Our next guest on Beyond the Stage has been the live broadcast expert analyst for bodybuilding’s annual prime time – Mr. Olympia. 2014 for seven years. He is well known and respected through out the bodybuilding industry. Additionally he is both a writer, author and also a MMA-expert who holds his own radio show Pro MMA Radio.
Let us welcome one of the front runners in our bodybuilding industry.
RM: Larry, I must ask you – you’re a great bodybuilding commentator who has hosted the Mr. Olympia for many years now. Would you like to explain how your passion for bodybuilding started?
LP: First, thank you for the compliment about the Olympia commentary. I’m always happy to hear that people like it.
I was actually a competitive martial artist when I was 16 years old and fought in the World Tae Kwon Do Championships in Madison Square Garden after going undefeated in the Empire State Games. I had a voracious appetite to learn and used to buy all the martial arts magazines, which were almost always sitting next to the bodybuilding magazines. That was my first exposure to it and it piqued my interest. I started lifting with the idea of being a better, stronger fighter. After switching to Tiger Crane Kung Fu and continuing to fight, my instructor went to prison and I was a bit burned out on the arts. But at that point the iron bug bit me and I found I was more passionate about competing in bodybuilding than fighting so I made the switch and went on to compete in about 15-20 contests.
RM: An additional question: since we have talked about professional MMA at times. How did MMA come into your life and later on becoming your passion as well?
LP: It’s funny, I feel like my passions for competitive fighting and bodybuilding and later, MMA, kept getting interwoven in my life, some of which you already know from my last answer. I’d watched the first few UFC’s when Royce Gracie was dominating but lost interest after a while because of the lack of structure and high-level competition. When TUF 1 rolled around and aired on Spike I started watching again and haven’t looked back since. I love the human chess match that modern MMA is and should be.
RM: Larry how often do you workout yourself?
LP: I usually train five days per week.
RM: Where do you see bodybuilding developing in the future – let’s say 20 years from now?
LP: I think the natural inclination is to think that the guys are going to be 320 pounds, shredded, 20 years from now but I don’t see it that way. Current Mr. Olympia Phil Heath is not as massive (or heavy on stage) as Ronnie Coleman but the Big Nasty won his last Olympia in 2005. That doesn’t mean that the sport has regressed, just that sometimes the best bodybuilder in the world (or onstage that day) is also the biggest and other times he’s not. It’s about quality not quantity. I really don’t see it being a whole lot different than it is now, just with different names and faces. The physiques have been taken as far as they can go without starting to look distorted and/or distended.
RM: Which is your greatest memory from Mr. Olympia?
LP: I was sitting in the media section very close to the stage when Ronnie Coleman walked onstage at the prejudging of the 2003 Mr. Olympia. He weighed 287 pounds and literally looked inhuman…like something out of a comic book. I will never forget the collective shock of the crowd. There was a chorus of people in the crowd simultaneously muttering things like “Holy Sh*t”, “What the Fu**” and “Oh my God”. Freakiest thing I have ever seen on an Olympia or any other bodybuilding stage. People often forget that after winning the 2002 Olympia, Ronnie took second to Gunther Schlierkamp at the GNC Pro Show. Ronnie wanted to leave no doubt as to who the best bodybuilder in the world was that next year at the 2003 Olympia. Mission accomplished.
RM: If you could change something in the bodybuilding community what would that be?
LP: I think there are way too many IFBB Pro Cards given out these days and it devalues the meaning of being an IFBB Professional. I would like to see all the non-bodybuilding divisions called something different, for example International Federation of Physique Athletes, to differentiate it. IFBB stands for International Federation of Bodybuilding and I’d like to see that preserved from a historical and competitive perspective.
RM: Three quick questions
1. Who is your all time favorite MMA fighter?
LP: George Saint Pierre before he got KO’d by Matt Serra. After that he fought very safe and rather one-dimensional. Before that, his integration of the various disciplines made him the epitome of what a mixed martial arts fighter should be.
2. The same question but about your all time favorite bodybuilder?
LP: I don’t think I have a favorite but I admire several for different reasons. Ronnie Coleman for his sheer freakiness, Dexter Jackson for his incredible longevity and the consistency of his conditioning and Mike Ashley for his knowledge of all things training and nutrition as well as what he accomplished as a natural athlete against all odds.
3. Bruce Lee or Arnold Schwarzenegger?
LP: Bruce Lee
RM: Here comes the last question and that one is actually from our previous guest John Hansen in the Beyond the Stage series. Hansen wants to know who in your opinion, who is the greatest Mr. Olympia of all time?
LP:I will answer it two ways. if you ask me to line up the 13 Mr. Olympias at their best and pick a winner it would be Ronnie Coleman. At his best, I think he was just too much for anyone else who has ever competed. I will call him the “best” Mr. Olympia of all time. But the “greatest” Olympia of all time, for me, is Lee Haney because his eight year reign was like no other. There was no one even close to him during his era and his level of dominance at the Olympia over that period was unparalleled. Jay could have beaten Ronnie in 2001 and did beat him later. Jay could have lost to Victor in 2007 and did lose to Dexter Jackson and Phil. Dorian Yates could have lost to Nasser el Sonbaty or Shawn Ray during his reign. Arnold was beating a small handful of athletes and had challenges from Sergio Oliva and Mike Mentzer later on. Phil could well be on his way to the type of dominance we saw from Lee, but he’s only half way there right now so today, in 2014, it is Haney by a wide margin for me.
RM: Ok, Larry, it is time for the round up – if you want to make a shout out please do so:
LP: Have to give thanks to Robert Kennedy and Johnny Fitness from Musclemag International. I wrote hundreds of articles for them including one in 2006 making the argument that it was time for weight classes to be instituted at the Olympia that led to the birth of the Under 210 division (now Under 212). I’m very proud of that. I also wrote my first book, The Precontest Bible, while there and just finished The Women’s Precontest Bible (WomensPrecontestBible.com) with Isaac Hinds of Hardbody.com. Even though Bob is gone now, I’ve always been thankful for the opportunity. And, of course, I have to thank my Mom, Helen, for her love and support throughout my life. Pro MMA Radio was her idea so if you like listening to that show you have her to thank! And please feel free to say hello on Twitter @LarryPepe. Thanks for doing this interview, Anders, and I wish you all the best with Rising Muscle.
Larry, thank you for participating on Beyond the Stage. It is always interesting and also important to hear what the people behind the scenes has to say about different perspectives of bodybuilding. We wish you best of luck with both your MMA and Bodybuilding projects – additionally we wish see you behind the Mr. Olympia microphones in 2015 as well.