Last month, while reading of rising tensions between Israel and Iran, bleak questions swirled in my mind: Are we looking at World War III? Is a nuclear holocaust imminent? Being a lifelong bodybuilding enthusiast added a further anxiety: What does all of this mean for Hadi “The Persian Wolf” Choopan?

The Iranian bodybuilder and 2022 Mr. Olympia champion shocked the world last month at the Arnold Classic Ohio—the International Fitness and Bodybuilding Federation’s second most prestigious show behind the Mr. Olympia itself. Commentators had written off Choopan after he lost his Mr. Olympia status to the younger American bodybuilder Derek Lunsford in 2023. The decision was seen by some as controversial: While Lunsford has razor-sharp glutes and a marvelous back, his front side is underwhelming, even soft-looking. Choopan, on the other hand, is ripped to shreds from the front, sporting deeply striated pectorals, massive, wide shoulders, and some of the best abs in the history of the sport. Even so, the narrative among judges was that Choopan’s signature conditioning was off, and the win went to Lunsford. Choopan didn’t handle the loss well; he ripped his second place metal off of his neck and stormed off the stage. 

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