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The Mr. Olympia Contest is accepted as the premier bodybuilding contest. However, when Arnold Schwarzenegger won his first, the contest it was only in it’s sixth year and wasn’t the most prestigious bodybuilding contest. That distinction went to the NABBA’s (National Amateur Body-Builders Association) Professional (I know, it conflicts with the “A” in NABBA) Mr Universe Contest. Joe Weider wanted a contest where the best bodybuilders who were under contract with him could compete to be the best in the world. When Weider created the IFBB Mr. Olympia Contest in 1965 there were only three competitors. The 1965 NABBA Professional Mr. Universe had 8 competitors and was won by Reg Park. How many bodybuilders can tell you who won the 1965 NABBA Professional Mr. Universe? Anyone that follows bodybuilding can tell you, however, who won the 1965 IFBB Mr. Olympia. Larry Scott, for those who don’t follow bodybuilding history.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger won his second IFBB Mr. Olympia in 1971 he was the only competitor. Roy Callender, Franco Columbu, and Sergio Oliva were disqualified for entering “unsanctioned meets” like Franco Columbu’s entrance in the AAU Mr. World contest the previous year. Contrast that with the 1971 NABBA Professional Mr. Universe which had 11 competitors and was won by Bill Pearl. That is not to say that Arnold wasn’t the best bodybuilder that year but that the NABBA at that time had more prestige. The tables quickly turned and the IFBB Mr. Olympia became regarded as the number one contest in the world remains so to this day. Perhaps the biggest push for the IFBB Mr.Olympia was it’s centerpiece status in the groundbreaking documentary Pumping Iron.
By the way, Arnold had already proved himself in the NABBA by winning the NABBA Mr Universe amateur division in 1967 and the NABBA Pro Mr. Universe in 1968, 1969, and 1970.