say what is going to happen to the Olympia in two years? Who's to say what's going to happen to the Arnold Classic in two years? So, you have to remember - you look at the history of this sport. In the 1960's, the IFBB wasn't the king of the block - and they said the same thing about the Mr. Olympia. So that's always a line to try and dissuade someone from making a choice. Time will tell. Some people that have big names will switch. Others will follow. Because we are an open organization, we can take champions from the other organizations which the IFBB will not recognize?
- What do you mean?
Well - the guy that wins the Nabba Universe does not qualify for an IFBB pro card. If that guy is English, then he has to go back into the amateur ranks, and qualify in a local show, qualify for the British Championships, win the British Championships, or win the World Championships, and so on. We will recognize those titles. We have been getting a lot of calls from champions from other groups. We are talking about a lot of tremendous physiques we would otherwise be stymied, and now they will get the opportunity to stand on stage, get prize money, and be there with a variety of competitors. It also will be great for the fans, as they will be able to see new and exciting physiques.
- What happened to the Medical Benefits that you said athletes would get free, but was pulled?
It is a program that we are setting up, but I really don't want to get into it, because some people were harassing the hospital. More on this will come later. But to make something clear, we never promised or mentioned medical benefits; we mentioned physicals for the athletes. Physicals would benefits all pro athletes, no matter what country they live in. Medical benefits or insurance is only a problem for U.S. athletes because America is one of the few countries that do not have socialized medicine.
- Well - you know what; people just keep saying that the PDI is doomed for failure?
Well again, that is people's opinion. I can't control people's opinion. Again, time will tell. Let's see what happens. You must remember one thing. Who promoted more contests than anyone else in the history of the IFBB? Me. Who formulated how things were going in the IFBB on the pro end. Me. Who built it up? Me. Who made the Olympia top show it reached in 2003 before in went downhill. Me.
- You also mentioned that there are three European pro shows. Well, there is no mention of who is sponsoring them, where they are, who are promoting them?
All is due time. Like I said, we are milking this for all it's worth. We didn't name the promoter. We just named the city, the country and the prize money. The venue and the promoters will be named soon. As for the sponsors, if a company over there bought the rights to become the title sponsor, then fine. I don't see on anybody else's schedule that is sponsoring the event. I went to the IFBB schedule. Does it say who the title sponsor of the San Francisco Pro show was? The only time a company get's that credit is if they are paying for it. But, all of the information will be given out in due time. We have more shows to add to our schedule, we are not done yet, but in due time. At our pace we will accomplish what we have planned. We have a plan, and we are going to carry it out. And people can ask all of the questions and have all of the opinions they want. But, they are talking about it and that's what we want.
- But again, there is no validity of the Pro Division?
So what is going to give you validity? Will an official announcement of 100 athletes signing with us give you validity? I guess validity for you will come on Sept 15-16.
- Well, sponsors, magazine support ---
Hey, why are you worried about my sponsors? Why are you or anybody worried about who is giving me money? Let me ask you this? Who was John Bailik's Ironman Pro's sponsor?
- A number of sponsors, including the Ironman Magazine backing him up.
Well, I have PDI and Wayne DeMilia backing it up.
- But you do not have any validity again? No publicity?
Well, is there not an article in the new Muscular Development about this? There is a 6 page article in the May 2006 Muscular Development, plus there is an 8 page article coming out in the June 2006 MuscleMag. There are numerous articles coming out in various European or foreign magazines. We have already announced two prominent pro stars that have signed with PDI and will compete in the Night of Champions. Many others will follow. Ads will be appearing in various magazines. And if you want to get a great seat before ads come out contact me directly at [email protected]
But we are going to do more than magazine advertising. We are going into radio advertising and we are going to go into mainstream papers. You know, the Night of Champions didn't get sold out by an ad in Flex. We did a lot of local advertising in New York papers, in mainstream media and in different parts and niches of various medias to get the people there.
- Why are people talking about the PDI when there is a multitude of other bodybuilding organizations out there, like NABBA, etc?
Well, let's face it. I'm the most prominent promoter in the history of the IFBB. I have run the Mr. Olympia, the English Grand Prix, the NOC…..I have promoted more contests than anyone else. I am the reason why other amateur organizations don't have pro organizations because the pro shows that I promoted for the IFBB wiped them out. So - if I was the most influential person in professional bodybuilding, and now that I am on my own - I am a legitimate alternative - much more of an alternative than the WBF was in 1990. You have to remember too, that there are a lot of people that are with me. And even though we are going to be entertainment, our competitions will be strictly judged.
- Ok - but the IFBB is a federation for bodybuilders. What is the PDI?
It is a corporation that deals in bodybuilding sports entertainment through competition. Athletes will join us, filling out membership forms, and have to be registered with us in order to compete. When they are in our competitions, they abide by our rules. But we are not going to stop them from competing anywhere else. If they want to compete in the Wabba Pro World or the NABBA Pro Universe, they can. If they want to compete in the Southwest Pro Classic, they can compete. I am not going to stop them.
- That isn't fair. The NFL isn't going to let its players compete in the Arena Football League!
You can't equate a team sport with an individual sport. You would have to look at a sport like tennis or golf. No league has them under contract. They are individual athletes. If you look at tennis or golf, and you look at bodybuilding, you see that it is an individualist sport. Many have tried to organize the athletes into an association or a union, but it can't be done because there is too much a disparity between what the top people are making and what the bottom people are making. In these sports (Golf and Tennis), the athletes can compete wherever they want. Take Tiger Woods. If some sheik in Dubai wants him to compete in his event, he can go compete in it, and make a ton of money, and nobody stops him. Why not Bodybuilding?
- Are lot of people are saying that before you didn't talk to them - that you avoided the issues and questions?
We know all of the athletes talk. They are in their own fraternity. One guy talks to another and so on, and what they find out is that I am very accessible. Some guys that I have met with were amazed that I even showed up to talk to them. I have never shied away from being out there, meeting with the athletes, and answering any questions. I am right to the point. People have seen me at the press conferences at the Olympia when they were real press conferences and anyone could ask any question they want. I was in charge and you could ask me any question. Right now, you can't even call the Olympia press conference one. It was a gathering. The athletes were there and Bob Cicherillo and Triple H asked questions that were pre-approved. And that was it. And the fans just sat there. I think the fans enjoyed it when they could ask any question they wanted, even to the people in charge. As for athletes, they could and can always call me and ask me something. I would rather have them ask me a question than misinterpret one. When was the last time any other IFBB official spoke in public on issues?
- When you were running a lot of things before, a lot of people criticized you that you were a cold stone person?
Cold?? Any one could call me at any time. The number that is printed is my office number. I will pick it up if I am here. I talked to athletes, I talked to fans - usually there are people who submitted their own opinion of me that never approached me. You can ask any of the athletes. Anyone could call me when they wanted. I might have been annoyed with some of them if you tried to explain something to them, and they didn't want to see it, they only wanted to see it their way - but you could always reach me.
- What do you think is lacking in the bodybuilding sport today?
Excitement. I sat in the prejudging at the 2006 Arnold Classic. It has been a long time since I sat and watched a show. I was there with Vince Taylor who was doing the TV commentary, and I was one of the people involved with the Pay Per View. We were just copying down notes to use that night. I was bored to death - I almost fell asleep. It is one of the things that we are going to do at our pro events, the first being the Night of Champions. We are going to liven it up - especially the judging. Make it look better, make it move better, make it have some excitement to it, while keeping the sanctity of the judging credible.
- But won't that affect the bodybuilding purists? Won't they complain about this?
We are going to make it that even the bodybuilding purists will like it. I am sure that the purists couldn't be happy with what I sat through either. We are not going to mess with the judging procedure, but we are going to present it in a better way to make it a little more entertaining. We are not talking about major changes. I know better than anyone what the judging procedure should be like.
- But where are the fans going to come from? Aren't you just going to take fans away from the IFBB? Doesn't bodybuilding only have a small fan base?
Yes - it does, but you also have to go and find certain demographics and bodybuilding fans that are no longer attending the events. When I got involved in bodybuilding in the early 1970's, this was before women were involved in the events; this is pre-women in the gyms. The gyms were separated. There were ladies gyms and men's gyms. It isn't like today that when you go into gym and men and women are training in the same facility. That didn't go on. And the gay community at the time supported bodybuilding heavily. The gay community lately has dropped away from bodybuilding. The reason why, when I spoke to some of the execs of the trade magazines here in the New York, said that the physiques that are there are just not attractive to the gay community. So we all know that the complaint has been for years that the stomachs are too big.
We all got involved in bodybuilding at one time because we all wanted to have a nice V-shaped physique. You are looking for wide shoulders, and V-Shape down to a tight waist, then thighs flaring out a little out, calves flaring out, the legs looking nice, and you have a nice physique that you are happy with, and it makes you better athletes in whatever sport you want to compete with, and women & men find you sexual attractive. The big stomachs are not doing it. There is more muscle on these physiques than ever before. If you look at them part by part, then some of these parts are amazing. But when you put the physiques all together, the physique does not look attractive at all. There are not that many women that find this type of physique attractive and they are dropping away. There are no longer young people coming to the shows. There are many problems. We are going to try to address these problems with our events. People can question, people can criticize, and people can have their opinion.
Time will tell if what we are doing is right. If we are right, it will benefit every federation out there. So the people that are attacking me, and trying to stop me from what I am doing, they don't realize in the long run that if I am correct like I feel I am, and I accomplish what I am doing, I will be helping them also. I am looking into helping the sport. If I wasn't helping the sport, why would I be involved in raising sponsorship money and doing what I did, making foreign sales, in the Pay Per View at the Arnold Classic, which is an IFBB show, which is supposed to be a rival of Pro Division. I was doing it for the good of bodybuilding. Yes, I was doing it to make money too. But if I wanted to be a hard nose like we are hearing rumors about - if you are not in one camp, then you can't do anything, then to me, those people don't care about bodybuilding, those people only care about money and themselves.
- So, in your opinion, what can make the IFBB 2006 Mr. Olympia a little better?
I am not going to answer that, why should I give them all of the secrets. They want to pay me as a consultant, then I will think about it. But I know the answer. And if you need any proof, just look at the 2003 Mr. Olympia. But you know what, that is their show. They know my phone number. But they want to do it on their own, and that is their prerogative. The Olympia is their event, and I wish them the best. We have our events, I have my promoters, and this is just the beginning. We are already in deep negotiations on a slew of shows worldwide for 2007. If you look at what our schedule is, we are saying that by 2010, we hope to have 25 shows. Well, in simple math, that is adding about 5 shows a year. This year, 2006, we are slated to have 6 shows. Next year, we will have more than 10, possibly close to 15.
- So you agree with the rumors that it is the PDI vs. the IFBB - a showdown?
No. We are doing our own thing. I am not versus anybody. I am not against anybody. We are running our own events. If I was against somebody, I would put my event on the same day as their event. I am not doing that. That is like the old days. I remember in 1973, Dan Lurie had his own organization, WBBG, and they ran Mr. Olympus, and the IFBB at the Mr. Olympia, and they ran the show on the same day. And as a fan, I had a dilemma. There were things in both shows that I wanted to see, and I couldn't go to both shows. Dan Laurie, in his show, had Sergio Olivia competing against Frank Zane, and as a special guest, he had Steve Reeves. At the Mr. Olympia, there was Arnold, Franco, and Serge Nubret. And I wanted to see all of these guys. And I was upset as a fan. And I couldn't understand why they put these shows on the same day.
Well, of course, it was because they were fighting each other, and they only cared about trying to knock each other out instead of caring for the fans. I would have bought a ticket for one show one week, and a ticket for the other one the following week. To this day, I am still upset about it. I won't do that. I am not at odds with anybody. I enjoy running bodybuilding contests, and I do it better than anybody else. I decided to run more shows because other people have urged me to do it. I am doing it. The people that want to run shows with me - they are doing it. We have our little group of events. We hope the fans support all of Bodybuilding and all the shows.
- Regarding these PDI amateur events, what amateurs are there? People in the NPC are going to stay in the NPC!
First of all, these events are open to anyone. We are not limiting this to U.S. Citizens or anything. There are a lot of athletes in America that are from other countries, and are on other passports, who can enter the NPC on the local levels, but when they qualify for a National event, they can't go into an event that gives them a pro card unless you have a U.S. Passport. And right now, it is very hard to get a passport, since the Immigration Dept has changed to Homeland Security. The red tape takes longer than ever. What the PDI is offering these athletes, is, we don't care what passport you are under. If you are an amateur athlete, and you want to get a pro card from the PDI, and you haven't won any international titles, then you can go into our amateur pro qualifiers. If you come in first or second in your weight division, then you can get your pro card.
Now, do not be afraid if you are in the NPC or any other amateur organization. You cannot get in trouble for competing in the PDI. The Sports Act of 1978 gives amateur athletes the freedom to compete in whatever organization they want to. There are no restrictions. Amateur athletes have freedom to do what they want. Have we seen many athletes go back and forth between the AAU and the NPC 20 years ago? Yes, we did. I have seen many athletes currently go from the NPC to NABBA back to the NPC. So you can say you can't compete in the Amateur PDI events if you are in the NPC. The NPC was warned once in January 1983 in Tennessee for violating the Sports Act. So if there is an official that warns an athlete about going to even try out in the PDI, they could possibly be facing federal charges….the individual that makes the threat, the executive board, and the organization. We are not hurting anyone - I am saying do it all. Do whatever you want. Whatever makes you happy. We all have the freedom of the choice.
All I am doing is providing another option. There are other bodybuilding federations in America. What makes me different? Why are you singling me out? All I am doing is creating interest. All I am doing is creating choice. When you go to the store to buy soda, you can choose between Coke and Pepsi. If you want to buy a luxury car you can choose between Mercedes and BMW. And if you want to go to a professional Bodybuilding event you can choose between IFBB and PDI….or you can go to both! What I am doing is going to be better for the sport. You will see.