On Tuesday, FLEX found out another top competitor is withdrawing from the Arnold Classic when Johnnie Jackson informed us he will not be stepping on stage in Columbus on March 3.

“I’m not doing it,” Jackson said between sets of inclines at Stroud’s gym in Hurst, Texas. “I didn’t even put in for it. I actually didn’t even know I was invited until somebody called me.”

Jackson, who notched his first professional victory at the 2006 Montreal Pro Classic, will take some time off before competing in the Keystone Pro Classic in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on May 26.

“Right now, my wife and I are trying to have a baby,” Jackson said. “That’s why I’m not doing the Arnold. I’ll do the Pennsylvania show, then a week after that the Colorado Pro. Then I’ll take a little break and do the Montreal show and the Atlantic City.”

Jackson said he is rejuvenated for the 2007 season after earning his first pro win in 2006. “I think about it from time to time when I’m sitting, just watching TV or sitting alone,” Jackson said. “It brings a smile to my face. Once you turn pro, especially when you win the overall [NOTE: Jackson won the overall at the 2001 NPC Nationals], you assume you are going to win a pro show soon after that. Then, after four years, when it doesn’t happen, you start going downhill emotion-wise. Winning the show was a 180-degree turn for me in terms of the confidence and motivation it gave me.

“I would always get introduced as one of the top pros, but you don’t feel that way because you haven’t won a pro show. I remember sitting in a vehicle with Branch Warren, Melvin Anthony and Dennis James out in Kuwait, and the subject of wining shows came up. I just had to sit there and say to myself, “OK, I don’t have anything to say about this. It sucks when you get amongst your peers, when guys are talking about shows they won and you can’t add anything and just have to sit back and listen. Now I can actually get involved in the conversation.”

Since Jackson won’t be competing in the Arnold, look for his predictions on the show in the March issue of FLEX.