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At approximately 11 weeks out from the 2018 Joe Weider’s Olympia Fitness and Performance Weekend, I received word that Flex Lewis had a big announcement to make to the bodybuilding world. I called the six-time 212 Olympia Champion, and what follows is a heart-felt conversation about the biggest decision of his bodybuilding career. The 2018 Olympia is definitely one that you won’t want to miss.
Angelica: We’re approximately 11 weeks out from the 2018 Olympia. What is your prep like at this point, and how much will it change leading up to the O?
Flex: At this point in my prep, I’m reanalyzing everything. I obviously have to make the 212-pound weight limit, so at about 15 weeks out, I do everything with that goal in mind. I do have somewhat of a blueprint to stick to, in terms of numbers. I’ve kept every single prep photo, I’ve got journals to actually see what I was eating at this point in previous preps, what I weighed, etc. Right now I’m at one of my heavier weights for 11 weeks out–234 pounds. It’s not a bad heavy, it just goes to show that my body struggles with this weight class. But there’s no concern. Neil [Hill] and I have done this six times before, and this is more of a hands-on prep than it’s ever been, now that he moved from the UK to Florida. With him being here, it allows me to be less stressed for the rest of the prep. It’s been very different this time, and a lot of fun.
You are currently the six-time 212 Olympia champion, and the only competitor to have ever held that title since its introduction in 2012. What does that mean to you?
It’s pretty surreal–but then again I’ve trained my butt off to have this title. I’ve really lived by the law of attraction. When I found out that the weight limit was being increased to 212, prior to that it was 202, I put my whole energy into being the first one to hold and defend that title. The role as a champion is one that I don’t take lightly. I walked, talked and acted like a champion long before I was one. I’m not saying that in a cocky sense. I groomed myself mentally so when it did happen, I had a professional manner in everything I did, like speaking to the last person in line with the same enthusiasm as the first. Sometimes a fan has family members with them, a wife or a kid, who might not really be interested in bodybuilding. But now, because you’ve spent time with them, you’ve gained a new fan. They might not necessarily support any other pro, but they’ll come and support you. It’s the time that’s devoted, the unseen time, that makes you a champion regardless of what you do in the gym.
Who do you see as your biggest threat to the 212 Olympia title this year?
I’m training for the unknown. I’m training to make sure that the physique that I bring to Olympia stage this year is the best that everybody has ever seen. There’s nobody that I stand against that I fear. There’s nobody I stand against that I dislike. This is a quote from Conor McGregor, “Do I hate any of my opponents? How can I hate someone who has the same dreams as me?” That’s the truth. I can’t hate anybody who has the same dreams as me.
If you win the 2018 212 Olympia, it will be your 7th title. Will you go for number eight in 2019?
I have processed this whole situation, and this will be my last 212 Olympia. Arnold was a massive inspiration for me. He came from the other side of the world just like me, and I can relate to a lot of the things he’s done as a bodybuilder. He is the GOAT (greatest of all time) in my eyes for what he’s done for the sport. I would end my career quite happily, knowing that I’ve been able to tie his record [7 Olympia titles] in my division.
To be honest, I had entertained the idea of stopping after the 2017 Olympia. Three weeks before the show, Dallas Mccarver passed. Then hurricane Irma came, and we thought we were going to lose our house so we had to up and leave. I was doing cardio, training and eating…but it was false energy that kept me going. I was doing it for Dallas. After I won, I thought, “We’ve done it for Dallas, but it’s not the right time to stop.” Then my team rallied together, my wife, my coach, my training partner. They knew that I was going through a definite depression. As soon as I finally realized it, everything started changing. I started only putting things that were good around me. The people who had always been there for me were brought to the forefront. The people who I didn’t really need in my life were pushed to the back. It’s all a mindset. I told myself, “Get up and fucking train, get up and fucking eat, and get up and fucking do what you need to do.”
You said that 2018 will be your last 212 Olympia. Does that mean that we might see you back on the Olympia stage as an Open competitor?
I’m realistic. In the 212 division, I’ve been maxed out since my first show. I know every single year I have to make improvements for the judges, but I also have to make that 212 weight limit. At 220 pounds, I am a completely different animal. I am ready to step on stage but I have to sacrifice muscle to make weight. It’s a game changer. If–and it is a really big “if” here–if I was to ever step on stage in the open class, I know that that it would be a completely different process to put on the necessary weight to go up against the world’s biggest bodybuilders, without ruining my frame. It would be some time in the making. That’s something that myself, my wife, and my coach will all have to sit down and decide together. If that were to be the case, you wouldn’t see me onstage until possibly 2020.
You’re one of the hardest working guys in the industry, so I know that time away from the stage doesn’t mean that you’ll be slowing down. What other projects and business ventures will you be working on?
I have multiple businesses outside of the sport. I own Arsenal Strength, along with my wife Ali, and Andrew and Jamie Hall. Our equipment can be found world-wide, from Bev Francis Powerhouse Gym in New York, to Oxygen Gym in Kuwait. I have Sinister Labs, which I setup with Scott James. We now have a functional foods company and it’s taken off globally. I have a private gym facility, here in Florida. I have a wedding accessory business in the UK. My wife and I have a pregnancy subscription box business, NaturAli. I have several shows and expos…here’s the thing. I’ve never gone out and bought subs and rims for my car. I’ve made money and I’ve invested money. I’ve had good investments and I’ve had bad investments. And all that has been done whilst competing, whilst juggling the family, and whilst walking, talking, and acting like a champion, both on and off stage.
What are you most excited about now that you’ve announced your big news?
It’s bitter sweet. I’ve lived this lifestyle since I was a teenager and I don’t know any different but to chase and defend a title. It’s a mixture of emotions but they’re all positive. It’s having this prep and having people around me like my coach of 16 years, Neil Hill. He and I started this thing together. He believed in me way before anybody else did. My wife has been by my side through this legacy and I’ve had the ability to change my family’s lives through this sport. Now it’s time to give back to the fans. I don’t win the Olympian and hide away. I take it out to the fans to keep growing the sport, keep doing it my way, keep being humble, driven, motivational, and obviously never forget where I’ve come from. I still have this accent, I still know my humble roots. I go back home and see all my friends and they tell me, “Flex, you’ve never changed.” And that is the best thing ever.
Are there any last words that you want to say to your fans, as you prepare for your final 212 Olympia?
I just want to say thank you for all the years of support. I look forward to stepping on stage and impacting the fans. It’s going to be hard. As soon as I start thinking about it, that it’s going to be my last time on stage as a 212 athlete, I tear up. I wear my heart on my sleeve and that is why I am a damn good champion, because I am emotional. I also have to thank the IFBB Pro League. They’ve given me this platform to have a fantastic career and future. I want to thank Jim Manion, Robin Chang, and Steve Weinberger in particular, for always being there for me.
I do know this. If you guys are coming to the Olympia, you’re going to have a lot of fun. It’s going to be historic. It is going to be spectacular. And I promise that I’m going to bring a package that hasn’t been seen in the six years that I’ve stepped up on that stage, because this year is more meaningful to me than any other. So I urge you to come, enjoy the whole experience, and witness (God willing) as a kid that had a dream, ends his 212 career at the top.
Don’t miss the opportunity to see Flex Lewis compete on the 212 Olympia stage for the last time!
Get your tickets now at mrolympia.com!