By John Plummer
Prize money for the new IFBB Elite Pro division has already topped the $1m mark for 2018.
The IFBB only created the new pro division a few months ago and has moved swiftly to offer athletes a full programme of prestigious international events and impressive financial opportunities with the sport's biggest federation.
This year's calendar includes Arnold Classics in Europe, Africa and South America as well as the $200,000 World Championships.
The Elite Pro website currently lists 23 events in countries as diverse as Cancun, Russia and Canada. Thirteen contests are in Europe, which significantly reduces travel costs for athletes from this continent.
Prize money will be more evenly distributed than many athletes are used to, particularly between men and women.
Bodybuilding remains the most lucrative category, with about $220,000 up for grabs. There is also about $140,000 for men's physique and $50,000 for classic bodybuilding.
The female classes include about $140,000 for bikini fitness, $65,000 for bodyfitness and $60,000 for wellness. The best women's physique competitors will share $10,000 at the Arnold Classic Europe alone, as will the top women's fitness athletes.
The IFBB will divide the €200,000 and $70,000 prize money from the World Championships and Arnold Classic Africa respectively so the amount available for all categories is likely to rise considerably.
The IFBB, which was founded by Ben and Joe Weider in 1946 and has federations in 197 countries, has paved the way for higher prize money by reducing the cost of sanction fees on promoters.
In the past, non-US pro athletes faced high cost trips to America to compete in events where the judging traditionally favoured US athletes.
The NPC continues to urge competitors to 'follow the dream' of the Olympia but the cost of doing so is not cheap: the first NPC pro show in London is charging spectators £100 for all-day tickets on the Sunday. Coaches' tickets cost an additional £50. There is scarce information about prize money.
Registration fees for its pro qualifiers are £150, which is £30 more than the cost of a four-year UKBFF membership. The £80 entry fee to enter an amateur class is more than the cost of a two-year UKBFF membership.
The new IFBB Elite Pro division means competitors can now participate in top quality international events, with good prize money, less US-dominated judging and a firm stance against distracting body parts, especially distended guts.
The European contests include the Arnold Classic Europe in Spain, which has $100,000 prize money and two contests in Greece, which both have €50,000 available, including a combined €28,000 for bodybuilding and €16,000 each for classic bodybuilding, men's physique, bodyfitness and bikini fitness. Wellness has €8,000.
The Rome event in November has $60,000 prize money, which is broken down into €10,000 each for bodybuilding, men's physique, classic bodybuilding, bikini fitness, wellness and bodyfitness.