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Only 16 men have ever held bodybuilding’s biggest title, Mr. Olympia. Only five men have held that title for more than five years. One of those men is Dorian Yates. In spite of being one of the greatest competitors of all time, the man who hailed from the United Kingdom hasn’t done too many interviews since his retirement in 1997. This is why the second episode of “The Menace Podcast” could be considered must-hear or must watch. Dennis James was able to sit down with Yates for this hour plus long interview.
Yates says he’s no longer concerned with the spotlight or the fanfare that comes with being the world champion of his sport.
“I got used to it during that time, and I got more comfortable with it. It’s not the reason that I did bodybuilding. Maybe for some people, it is. They want to get the adulation and the limelight, and that’s cool. That was never the case for me. When I competed, it was just wanting to train, and that’s what I did to keep myself to myself. Then when the contest came, it kind of served like a benchmark, you know. Then you have to, of course, expose yourself and everything. That comes with it. But it’s not, my personality is naturally not to seek the limelight, which is kind of a contradiction in bodybuilding I guess.”
While Yates may be best known for dominating bodybuilding’s biggest stage, he shared that he also dominated on the first stage he competed on in the mid 1980s.
“My first contest was held inside of a gym, a contest in Birmingham where I come from in England. I went into that contest and won with no preparation, no diet, or anything like that. I think I had been training seriously for like, eight months. It was just like the first time, and I won that. Then, I went to EFBB … to compete in an intermediate contest, regional. My goal was to win this contest, and then I want to go to intermediate finals, and become intermediate British champion. That was my goal. That was with around 18 months of training. I didn’t see what everyone else saw at that point. Now I’m looking at the pictures, and I’m laughing. It’s like ‘ok, it’s obvious.’”
After the judges saw him and made it clear that he was the best heavyweight in the country at the time, Yates had his eyes set higher. He figured he could make to the level of the guys that he looked up to in the early days of his training.
“I looked up to the guys that were like (Mike) Mentzer because of his training, and all of the articles in the magazines and everything. They had some intelligence and some logic behind it, and that appealed to me. He was a logical, sensible thinker. I really admired the guys that looked strong, you know, they lifted heavy weights as well. There was a guy named Casey Viator. The guy was thick, he had those forearms, and he was super strong like a bull.”
Once Yates reached pro status, he was being flown by Joe Weider for photoshoots. He would eventually make the cover of Flex Magazine, with the image of him doing a one arm row with a 200 pound dumbbell. He talked about the importance of those magazines back then.
“Younger guys that are listening now, they got the internet. Back then, it was all about the magazines, right? You weren’t anybody and you didn’t have anything until you got yourself in a Weider magazine. There was Flex and there was Muscle & Fitness. So when Joe Weider flies you out to California and you do a photo shoot, then you know you’re on your way, and I got my first Flex cover.”
Always thinking ahead, Yates realized that video would be a great source to reach fans and make extra money. James asks him about the filming of his famous video “Blood and Guts.”
“I said to (photographer) Kevin Horton: ‘Van you hire a camera and come to the gym to film me training? But I literally don’t want to know you’re there. I’m not going to talk to you. You’re not going to talk to me. I don’t give a s*** about the lights. I want you to capture what I’m doing, and the energy, and the weights, and what I’m really doing here.’ So that’s what we did.”
Other topics: How he did photoshoots, if he would’ve continued after 1997 if he wasn’t forced to retire, what he would change if he could go back to his active career, and more. You don’t want to miss this rare interview with the bodybuilding legend. Catch this and every episode of “The Menace” Podcast every Sunday at 6 p.m. EST on the Muscle & Fitness YouTube channel.