After the Olympia press conference the day before the competition started, it seemed like you enjoyed the smack talk from other competitors versus being offended by it. Was that just because you think it’s good for the sport, or was it because you thought the smack talk was coming from a place of respect?
I think it was a little bit of both. No. 1, I came into bodybuilding as a former athlete in basketball. And who talks more trash than that sport? [Laughs] That’s like part of the game. So when I got into bodybuilding, people would run their mouth a little bit. And, yeah, a lot of guys heard me talk some trash, and it was really just to get people going that pay to watch the event live—to sell the show.
As far as the other guys, Shawn Rhoden had a lot to say in the magazine and on YouTube and stuff, and he definitely had to eat those words. He had to really be quiet. I was expecting a full-on, onslaught attack from him, and he was relatively quiet. And that’s probably because he knew he wasn’t on and didn’t want to make a fool of himself.
I was cool with every person who had something to say at the press conference. If you have something on your mind and you’re at a press conference, what better place to say it? You saw Ramy. Ramy’s was a little more rehearsed, if you ask me. It sounded like it wasn’t really something he wanted to say, but he did anyway. I mean, the guy basically said that he was going to be the best Mr. Olympia champion of all time. That’s really a big statement. [Laughs] I don’t even think he realized what he said. But at the same time, I was thinking, “Finally, someone wants to say something.” I’m not going to ridicule another athlete for believing in himself or wanting to be the best. I’m OK with it.
What’s the significance of seven Olympia wins for you? Obviously, you’re tied with Arnold Schwarzenegger now.
Seven definitely means without a shadow of a doubt that I’m a Hall of Famer. And you have to throw me in there as one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. Because I’ve faced adversity, and I’ve gone against multiple second-place people. To defend against various people throughout your legacy is important. It really means to me that I’ve been able to persevere through life’s challenges and truly be a champion.
To be seven-time Mr. Olympia in this climate that we live in, with social media and this and that—no disrespect to the other athletes, but they couldn’t do it. Because the expectations are far greater than what we saw back when Ronnie and even Jay were competing, because of how social media is. The pressure is there. Everybody has a phone. I mean, I’m literally there last night, in Las Vegas [four days after winning the Olympia], having a night where I can go get something to eat, and I figure I’ll go play some blackjack for an hour. And someone took a picture of it. I’m the face of the sport, and that comes with a lot of pressure. You can’t hide. And if you’re an introvert, like many bodybuilders are, you’re going to have to change your DNA.
So, aside from anything I just told you, to be able to walk around and say, “No matter what happens to me from this day forward, I’ve tied Arnold Schwarzenegger,” is something. No one else can say that except Coleman and Haney. That’s it. I take that with great pride.
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