I started pumping weights at 14 when I was bullied as skinny boy – Blessing Awodibu, US-based Nigerian bodybuilder
SEGUN ADEWOLE writes on a meeting between Blessing Awodibu, a United States-based Nigerian body builder and his fans in Lagos recently. Awodibu, who has had two Arnold Classic victories, during the meeting spoke about his upbringing, depression, difficulties and accomplishments in the fitness industry
Blessing Awodibu may boast of two Arnold Classic as well as four IFBB Overall Champion titles but the path to stardom for the 30-year-old Irish bodybuilder of Nigeria descent wasn’t exactly paved in gold.
Awodibu, while speaking during a ‘Meet & Greet’ in Lagos State on Saturday, June 25, 2022, said that when he was around seven years old, he used to carry out laborious tasks like breaking palm kernels with his feet and travelling great distances while carrying a pail of water or firewood on his head. He claimed that those factors made him resilient to handle the difficulties he encountered in the diaspora. He added that his mother’s remarks to him inspired him to be a great person before leaving Nigeria for Ireland in the late ‘90s.
“She told me to go out there, be great, and come back home to help me. Along the line, I found another purpose which was to reach and inspire the younger generation to make a change. At this level I am right now, I always ask myself how I can engage the youths. How can I positively touch somebody? I was able to do that through comedy, making skits along with being a professional,” he said.
Speaking on why he chose bodybuilding, he said, “One of the problems we face as Nigerians, especially growing up, is that we are not given the opportunity to be who we are. I was in the same category too. My mother told me she was sending me to Europe to either become a doctor, lawyer, nurse or a pilot. Anything else outside of that, then I would no longer be her son. That hit me hard. I was sent to Dublin, Ireland, where I studied extremely hard to make my parents’ dream a reality.”
Awodibu revealed things became difficult for him because he wasn’t an Irish citizen and he soon became broke, which hindered his progression into college.
“I thought it was all over for me; I was crying. I let my parents and everybody down. My mother was stuck in Nigeria and poor and I couldn’t do anything about it. I started looking for answers. Sometimes we have to look deep within us because the answer you are looking for is here within your hands. I didn’t like how I appeared when I was younger. I was a skinny African who experienced severe bullying. That’s what inspired me to exercise, and I’ve been working out and lifting weights like Arnold Schwarzenegger since I was 14 years old,” Awodibu added.
He claimed that after realising that fitness was the one thing he rarely thought about at night, he discovered body building to be his calling. “Maybe this is my calling,” he stated, adding that, “maybe my inability to get into college was a blessing in disguise.”
“My advice to parents is to allow their kids to be who they want to be. Don’t have your mind locked up in a box. If you raise your kids by saying there is only one way, trust me, there will only be one way. What happens if that door is locked? They become nothing. Parents, please let’s have a change of thought on that,” he added.
Asked if he ever thought he would make it to this level in body building, he responded, “When I started bodybuilding, It wasn’t because I wanted to become a great bodybuilder. I did it to protect myself. I was just doing what made me happy and I didn’t know where it was going to take me. It was just my passion. I continued to do it and it landed me here.”
On those he looks up to, he said, “Growing up in Ireland, I loved watching wrestling – WWE. I didn’t know anything about body building. I always thought I would be like one of those guys entertaining people and fighting on TV. The Rock was my main man. I love The Rock because he’s a great entertainer, icon, body builder, fitness enthusiast and Hollywood movie star.
Eventually, I discovered Schwarzennegar and his documentary Pumping Iron. Arnold’s father wanted him to go into the army because that was what they do in their family. Arnold left home and went to the US because he found body building. He was able to win Mr Olympia seven times. He’s someone I look up to because I feel like I can relate to him. If he could do it, I can do it too. Arnold went from that to becoming a Hollywood superstar. That wasn’t enough for him as he later became a politician. He probably doesn’t know that he inspired a younger Blessing. So, I connect with The Rock and Arnold and get inspiration from both.”
Awodibu’s physique is comparable to that of four healthy individuals combined, but what sets him apart is the abundance of well-toned muscles that signify a low body fat percentage. The muscular physique wasn’t entirely attained by spending endless hours alone in the gym. He claims that he consumes up to seven meals each day.
“To achieve this kind of physique, you need food. That is one area I don’t think people have done enough research on, especially in Africa. It doesn’t matter how hard you work in the gym. If you are consuming junk food, you are not going to get the result that you worked for. What we eat is extremely important. For me, when I’m bulking, I eat up to ten thousand calories per day, that’s six to seven meals per day. We take protein shakes and some supplements. That’s a lot of food. To some people, they can’t afford it because it’s very expensive. That’s the reason why I started making skits on social media so I could have a lot of followers online and to be able to secure sponsors for my clothing, shoes and protein powder.
He said when it’s bodybuilding season, he reduces his calorie intake from 10 thousand to two thousand to enable him to get shredded, lean and fit for competitions.
In 2021, Awodibu, also called ‘A force of nature’ by fans, had a rough year which saw him fall into depression. This was after he called out a fellow body builder, Nick Walker, saying he was going to do better than him in the 2021 New York Pro. The Boogie Man ended up in the sixth position of the competition which was won by Walker. He, however, bounced back by winning the 2021 edition, the 2022 Indy Pro and qualified for this year’s Mr Olympia.
“Going into my pro debut, I started a rivalry with a great athlete from the US; I called him out and everybody went crazy. This got me a lot of hate because it was never seen before in fitness, where one guy calls out another, saying he’s going to beat him in six weeks. They saw that as disrespectful, whereas it was generating a lot of engagement and excitement which was what I brought to my pro debut. However, I didn’t look good and I failed, everybody came at me with a lot of hate. When you put yourself out there on social media, there’s going to be a lot of trolls and critiques,” he said.
He continued, “I was living all by myself in Florida; my wife was in Ireland, so I was facing that all alone. All of a sudden I was unable to sleep which was never my issue. I went to see doctors to find out why I was unable to sleep. They did tests and said there was nothing wrong with me. When I spoke with my friends, they asked about my mental health and about my mind. That was when I realised that that could be the problem because I was always in my mind. I later realised that I was actually dealing with depression.”
On Mr Olympia, he said, “I’m making my debut this year, representing Nigeria, flying that flag and letting the world know that Nigeria will ‘never carry last’. This year’s Olympia is going to be the most exciting and electrifying ever because of the entertainment that the Boogie Man is bringing in.”
The Boogie Man, who got the alias from the Hollywood movie, John Wick, also spoke about his sex life as a body builder. Speaking in Yoruba, he said, “mon gba kini yen lo ni,” which in English means “I hit that thing on and on.”