Universe Championships

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The Universe Championships are an annual bodybuilding event organised by the National Amateur Body-Builders' Association (NABBA).

The Universe Championships includes the following classes:

  • Amateur Mr. Universe
  • Professional Mr. Universe
  • Ms Universe (Figure)
  • Ms Universe (Toned Figure)
  • Mr. Universe (Masters Over 40)
  • Mr. Universe (Masters Over 50)
  • Junior Mr. Universe


In 1948 David Johnston, then editor of Health & Strength magazine, and his team organised the Mr. Universe contest in London to coincide with the Olympic Games. The event drew great attention from bodybuilders and the general public who packed the Scala Theatre to see the spectacle. John Grimek earned the inaugural title with Steve Reeves placing second. Reeves eventually found his way to the microphone to declare, "I think that John Grimek is the greatest bodybuilder who ever lived!"

While there was no contest held in 1949, behind the scenes, members of the Health & Strength League were arranging the formation of the National Amateur Body-Builders' Association or NABBA. NABBA announced that it would be hosting the Mr Universe contest again in 1950. Steve Reeves returned to England to be crowned champion that year. Despite being the first NABBA Mr Universe, Steve Reeves was not chosen as the silhouette for the NABBA logo. That distinction would go to John Grimek and his likeness is still used to this day as the emblem of the association.

When Oscar Heidenstam became the NABBA Secretary in 1955, after a highly successful competitive career, he quickly became the main driving force of not only NABBA but also the Mr Universe contest. Around the same time, a network of area shows in the UK was established to increase membership.

The early success of the Mr Universe was underpinned by the support of many of the big names taking part such as John Grimek, Steve Reeves, Reg Park and Bill Pearl. Into the 1960's and 1970's the Mr Universe also became the launching pad for many of the famous bodybuilders of the day such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Serge Nubret and many others.

These were the most influential champions, who not only took part, but encouraged others in America and Europe to support the Universe. Their inspiration still encourages many young body-builders today.

While the contest was initially only for amateur male bodybuilders, a professional class was added in 1952. The NABBA UK Constitution traditionally defines an amateur as someone who has "never entered and accepted prize money in an advertised professional event." Today NABBA International, the worldwide governing body, offers Pro Cards to the four male height class winners at the Universe Championships and the NABBA World Championships. Between 2011 and 2013 there was no professional Mr. Universe class held as interest had diminished. In 2013 however, following a seven-year absence from competition, Lee Priest returned and won the overall title as an amateur. Following his victory, the NABBA International Council determined that in 2014 the NABBA Professional Division would be reestablished with the inaugural professional contest being the 2014 NABBA World Championships in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 2014, Dave Titterton won the Professional Mr Universe title in Southport, England.

Women's bodybuilding classes were included from 1968 as Ms Physique and then divided in 1986 into Ms Physique and Ms Figure. The Ms Physique class has since been discontinued at the Universe Championships however a Ms Toned Figure is now offered.

In 1988, a Junior Mr Universe class was included for men under 21 years. The class was discontinued between 1990 and 1999 but returned in 2000.

In 1991, a Masters Over 40 class was introduced. The inaugural winner was Graeme Lancefield from Australia, narrowly beating NABBA legend John Citrone for the title. A Masters Over 50 class was introduced in 2002 with Mr Universe veteran Ian Lawrence from England capturing the new award.

The NABBA Universe Championships is conducted under the auspices of NABBA UK and its chairman Jim Charles.

A separate competition called IFBB Mr. Universe was organized by the IFBB however his changed its name to the World Amateur Bodybuilding Championships in 1976.


The athletes are judged on their symmetry, proportions and the size and clarity of each muscle group. Most of the judging occurs during the day (this is called the pre-judging) before the distractions of the evening show, the finals.

Juan Ferrero, the first Professional Mr Universe.


Year Mr. Universe (Amateur) Mr. Universe (Pro) Miss Physique Miss Figure
1948 John Grimek
1949 No contest
1950 Steve Reeves
1951 Reg Park
1952 Manohar Aich Juan Ferrero
1953 Bill Pearl Arnold Dyson
1954 Enrico Thomas Jim Park
1955 Mickey Hargitay Leo Robert
1956 Ray Schaeffer Jack Delinger
1957 John Lees Arthur Robin
1958 Earl Clark Reg Park
1959 Len Sell Bruce Randall
1960 Henry Downs Paul Wynter
1961 Ray Routledge Bill Pearl
1962 Joe Abbenda Len Sell
1963 Tom Sansome Joe Abbenda
1964 John Hewlett Earl Maynard
1965 Elmo Santiago Reg Park
1966 Chester Yorton Paul Wynter
1967 Arnold Schwarzenegger Bill Pearl
1968 Dennis Tinerino Arnold Schwarzenegger Silvia Hibbert
1969 Boyer Coe Arnold Schwarzenegger Jean Galston
1970 Frank Zane Arnold Schwarzenegger Christine Zane
1971 Ken Waller Bill Pearl Linda Thomas
1972 Elias Petsas Frank Zane Christine Charles
1973 Lou Ferrigno Boyer Coe Jean Galston
1974 Roy Duval Chris Dickerson Linda Cheesman
1975 Ian Lawrence Boyer Coe Linda Cheesman
1976 Shigeru Sugita Serge Nubret Cindy Breakspear
1977 Bertil Fox Tony Emmot Bridget Gibbons
1978 Dave Johns Bertil Fox Sandra Kong
1979 Ahmet Enünlü Bertil Fox Karen Griffiths
1980 Bill Richardson Tony Pearson Erika Mes
1981 John Brown Robby Robinson Jocelyn Pigeonneau
1982 John Brown Edward Kawak Jocelyn Pigeonneau
1983 Jeff King Edward Kawak Mary Scott
1984 Brian Buchanan Edward Kawak Mary Scott
1985 Tim Belknap Edward Kawak Jocelyn Pigeonneau
1986 Charles Clairmonte Lance Dreher Monika Steiner Heidi Thomas
1987 Basil Francis Olev Annus Connie McClosky Sonia Walker
1988 Victor Terra Charles Clairmonte Lisa Campbell Sarah Staunton
1989 Matt Dufresne Charles Clairmonte Tatjana Scholl Tracey Citrone
1990 Peter Reid Charles Clairmonte Monika Debatin Browny OBrien
1991 Reiner Gorbracht Victor Terra Ute Geisel Helen Maderson
1992 Mustafa Mohammad Peter Reid Bernadette Price Anita Lawrence
1993 Dennis Francis Edward Kawak Deborah Compton Ali Slater
1994 Nick van Beeck[1] John Terilli Kathy Butler-Corish Susana Perez
1995 Grant Clemesha[2] Brian Buchanan Kathy Butler-Corish Susana Perez
1996 Federico Focherini Shaun Davis Billie Kaine Pina Theodoridis
1997 Grant Thomas Eddy Ellwood Patricia Veldmann Claudia Mühlhaus
1998 Gary Lister Eddy Ellwood Julia Abel Pina Theodoridis
1999 Franco Male Eddy Ellwood Taylor Young Giovanna Rosa
2000 Sergei Ogorodnikov Eddy Ellwood Olga Tikhonova Giovanna Rosa
2001 Steffen Müller Eddy Ellwood Anja Timmer Giovanna Rosa
2002 Costantino Caleazzo Gary Lister Claudia Bianchi Giovanna Rosa
2003 Hassan Al Saka Gary Lister Olga Tikhonova Cherie Loomes
2004 Steve Sinton Hassan Al Saka Sandra Waterschoot Lorena Bucci
2005 Charles Mario Sergei Ogorodnikov Desiree Dumpel Andrea Carvalho
2006 Tomáš Bureš Steve Sinton Olga Tikhonova Silvia Finocchi Ferreira
2007 Orazio Salvatori Orazio Salvatori Alina Popa Andrea Carvalho
2008 Lionel Beyeke Alessandro Savi Vivian Hijikema Maria Stukova
2009 Martin Kasal Alexey Netesanov Larissa Cunha Dora Rodrigues
2010 Miha Zupan Charles Mario Valentyna Yefyemchuk Flora Conte
2011 Paulo Lima Santos No Contest No Contest Maria Kuzmina
2012 Andy Polhill No Contest No Contest Maria Kuzmina
2013 Lee Priest No Contest No Contest Flora Conte
2014 Barny Du Plessis Dave Titterton No Contest Dora Rodrigues


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