At the 2022 Pittsburgh Pro, reigning Olympia 212 champion Derek Lunsford showed up to guest pose alongside 2019 Mr. Olympia Brandon Curry, 2021 Arnold Classic Champion Nick Walker, and 2021 Olympia 4th place finisher Hunter Labrada. By the end of that presentation, Lunsford had become the topic of conversation because he looked like he could compete in the men’s open soon. There had always been talk about him making the jump someday. Could it be sooner than we think?

Dennis James gathered a panel of bodybuilding greats to discuss that very topic on a recent episode of The Menace Podcast. Lee Priest, Chris Cormier, and Milos Sarcev all chimed in with their opinions.

“I think that if Derek drops down to 230 or 235, he’s lethal in the open,” James said. Lunsford was reported to be in the neighborhood of 260 pounds at the guest posing. “He would literally fight with everybody – William (Bonac), Hadi (Choopan), Brandon (Curry), and whoever else is there for that title.”

Lunsford’s shape is what stuck out to Cormier, who knew a thing or two about symmetry,

“His taper is so nice,” said Cormier. “This guy has that taper and that shape, and they saw it from when he turned pro at the USA (in 2017). He could be one of the best if he does everything right.”

Priest knows all too well what it is like to be a smaller guy in the lineup, and he beat many bigger athletes in his career. He feels Lunsford should make the jump because it would be a new challenge for the Indiana native.

“He’s won the 212, go into the open like we all said, he’ll be in the top. If he comes in conditioned with that size, we’ve seen Bonac get up in the top,” he said, comparing Lunsford to the two-time Arnold Classic winner.

As for Sarcev, he made it unanimous by agreeing with the rest of the old-school panel. However, he pointed out that there is one missing component to the fantasy booking of Lunsford in the Mr. Olympia mix,

“He isn’t qualified,” he said. That still means he would have to do a show before.” Sarcev also said that should Lunsford enter an open show, he would likely qualify for the Olympia anyway.

2020 Olympia 212 winner Shaun Clarida and fellow 212 competitor Angel Calderon are both qualified for the Olympia open and 212. If Lunsford were to add his name to that list, the 2022 Olympia would be even more intriguing than it is already.

Check out the full episode of TMP to hear the panel discuss more about Lunsford, Nick Walker, and more. All episodes air every week over at the Muscle & Fitness YouTube channel.