The story of Evolution of Bodybuilding.net – Celebrating seven years online
Wow, it has already been seven years. It was seven years ago this week that Evolutionofbodybuilding.net (EOB) was made known to the bodybuilding world.
From its simple beginnings, to meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger and a number of other legends, winning awards and making Evolutionofbodybuilding.net a reference point in the bodybuilding and fitness industry, this truly has been a ride.
I (Kevin Grech) the owner of evolutionofbodybuilding.net have been a fan of the sport since a very young age.
It started by watching The Incredible Hulk every Friday evening at a very young age.
Then there was Pumping Iron and as well the occasional bodybuilding contests aired on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
From then on, it was a life of training and eventually competing with the IFBB at the age of 20.
Competing was a one time deal for me as I believed I can eventually contribute to the sport behind the scenes.
I ended up forming part of the IFBB-MALTA committee with former President Mario Pace and when that came to an end, till today I support the present President Ralph Decelis any possible way through promotion and as a media representative.
I stepped away from the gym for a few years as I got married, raised my children and focused on my career in the newspaper and magazine industry as a Studio Director.
When my daughters were older, I had more time to myself and eventually found myself at the gym again.
I believed it was time to create a website dedicated to bodybuilding. The idea was to create a website focusing on the history of bodybuilding.
I eventually purchased the .net version of Evolution of Bodybuilding. At that time, the fantastic documentary Evolution of Bodybuilding was just launched by Shawn Ray and Patrick Rivera.
I started to get criticized for purchasing that domain, but I continued to look ahead.
The first pro bodybuilder that I managed to contact and get a response from was Shawn Ray. I asked him if he was ok with me using the name and he had no problem with it.
While many continued to criticize, I eventually purchased the .com version of Evolution of Bodybuilding through an auction as it was not renewed.
It was time to start designing the website. As I just wanted to focus on the Mr. Olympia and the history of the sport, I contacted IFBB President Dr. Rafael Santonja.
Dr. Santonja welcomed my project and let me use all the material from IFBB’s historical archives.
The website was eventually finished and launched for the world to see.
As every website in its beginnings, traffic was very low. But being a static website, there was no updated news.
After some thought, I decided to take the plunge and start publishing contest results and features related to bodybuilding.
The website started to gain more momentum and it looked to be the right decision.
Not welcomed by the bodybuilding community
While the website started to gain more popularity, I started to reach out to other bodybuilding media and high profile people in the industry.
I must say, it was a horrible time for me. All I received was negative feed back and numerous people predicting the project will not last a year.
As I continued to push on, I would ignore the negative feedback and start focusing on building the website’s social media presence.
This part of the project was a immediate success. Facebook was the first social media outlet for EOB while I then moved on to Twitter and Instagram.
As everybody knows, the likes and followers start to come in fast, then taper down until the page owner starts pumping the money for page promotion.
I did not have the budget to splash money as I had absolutely no sponsors, so I did not pump money into social media.
Seven years later, I am happy with over 278,000 Facebook Likes and over 157,000 Instagram followers.
The negative feedback would eventually decrease as other bodybuilding media who viewed me as a competitor started to realize I was here to stay.
The phone call from Levrone
As the website started to gain momentum, I was still only publishing results from all the IFBB and Pro League shows… remember this was way before the split.
One day, while I was at work, I received a phone call from a unknown number. Usually I don’t answer, but this time I did.
I immediately hear “Hey Bro, how are you?” I immediately recognized the voice, it was the legend Kevin Levrone.
This was the start of a great friendship between me and Levrone as I eventually started to help him promote his social media and supplement brand.
This led to Kevin inviting me to the 2016 Levrone Classic and huge fitness expo in Gdansk, Poland.
I was treated like a king by Kevin, his partner Ted and friends. I also had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Shawn Ray, Chris Cormier, Robin Chang, IFBB President Rafael Santonja and all the other bodybuilding stars.
This was a dream come true. After this fantastic event, the next trip would be the 2016 Arnold Classic Europe.
As I was still building my sites reputation, another site was launched by Dan Solomon which was called Digital Muscle.
I did not view Dan as competition as we eventually contacted each other and traded ideas. We were in no way competing against each other.
Since I still had no leverage in the industry due to the majority of people trying to shut me down, I had a problem to get a press pass for the Arnold Classic Europe.
I knew Levrone would be there, but I did not want to bother him with such problems.
Out of nowhere, Dan Solomon offered me to represent his website at the event. Obviously I accepted and received my press pass.
Upon arriving in Barcelona, I immediately get a call from Shawn Ray. He introduced me to everybody that he knew and he helped me put one foot into the industry.
During that weekend, I was also lucky to meet Arnold Schwarzenegger and actually sit right behind him during the pro show, all thanks to Solomon.
During the event, even more exciting to me than even meeting Arnold was when I met bodybuilding legend Berry DeMey. As I was going up to meet him, he immediately told me that he knew who I was.
I took a step back and said to myself “Holy Shit, my website is being read.”
When the Arnold Europe was over, I decided to expand on the website, it was time to start writing articles and opinions.
Working with Milos Sarcev
Another bodybuilding legend that went out of his way to contact me was Milos Sarcev. I worked for him for a while, helping him with social media. Even when the working relationship ended, we remained close and continued to support each other.
I am truly blessed to be able to call Milos a friend. His knowledge of the sport and opinions are incredible. He is another person that truly speaks his mind.
The controversial stories
As 2017 was about to end, the stories on EOB’s website started to get more intense and controversial.
The split started to take place between the IFBB and NPC and I was stuck in the middle.
Instantly, I was flooded with stories that nobody would dare to publish.
I was still loyal to the IFBB headed by Dr. Rafael Santonja. I firmly believe he is the man that is still promoting the values of Ben and Joe Weider. Rafael was recommended by Ben Weider to lead the IFBB and he was elected as President and still holds the post till today.
Immediately after the split, since I live in Europe, I was brushed aside by many in the industry.
The more I tried to explain the back story about the split, the more hate came from the NPC loyalists.
I started to realize who my real friends were and thankfully, the few I got to know on a more personal level still remained close, such as Levrone, Shawn Ray, Dan Solomon and others.
Yes, I admit, I wrote a number of articles about Pro League President Jim Manion, but they all had the documents and proof to back them.
There is nothing wrong in campaigning for Jim Manion to drop the ‘IFBB’ name and replace it with ‘NPC’. That would make things easier for athletes to decide what association or federation they want to compete in.
The loyal NPC media will not dare to write an article like that as they know they will be punished.
After saying all this, I still totally respect Jim and what he does for the sport of bodybuilding. He is a major part of the history of bodybuilding, I would have no problem sitting with him and discuss the sport and ways to make it better.
After the split, I decided that I am not going to limit myself to just the IFBB/IFBB Elite Pro and NPC/Pro League, so I opened my website to all major federations.
I am happy to say I not only cover the IFBB/IFBB Elite Pro and NPC/Pro League events, but we also cover NABBA, GBO and others.
IFBB Media Team
Months after the split, the attacks I received on a personal level was increasing. My family was also attacked with vulgar messages and more.
While I was attending a the Malta Diamond Cup in 2018, IFBB President Dr. Rafael Santonja was in attendance.
When IFBB-MALTA President Ralph Decelis went to pick up Rafael from the airport, upon his arrival at the event, Ralph told me Rafael continued to ask for me.
I was shocked and thought maybe he was confusing me with somebody else… well I was wrong.
While I was watching and taking photos at the competition, a representative of the IFBB told me, Dr Santonja would like to speak to me.
This conversation ended up lasting hours and I realized the love and dedication Rafael has for the sport of bodybuilding and fitness.
All the negativity said about him on social media and forums is total bullshit. There is nobody more dedicated to the sport of bodybuilding and fitness as Dr. Rafael Santonja.
Dr Santonja, offered if I would like to be a part of his persononal IFBB Media Team and I immediately accepted.
As a part of the IFBB Media Team, I was given VIP access to many events such as the Arnold Classic Europe, IFBB European Championships, IFBB World Championships and numerous IFBB Elite Pro Shows.
Thanks to the IFBB, I was given the opportunity to meet and make friends all over the world. This is something that I cherish dearly.
Becoming great friends with super promoter Wayne DeMillia is a great gift. Our telephone conversations always last hours. Wayne is a huge part of the history of bodybuilding, his stories are never ending.
Another special moment was at the 2017 Arnold Classic Europe. Eating dinner at the hotel, surrounded by the best Pro League bodybuilders in the world such as Dexter Jackson, Roelly Winklaar, Johnnie Jackson, Victor Martinez, Dallas McCarver, Joshua Lenartwoicz and many more… I spotted one person that many don’t know about.
I saw Chris Aceto, sitting with Shawn Rhoden, who was eating his burger. I got up and rushed for the opportunity to talk to him and get a photo (see gallery). Chris is the architect behind 4X Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler’s massive career and currently Kamal Elgargni and Shawn Rhoden’s Olympia victories. These are the people I look up to and want to meet and hear their stories.
Plus, being a guest at private dinners with Arnold Schwarzenegger is something I cannot refuse.
Negativity equals popularity
As I continued to gain popularity through my website, my articles started to catch the eye of some prominent figures in the industry such as Bob Cicherillo and others in the same clan.
Obviously, Bob is not somebody that keeps his mouth shut. Bob openly challenged me on whatever I wrote.
I respected Bob immensely for the contribution he gives to the sport of bodybuilding. I grew up listening to Bob’s and Dan Solomon’s popular ‘Pro Bodybuilding Weekly’ show.
As I took Bob’s criticism, I dished a lot out to him as well. It went both ways.
What I did not realize at that moment was the more I was attacked, the more viewership I was getting. So actually, being the bad boy of the sport was actually getting me more viewership.
I eventually decided that it was getting out of hand and decided to stop with the crap.
I am happy to say that I regard Bob as a friend and I believe he believes the same.
Others still attack me on forums, but that is ok, as their negativity propels the website to higher levels and more popularity.
Leading the way
I always try to write original articles on EOB. As the articles are being read and getting great ratings on Google with millions of impressions, the tactics of various media in the bodybuilding industry really bothers me.
When I read an article or see a video on another website, I make sure to credit the original source if I wish to expand on their story.
What I have noticed is that I will know 100% that some articles that I publish are totally my creation.
Immediately, a few hours later, there are two websites that I prefer not to mention that blatantly copy that article and try to make it their own with out at least giving credit to EOB.
If I do ask for credit, these websites totally ignore my emails.
I would like to thank Dave Palumbo (RxMuscle.com), Joe Pietaro (Musclesportmag.com), Ron Harris (Musculardevelopment.com), Nick Trigili (wc-trainers.com) and Shawn Ray (Digitalmuscle.com) for always giving credit for articles they use from EOB. If I forgot to mention other media, I truly apologize.
The above mentioned editors work in a professional way and I see them as work colleagues in this crazy industry.
At the same time, it’s a great feeling knowing that my articles are being read and they are so good that others have to use them, even when they don’t give credit.
I make it a point to contact people that are mentioned in the article. I like to discuss my article privately with who is concerned and I will amend the article if needed.
IFBB Silver Medal
In 2019, I was truly shocked and honored when I was presented with the IFBB Silver medial at the 2019 IFBB European Championships during the IFBB European Congress. I was presented the medal by IFBB President Dr. Rafael Santonja. The award was for journalistic values and the promotion of bodybuilding and fitness through media. This was one of the greatest moments of my life. It is something I will never forget.
Plans for the future
I will continue to write investigative and controversial articles, while at the same time EOB will be the top site for contest coverage and opinions.
Youtube is something that I am trying to get more involved in, but at the same time, I prefer to write than talk into a camera. I prefer to watch or listen to the great shows by RXMuscle, Fouad Abiad, Jay Cutler and more.
I have some more ideas that hopefully will become reality in the near future for EOB.
A Big Thank You
I would like to thank all my loyal readers and friends that have supported me from the first day.
The IFBB and IFBB President Dr. Rafael Santonja. No words can explain the gratitude I have for the IFBB and Rafael Santonja. I see them as family and I am always welcomed as family when I travel to different countries for events. Rafael, his wife Nieves and family are incredible people and I am blessed to know them. The IFBB family are always welcoming me with open arms. Juliette Bergmann, Armando Marquez, Bill and Wanda Tierney, Celia, Diana, Vanessa, Josef, Ramos and many more, there are so many to mention, I appreciate all you do for me.
I would like to thank my dear friend Kevin Levrone. He has supported me from the beginning till today. Wherever he is around the world, I can expect a phone call from him… sometimes in the early hours of the morning… but I make it a point to answer him, that’s what friends do. Even when I wanted to meet 6X Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates, Kevin called him over and told him to come and meet me. Moments like this are priceless.
Shawn Ray, he is a character. I respect him as he just like me will speak the truth, regardless of the outcome. We have clashed on a number of my opinions, but we manage to figure things out as he knows we both are trying to do what is best for the sport. Shawn has been a big part of the history of this website as he always guides me in the right direction.
Eric Broser. Eric has been a contributor to this website from its beginnings. His knowledge of the sport is incredible. My site would not be half of what it is without his articles. If you watch Jay Cutler TV, you will surely know who Eric is. Eric is a great friend and EOB is his home as well.
IFBB-MALTA and Ralph Decelis. I would like to thank former President Mario Pace and current President Ralph Decelis. Their support has been incredible. Everybody within IFBB-MALTA have always encouraged me and supported me in every way possible throughout the years. Thank You.
Wayne DeMilia. This man needs no introduction. He was the promoter of the biggest event in the history of the sport of bodybuilding. He has been around the legends of the sport for practically their entire career, including athletes such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu and others. I always look forward to are long telephone conversations talking about the history of the sport.
Milos Sarcev. ‘The Mind’, he is one of the most dedicated people in the sport of bodybuilding. Milos is bodybuilding. I enjoy are chats and he is always the first to send me a message of support or thanks when I write and article that affects him somehow. He is one of the good guys of the sport.
Dan Solomon, Bob Cicherillo, the gang and the rest of the Pro bodybuilders. There are too many to mention, some would prefer not to be mentioned for valid reasons. When Dan took over the Olympia, he immediately invited me to the event. Knowing my view on certain subjects, he always respects a persons opinion and I really appreciate that. Dan understands my contribution and he is one of the good guys of the sport.
Regarding Bob… well I just hope Bob continues being Bob, we need people like that in the industry.
Tom Platz. I met Tom at the 2018 IFBB World Championships in Spain. It was a funny moment. I went for a walk to kill some time and when I returned to the hotel, I see Tom sitting quietly. I went over and introduced myself and it was another moment I will never forget. We continued to discuss the sport of bodybuilding throughout the weekend. We remained friends and continue to keep contact. Tom is so well spoken and his philosophy and motivation helps you move up to another level.
Si Sweeney. This is another person that has contributed so much to the sport of bodybuilding. A bodybuilding historian, he is the man when it comes to NABBA and its history. I appreciate his contribution to EOB and the many times he promotes this site. Even in his most difficult times, Si always made the time for everybody.
Alex Jamal. My friend from Venice, California. Alex has a incredible story and he is truly a inspiration. He has helped promote the site during the years and I really appreciate this.
Sponsors and Advertisers. A big Thank You goes out to all those who have supported me financially. I know many have blacklisted EOB after the split. I find this very funny as they have no idea they are losing exposure to athletes from other federations. But to the ones that have stood by EOB, I Thank You!
My Family. My wife and daughters are the backbone of EOB. Numerous times people tell me I am a one man show. This is far from the truth. I spend time away from them to write my articles or travel. That is why I say ‘We’ when I talk about the website and who is involved. The website would not last without them.
I can go on forever, I thank everybody that has contributed or pushed me to go further with EOB.
Some of the hundreds of photos I have managed to collect through the years.