In the current bodybuilding pantheon, few names are as big as Nick Walker and Derek Lunsford. The two young athletes have stormed respective paths to the forefront of the sport, seemingly becoming titans overnight. Walker first arguably came to prominence by winning the 2021 Arnold Classic, while Lunsford, the former 212 Olympia champion (2021), recently came in second in a debut Men’s Open performance at the 2022 Mr. Olympia. Lunsford would fall just short of beating new Mr. Olympia champion Hadi Choopan. Moving forward, by virtue of being in the same division, the pair will inevitable butt heads on stage now and again. This reality is clearly not lost on Walker.
On Jan. 19, 2023, during an episode of The Mutant and The Mouth podcast, Walker talked about his official prospects at the upcoming 2023 Arnold Classic (AC) in Columbus, OH. In the process, the discussion about the Mar. 2-5, 2023, contest — which recently announced a $300,000 first-place prize — eventually centered around Lunsford. That is to say: Walker is keeping a close eye on his elite peer.
One of the first notes Walker clarifies about Lunsford is his status at the 2023 AC. Given the language Walker uses, it initially appeared he wasn’t aware that Lunsford confirmed he would not compete at the contest, but Walker later clarified that they wouldn’t face each other on stage quite yet. Nonetheless, Walker speculates about his rival’s current physique and why he’d take a step back from a significant tentpole competition.
It appears Walker believes Lunsford is having to make an adjustment to the size of the Men’s Open category, as opposed adhering to the 212 division’s weight limit. Therein, Lunsford might be taking his time to train and build size before he competes again.
“I’ve heard through the grapevine that he’s [Derek Lunsford] not doing the Arnold [Classic],” Walker said. “This is where I’m going to jump in. Did he add muscle or did he just keep it without losing it? I think he restricted himself [in previous] off-seasons [to fit the 212 Olympia weight class]. So I think what he gained back [when preparing for the 2023 Men’s Open Olympia] is what he normally has, plus maybe a little bit more, I’ll say. But he didn’t put on an astronomical amount of mass. He just didn’t have to suffer and lose mass to make 212.”
As someone who will potentially stand in the way of potential coming victories, Walker noted he’ll be watching for the gains Lunsford makes. Walker seems to think the coming off-season will be vital for Lunsford as he commits fully to the Men’s Open and tries to win the 2023 Mr. Olympia. That contest will take place on Nov. 2-5, 2023, in Orlando, FL.
“This will be the off-season where we’ll see how much tissue he [Lunsford] puts on and we’ll see what he looks like when he stands on the  Olympia stage.”
As for why Walker elected to compete in the AC again rather than focus his efforts entirely on his Olympia preparation, the answer is simple. The new lucrative prize incentivized him to return to the Columbus, OH, stage.
“They [The Arnold Sports Festival] gave me until after the holidays to think about it,” Walker said. ” … I felt good. So they reached out again, they basically said they were going to up the prize money to $300,000. I said ‘count me in.’”
Walker has already been quite outspoken about what might lie ahead in 2023. In early January, he noted he was satisfied with a third-place result at the 2022 Olympia but probably could’ve finished higher in an ideal world. Before he works to improve on such results, he’ll first put his crosshairs on a second AC title. While he won’t have to worry about Lunsford at that particular contest, Walker seems to understand it might only be a matter of time before he and Lunsford cross paths again.
Featured image: @nick_walker39 on Instagram