Professional bodybuilding at its best will be on display in Sacramento on Saturday, July 13, as some of the top natural athletes in the world will be competing for up to $10,000 in prize money and the title of IFPA Pro USA. Hosted by veteran promoters Bob Bell and Tina Smith under the banner of their production company California Natural Muscle, the event is sanctioned by the International Fitness and Physique Association (IFPA) and is held in conjunction with the 16th annual California Natural Muscle Mayhem Bodybuilding and Figure Championships, sanctioned by the North American Natural Bodybuilding Federation (NANBF).
Last year’s Pro USA winner was, of course, the great Moji Oluwa, twice voted the greatest natural bodybuilder of all time in the annual National Natural Bodybuilding Examiner poll.
Among this year’s stellar male contestants will be Ryan Irwin, the mighty might from Clive, Iowa, who won the overall championship at the Illinois Great Lakes Championships back in 2005 and earned his pro card in 2009. At 5’4” Irwin is one of the smaller competitors in the professional ranks, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in rugged muscularity achieved from years of competitive powerlifting and hard training. He is owner and manager of Nutri-Sport Training & Sports Nutrition which specializes in the potent combination of nutritional guidance, body sculpting, and sports specific training.
Idaho’s Craig Toth is an enigma to professional bodybuilding because he competes so often. While most professional bodybuilders compete only once or twice a year because of the rigorous demands of maintaining optimal physical condition, Toth – who has a Masters degree in Exercise and Sports Studies and owns his own personal training studio, Peak Performance in Boise – manages to stay in top shape most of the year and typically competes as often as 8 times each year. He has been competing for more than 20 years and is a two-time winner of the ABFF Alaska State Pro-Am Championships (2009 and 2010) and won the 2007 WFF Gold’s Gym Treasure Valley and 2009 NGA Northwestern Natural & Pro Atlas titles, among others. A familiar face to Sacramento, Toth has competed in this contest before and is looking to walk away with the Pro USA title under his belt this year. Don’t bet against him.
IFPA pro Liam McKeon, 33, is arriving from Manchester in the United Kingdom with visions of victory. He captured the 2009 NANBF Natural Universe title in Grand Cayman and earned his IFPA pro card by winning the NANBF Nutri-Sport Championships in Iowa in 2010. It’s been a long journey since a nasty motorcycle accident in 2002 ended his future in Thai boxing and started him on the road to bodybuilding as part of his therapy, but he has clearly turned things around to become one of the best in the sport. He should be a top threat in this event, and his recent sponsorship by Vitamin Shop/Trec has inspired his training. “I’m really driven to win!” says Liam. “We promise we will….”
Donovan Strong might have something to say about that. At 5’9” and 205 lbs, Strong evokes memories of the great Ron Williams with his powerful physique, and – really – could any bodybuilder hope for a better name than “Strong?” (although many readers may recall that Arnold Schwarzenegger briefly changed his name to Arnold “Strong” for his first feature film, “Hercules in New York,” a low-budget film that will forever live in ignominy). A Senior Network Security Engineer, Strong is from Bowie, MD, and earned his pro card by winning the Presidential Cup in 2008.
The owner of Performance Gaines Training Systems in Palo Alto, CA, Christopher Gaines won his pro card by winning the overall title at Muscle Mayhem in 2010, and in 2012 he won the tall class at the Iron Gladiator contest. The Stanford graduate will be one of the biggest contestants at 6’1” and 220 lbs, and there’s nothing he would like better than to win on his home turf.
Jeff Hoover from Heminford, NE – sometimes referred to as “The Natural Oak” – won his pro card at the 2011 NANBF Saint Louis Gateway Naturals with an impressive victory for the overall title. The 6’3” software engineer will be making his pro debut at this year’s Pro USA.
Benny Mobley from Bellevue, WA, is still new on the pro circuit and anxious to make his mark. Mobley, 48, won the NANBF Washington State Natural Championships in 2011 to earn his pro card and looks to pack on about 215 lbs at 5’11” on stage. He is owner of Better Body Total Fitness in Bellevue where he works as a personal trainer, life fitness coach, and professional model.
British Natural Bodybuilding Federation (BNBF) champ Chris Nsubuga, aka the Big C, is coming off of a big win last September when he he won the DFAC Pro Universe. He earned his professional status with the BNBF back in 2005. The big guy -6’3” and 220 lbs – from Morden, Merton, UK, wants to add another title to his growing resume.
Cecil Green captured the Muscle Mayhem title in 2011, earning his IFPA pro card and a trip to Scotland to compete in the BNBF British Grand Prix. The screenwriter from Hollywood, CA, would love to script a big win in the Pro USA this year and cast himself as the lead actor. At 5’6”, he will compete at around 154 lbs but, like Irwin, he has already proven that he can beat the big boys when he is at his best, and he just might have the right combination of symmetry and muscularity to pull it off again.
Delaware’s Chadwick Austin won his pro card in 2008 at the OCB Liberty States Natural in Binghamton, NY, and, at 6’0” and 220 lbs is always a threat. He works in the fitness industry through the Natural Muscle Network.
The audience will appreciate that all of these athletes are natural, which means that they have developed their physiques without the use of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. Both events will be drug tested so that all athletes can compete on a level playing field.
Both the Pro USA and the California Natural Muscle Mayhem will take place at the Sheldon High School Performing Arts Center in Sacramento. Tickets will be on sale at the door (cash only, please). For further information, contact California Natural Muscle at email@example.com or call 916-354-1769.
NOTE: A separate review of female athletes competing in the Pro USA will follow as well as reviews on late entries.