INSIDE MUSCLEMANIA AND FITNESS UNIVERSE
By Ben Yosef
I have to just come out and say it…there are many natural competitors who are hating on Musclemania. And if you aren’t hating, then I am sure you know someone who is. The question is why all the hatin’?
Here’s how I see it… the top Musclemania pros are HUGE. I am talking physically and in terms of marketing and branding.
Everyone has heard of Simeon Panda. And how about Ulisses Jr? When considering the hype and publicity that is thrown behind athletes like these, one may start to understand the reasons for the hate…or shall we call it envy? Perhaps jealousy?
These athletes actually have worldwide fan bases and are in high demand within the fitness industry. Compare that to the biggest names in the other federations, and you would agree that the other feds are dwarfed by the big MM. Another reason for the hatin’ is the production value of Musclemania and Fitness Universe shows crushes that of the other feds.
Ok, enough hater bashing. Let’s look at it from the other side. For one, many die-hard bodybuilders would rather not deal with all the glitz and glamour. Some like it raw. Just give them a decent auditorium with good lighting, a DJ mixing in some beats here and there, and just focus on the physiques.
I personally feel that there is a NEED for at least some flash if there is to be any shot at reaching a wider audience the way Musclemania has. We need to get the general public interested and excited. And a major way to accomplish this is the lights, cameras, and action.
One area of the organization that may come under some scrutiny is its drug testing policy. If an athlete’s results come back positive for drug use then they are banned for two years. And the same ban is issued whether an athlete tested positive for an OTC substance or full blown steroid use. In many other feds it’s a lifetime ban for steroids.
And in the Musclemania organization after those two years are up, the once-banished are allowed to return. In natural bodybuilding we need to do all that we can in order to deter athletes from taking performance enhancing drugs. And one way is by making the punishment so severe that only the biggest risk-takers and gamblers will roll those dice.
Anywho, Musclemania and Fitness Universe is a well oiled machine. With its roots planted firmly in the television and entertainment arenas, ALL other natural federations could benefit from lessen or two. I recently had the opportunity to interview a Big Wig within the organization. Because the machine is so focused on the marketing and promotion of its athletes, and not the execs or promoters, my source requested to remain anonymous.
NMI: What is the actual “umbrella” name of the federation and how many divisions fall within it?
M&FU: All of our brands fall under the Fitness Universe™ company including the Fitness, Ms. Bikini, Model, Figure and Musclemania® Universe shows.
NMI: When was the federation founded, and how did it come about?
M&FU: Well, we never started as a federation and still do not consider the brands as such. Rather, all of our major brands were conceptualized and initially produced as ESPN television shows. They are started as made-for-television events with all of the production standards expected by the network. So, that is why to this day, Fitness Universe™ shows have professional production levels not normally seen at fitness and bodybuilding events.
NMI: In what year was the very first show produced?
M&FU: The Fitness America Championships was first produced in 1989 as a 1-hour ESPN television show. The following year, ESPN ordered the first Musclemania® show.
In what year was the very NMI: How many countries are represented?
M&FU: The Fitness Universe™ brands are represented in over ninety countries including those with actual competitions and/or television programming.
NMI: How many contests are held every year?
M&FU: This year, seventy shows are scheduled to-date, worldwide.
NMI: Within the US, how many states have been penetrated?
M&FU: We do not coordinate shows on a state basis, rather according to where there is demand for the Musclemania® and related brand shows.
NMI: In which states do you find demand to be the highest?
M&FU: Certainly Texas, the New York metropolitan regional area, and Florida are among the most popular.
NMI: What are the largest contests in terms of competitor numbers?
M&FU: Fitness America Weekend 400+, Fitness Universe™ Weekend 400+, Fitness New England 200+, Fitness Mexico 400+, Fitness Korea 300+, others.
NMI: What is your drug-testing policy?
“We have tried polygraph but too many competitors were obviously abusers.”
M&FU: We adhere to strict urinalysis testing at all Musclemania® and Fitness Universe™ shows: local, regional, national, and international. At the regional level, the promoters select which competitors should be tested in addition to the winners. Because the testing costs are significant, we have to be pragmatic in budgeting how many and which competitors to test. Consider that the testing costs exceed the competitor registration fees at most shows.
There is immediate disqualification upon positive test results. We have tried polygraph but too many competitors were obviously abusers.
NMI: How many drug test failings did the organization have in 2013?
M&FU: There were eight positive test results reported last season. All eight failings were among the bodybuilders. There were no Figure or Fitness competitor positive drug test reports.
NMI: The Musclemania website mentions a two year ban after a failed test. I noticed that there is a list of athletes on the site who have failed the drug test. Since the ban is only for two years, do you not eventually remove the names? It appears that there are names dating back to 2008.
M&FU: Some competitors tested positive twice and have been banned for life. We also leave the postings if the competitors chose not to compete again.
NMI: How does the organization differentiate itself from all the other natural federations?
“…we don’t analyze, compare, or compete with other federations.”
M&FU: We really do not know since we don’t analyze, compare, or compete with other federations. However, one principle we believe is paramount is to promote those competitors whom are worthy of the promotional investment.
“…we have every interest to ensure the commercial success of Fitness Universe™ and Musclemania® competitors.”
We firmly believe that the more successful Fitness Universe™ and Musclemania® representatives are with their careers, so goes our brands. As a commercial business and television production company we have every interest to ensure the commercial success of Fitness Universe™ and Musclemania® competitors.
NMI: For competitors who have not had the opportunity to compete within your organization, what can they expect if they were to do so?
“Our judging panels are always changed to ensure fair and unbiased consideration and scoring.”
M&FU: They would find honest and neutral officiating from judges whom are never the same from show to show. Our judging panels are always changed to ensure fair and unbiased consideration and scoring. Also, unlike other competitions, Fitness Universe™ and Musclemania® judges score based upon a prescribed criteria point system. We do not use a simple relative placement system which, again, helps to ensure fair and unbiased judging.
NMI: Anything new in store for 2014?
M&FU: We will soon launch the new Musclemania® Sportswear with mail order availability in the US, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Also, we will have new television shows in India, Africa, Middle East, and Europe.
NMI: What does the future look like for the organization
M&FU: We will continue to promote professional shows and develop more opportunities for our competitors to pursue their dreams and passions.
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