Universe Championships

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The Universe Championships are annual worldwide bodybuilding events organised by the National Amateur Body-Builders' Association (NABBA). Originally promoted as the Mr. Universe contest, the event was expanded to include women's classes in 1968. Notable previous winners include bodybuilder, actor, and former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, and bodybuilder and actor Steve Reeves (1926–2000).[1]

The Universe Championships includes the following classes:

Men Women
Amateur Mr. Universe Ms. Universe (Toned Figure)
Junior Ms. Universe (Athletic Figure)
Novice Ms. Universe (Trained Figure)
Masters Over 45 Professional Ms. Universe (Trained)
Masters Over 55 Ms. Bikini
Sports Shorts
Classic Bodybuilding
Professional Mr. Universe


John Grimek, the first Mr. Universe, posing for the magazine organizing the event

In 1948 David Johnston, then editor of Strength and Health 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 Strength and Health 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.

In 1957, the Guadeloupan-French bodybuilder Arthur Robin became the first Black man to win the Mr Universe title.[2]

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 1960s and 1970s 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 bodybuilders 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 and Ms. Athletic Figure is now offered.

In 1985, 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 Scotland 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.


Year Mr. Universe (Professionals)[3] Mr. Universe (Amateur)[3] Miss Physique[3] Women / Miss Trained Figure[3] Miss Toned Figure[3] Miss Athletic Figure[3]
1948 John Grimek
1950 Steve Reeves
1951 Reg Park
1952 Juan Ferrero Mohammed Nasr
1953 Arnold Dyson Bill Pearl
1954 Jim Park Enrico Thomas
1955 Leo Robert Mickey Hargitay
1956 Jack Delinger Ray Schaeffer
1957 Arthur Robin John Lees
1958 Reg Park Earl Clark
1959 Bruce Randall Len Sell
1960 Paul Wynter Henry Downs
1961 Bill Pearl Ray Routledge
1962 Len Sell Joe Abbenda
1963 Abd El Hamid El Gindi[4] Tom Sansome
1964 Abd El Hamid El Gindi[4] John Hewlett
1965 Reg Park Elmo Santiago
1966 Paul Wynter Chester Yorton Elizabeth Lamb
1967 Bill Pearl Arnold Schwarzenegger Kathleen Winstanley
1968 Arnold Schwarzenegger Dennis Tinerino Silvia Hibbert
1969 Arnold Schwarzenegger Boyer Coe Jean Galston
1970 Arnold Schwarzenegger Frank Zane Christine Zane
1971 Bill Pearl Ken Waller Linda Thomas
1972 Frank Zane Elias Petsas Christine Charles
1973 Boyer Coe Chris Dickerson Jean Galston
1974 Chris Dickerson Roy Duval Linda Cheesman
1975 Steve Michalik Ian Lawrence Linda Cheesman
1976 Serge Nubret Shigeru Sugita Cindy Breakspear
1977 Tony Emmot Bertil Fox Bridget Gibbons
1978 Bertil Fox Dave Johns Sandra Kong
1979 Bertil Fox Ahmet Enünlü Karen Griffiths
1980 Tony Pearson Bill Richardson Erika Mes
1981 Robby Robinson John Brown Jocelyn Pigeonneau
1982 Edward Kawak John Brown Jocelyn Pigeonneau
1983 Edward Kawak Jeff King Mary Scott
1984 Edward Kawak Brian Buchanan Mary Scott
1985 Edward Kawak Tim Belknap Jocelyn Pigeonneau
1986 Lance Dreher Charles Clairmonte Monika Steiner Heidi Thomas
1987 Olev Annus Basil Francis Connie McClosky Sonia Walker
1988 Charles Clairmonte Victor Terra Lisa Campbell Sarah Staunton
1989 Charles Clairmonte Matt Dufresne Tatjana Scholl Tracey Citrone
1990 Charles Clairmonte Peter Reid Monika Debatin Browny OBrien
1991 Victor Terra Reiner Gorbracht Ute Geisel Helen Maderson
1992 Peter Reid Mustafa Mohammad Bernadette Price Anita Lawrence
1993 Edward Kawak Dennis Francis Deborah Compton Ali Slater
1994 John Terilli Nick van Beeck[5] Kathy Butler-Corish Susana Perez
1995 Brian Buchanan Grant Clemesha[5] Kathy Butler-Corish Susana Perez
1996 Shaun Davis Chris Hoshi Billie Kaine Pina Theodoridis
1997 Eddy Ellwood Grant Thomas Patricia Veldmann Jasraj Bhadana Gujjar
1998 Eddy Ellwood Gary Lister Julia Abel Pina Theodoridis
1999 Eddy Ellwood Franco Malè Taylor Young Giovanna Rosa
2000 Eddy Ellwood Sergei Ogorodnikov Olga Tikhonova Giovanna Rosa
2001 Eddy Ellwood Steffen Müller Anja Timmer Giovanna Rosa
2002 Gary Lister Costantino Galeazzo Claudia Bianchi Giovanna Rosa
2003 Gary Lister Hassan Al Saka Olga Tikhonova Cherie Loomes
2004 Hassan Al Saka Steve Sinton Sandra Waterschoot Lorena Bucci
2005 Sergei Ogorodnikov Charles Mario Desiree Dumpel Andrea Carvalho
2006 Steve Sinton Tomáš Bureš Olga Tikhonova Silvia Finocchi Ferreira
2007 Orazio Salvatori Orazio Salvatori Alina Popa Andrea Carvalho
2008 Alessandro Savi Lionel Beyeke Vivian Hijikema Maria Stukova
2009 Alexey Netesanov[6] Martin Kasal Larissa Cunha Dora Rodrigues
2010 Charles Mario Miha Zupan Valentyna Yefyemchuk Flora Conte
2011 Sangram Chougule Paulo Lima Santos Maria Kuzmina Maria Tereza Mendonca Pintya (BRA)
2012 Sangram Chougule Andy Polhill Maria Kuzmina Nicola Bentham (ENG)
2013 Lee Priest Flora Conte Nicola Bentham (ENG)
2014 Dave Titterton Barny Du Plessis Dora Rodrigues Charlotte MacGill (ENG)
2015 Tony Mount Paul Stewart Daria Diossi Alex Larkin (ENG)
2016 Tony Mount[7] Fabian Mayr[8] Emma Gormley Amy Wilson (UK)
2017 Shaun Joseph-Tavernier[9] Lee Seung Chul[3] Gemma Lancaster Natasha Novak (GB) Lee Tae Hee[3]
2018 Lee Seung Chul[3] Loughlin Gannon[3] Jekaterina Übelacker Natalia Jaremko (WAL) Christine Scerri[3]
2019 Josh Maley (GB)[10] Jack Brooker (GB)[3] Ilaria Armeni Gabriela Dezan (BRA) Ana Carla Ceron (IRL)
2022 Petr Kovář (CZE)[3] Daniel Glamm (AUT)[3] Emma Thackray Lisa Capper (GB) Tracy Hutchinson (NIR)


  1. ^ Shenk, Rochelle A. (2 November 2016). "Local gym pumped up for bodybuilding championship". Lititz Record Express. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  2. ^ WFF / NABBA Latvia. NABBA Universe Champions. Retrieved 26 December 2019
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "HALL OF FAME". NABBA. Retrieved July 28, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ a b "Mr. Universe Competition by FIHC".
  5. ^ a b Complete list of all NABBA Universe Winners GMV.com.au. Retrieved 10 May 2021.
  6. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juIglI0LJbA Alexey Netesanov (RUS), NABBA Universe 2009 - Pro Winner
  7. ^ Lye gym boss's Mr Universe show brings muscle to Birmingham Ludlow Advertiser. 5 November 2016. Retrieved 10 May 2021.
  8. ^ 2916 Mr Universe - NABBA MuscleMemory.com. Retrieved 10 May 2021.
  9. ^ Shaun Joseph Tavernier IFBB Pro: Bio DNA-Lean.co.uk. Retrieved 10 May 2021.
  10. ^ "NABBA Universe". nabba.at. Retrieved 2023-03-17.

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