Jerome Ferguson isn’t used to stepping on stage at a national-level bodybuilding show as the favorite to win the super heavyweight class. But on November 10-11, that’s exactly what position Ferguson find himself in at the 2006 NPC Nationals in Miami.

Bill Willmore. Marcus Haley. Leo Ingram. Omar Deckard. Gone are the names with whom Ferguson battled over the past three years at the national level, all having moved on to the professional ranks. Now, Ferguson finds himself one of the last of an era, so to speak, with a new crop of competitors hard-charging to attempt to leapfrog him and move on to the IFBB.

FLEX sat down with Ferguson in the days leading up to the show and spoke about his disappointing showing at the USAs in July (he finished fifth among the superheavyweights) and how he likes his chances this weekend. Here’s what he had to say.

FLEX: How have you dealt with the disappointment of your placing at the USAs?
I just left the show there. I left it in Vegas, I left it on the stage. But I was really disappointed. I got some bad advice with my diet, and did exactly what I was told to do, and the outcome was that I watered out. I was really crushed. But for me, personally, in my heart I did all the right things. I just got some bad advice. I know I should have at least got third even though I was a little watered and I didn’t have all my bodyparts. But to drop from second [at the 2005 USA’s] to fifth [this year] was disappointing.

FLEX: What did you differently in preparing for this contest?
I figured, ok, I gotta make this right. In my heart I can’t leave a fifth place hanging knowing that I had an opportunity to win the whole thing. For me to do that, I couldn’t let it slide. I said, I need to do my own thing, because I know my own body. I need to go ahead and prepare myself.

FLEX: You weighed in at 243 for the USAs. What are you going to weigh for the Nationals?
I’m going to be bigger. Right now, with clothes on I’m 255. It’ll be high 240s. I just want to come in hard and shredded because my physique carries itself better that way. I’m not the type of guy who needs to be big. When I get bigger I start losing my waist. I want to come in tight and dry.

FLEX: Do you feel you have something to prove?
Yes. You know what I have to prove? I have to prove something to all my fans. I call them my friends now. (The year) 2005 proved to me that I am a pro bodybuilder, because in ’05 I think I was good enough to win my whole class. [He lost a superheavyweight battle to Marcus Haley at the USAs.] Now, it’s not just necessarily something to prove to myself, but also to prove to them that I’m not quitting.

FLEX: You train at Gold’s Venice with a guy who recently won his pro card at the 2006 USAs, Mike Ergas. Did seeing Mike win his pro card motivate you?
It did. In the back of my mind, it sat there, because Mike went down to the Nationals last year and was disappointed. To see him push through one more year (and win his pro card at the USAs) made me feel like I gotta push through, because Mike had experienced some of the same things. All those little things like that kept me going.

FLEX: Who are the guys you think you’re going to be battling it out with in the super heavyweight class?
To be honest with you, on this one, I’m not really concerned about any of them. To me, my competition was Omar (Deckard). And then (Leo) Ingram. And (Marcus) Haley. Those guys were the guys I’ve been going head-to-head with throughout the years to try to get there. And right now, the only thing that I can see is if I screw up. My competition that I’ve been battling with, they moved on. I’m just making sure I do it right. I feel my serious competition has moved on.

FLEX: So you think this is your show to lose?
Yes. I do. Don’t get me wrong, there are going to be some great bodybuilders there. And I’ve got much respect for all of them. But I feel that throughout the years of competing and building muscle that I’m the most complete one, with everything in place. At the moment, I feel I’m the most complete amateur bodybuilder doing the show.