Nick “The Mutant” Walker wasn’t always a hulking phenom — one of modern bodybuilding’s top competitors. Then he won the 2021 Arnold Classic (AC) during his International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) Pro League rookie year, and he’s seemingly only become more high profile by the day ever since. A fifth-place result at the 2021 Mr. Olympia was a fitting cherry on top for an athlete who seemed like the next big thing in the sport. Now, after a podium performance at the 2022 Mr. Olympia, Walker will be wasting no time getting back on the mass warpath. He’ll return to some of his roots to do it.
On Jan. 12, 2023, the Arnold Sports Festival revealed that Walker would compete at the 2023 edition of the Arnold Classic. The contest is currently scheduled for Mar. 2-5, 2023, in Columbus, OH, where, unsurprisingly, several other established superstars already plan to gather. A stacked field likely won’t intimidate Walker, who seems to be on a determined mission to make it two vaunted AC titles in three years.
Walker’s AC return announcement came shortly after the Arnold Sports Festival announced that this year’s first-place prize money would be upped to $300,000 for the Men’s Open winner. That compensation is almost three times Walker’s victory winnings of $130,000 in 2021, partly signifying the tremendous rapid growth of the competition and its significance.
In a quick post on his Instagram, Walker tersely but efficiently elaborated on the news of his return to the AC. He shared a picture from his winning performance at the 2021 iteration with a caption of “run it back,” with obvious intentions of overcoming his elite peers on the Columbus, OH, stage again.
Walker will face no shortage of worthy challengers to etch his name as the Arnold Classic winner for the second time in three years.
For example, two-time winner William Bonac will seek his third career AC crown (2018, 2020), a feat only four other bodybuilders have accomplished in the contest’s 33-year history. At the same time, a newer ascending star like Samson Dauda will also be vying for the momentous championship. Other notable confirmed names so far include Kamal Elgargni and Akim Williams.
Notably, a group of relative newcomers in Derek Lunsford, Blessing Awodibu, and Michal “Križo” Križánek announced plans to skip the tentpole contest. Each of the three athletes made a distinction that they’d prefer to get some rest before focusing most of their efforts on an improved performance at the 2023 Olympia in November. Lunsford, in particular, as the 2022 runner-up in his Men’s Open debut, might have the most realistic chance of reaching those lofty goals.
At the time of this article’s publication, it is unclear if another two-time AC victor (2019, 2022) and the reigning champion, Brandon Curry, will come back to defend his title.
The 2023 Arnold Classic is already shaping up to be a battlefield if announcements like Walker’s expected appearance mean anything. With the new year up and rolling, March’s competition will likely be a memorable addition to bodybuilding lore.
Featured image: @nick_walker39 on Instagram