Written by Ron Harris
10 February 2017


Star Profile: Mike Christian - The Iron Warrior Interview Part 1



Few men have had an impact on the sport of bodybuilding like Mike Christian has. After turning professional in 1984, he became one of just a handful of men, along with Rich Gaspari, Gary Strydom, and Lee Labrada, to seriously threaten Lee Haney as he dominated the decade with a record eight Mr. Olympia titles. The Iron Warrior, as he was known, was one of the most massive bodybuilders ever at 6-1 and 245 pounds, known for his dense and full upper body. Mike also became one of the first bodybuilders to run a successful sportswear company, Platinum Everywear. After a strong run in the IFBB in which he scored five pro victories, he was lured away to join Vince McMahon’s World Bodybuilding Federation. This was the beginning of the end, as a hefty contract and too much free time contributed to a full-blown cocaine addiction. Mike went on to lose his house, his business, his fiance, his huge physique, and nearly his sanity. It’s been over a decade now since Mike last graced a contest stage. For his many loyal fans, it’s time for an update on one of the most inspirational and influential bodybuilders of the last twenty years.


When and where were you born?

MC: Cleveland, Ohio, on February 5, 1955.


Do you have any brothers or sisters?

MC: I have two older stepsisters, and older brother, and a younger brother. I’m the middle child.


Tell me about your parents.

MC: My dad was a bus driver for many years, first in Cleveland, then in Los Angeles, and finally in Oregon. My mother died when I was nine from kidney failure. She had Lupus.


What are some of your memories of her?

MC: She was always caring and loving, and I was a mama’s boy, clinging to her and crying all the time. I have a lot of memories of visiting her in the hospital toward the end.


What kind of a kid were you? What were your hobbies and interests?

MC: I was a mischievous kid, always getting into something. I always wanted to be the center of attention. I was good in school academically, but I was constantly interrupting the class – the typical class clown. As a kid I was into action figures, then around fifteen or sixteen I got totally hooked on karate. I took some classes, but I always had the sais, the geis, and a giant stack of Black Belt magazines up against my bedroom wall. Bruce Lee was my idol. Who knew I would be competing against another Lee – Haney – years later!


Did you have that poster from Enter the Dragon where he’s got the bloody slashes on his chest and stomach?

MC: You know it! Right on the outside of my bedroom door.


Were you athletic?

MC: No, I never played any sports.


What type of crowd did you run with as a teenager?

MC: That’s why I didn’t play sports. In junior high and high school I got involved with some bad kids. When I was fifteen we had moved from Ohio to South Central L.A. My dad had moved us to a nicer neighborhood in Inglewood, but it was too late. I joined a gang. Actually, I was the leader. I don’t want to say the name, because it’s a large gang and still going on today. I ended up getting in trouble and doing some time in the Youth Authority.


Were you lifting back then?

MC: I was, but not with bodybuilding in mind. I just wanted to get big so I could scare people and knock guys out. A lot of the kids in the gangs were into weights for those reasons.


Were you always one of the biggest, strongest kids around?

MC: I was always thin, but had an athletic look with broad shoulders and a small waist. As a teenager I was about 5-10 and 170, but I was always ripped with big veins running up and down my arms.


What was the first image you saw that inspired you to start lifting weights?

MC: I used to look at Joe Weider’s old Muscle Builder magazine and see guys like Arnold, Lou Ferrigno, Sergio Oliva, and Robby Robinson. I totally freaked out. I remember thinking, dang! I wish I had a bicep like that! When I finally got to the Olympia in ’85 and beat Robby and Sergio, it didn’t even seem real. I kept thinking it had to be a dream, because those guys were so inspirational and larger than life to me when I was younger.


How did you get your information on training and nutrition in the early days? Any mentors?

MC: I was reading the magazines, and studying the routines and habits of guys like Arnold, Robby, Sergio. I read Arnold’s book, and I always felt his was the closest structure to mine. Later I was able to pick the brains of guys like Frank Zane. I was also lucky enough to have a great mentor in the beginning. After my trouble in L.A, my dad moved us all up to Portland, Oregon in ‘76. Thank God he did, or else I may have ended up dead or in jail. I started working out at a place called the Knox Street recreational center and met a bodybuilder named Chuck Amato. He competed in the AAU America a few times in the 70’s and did very well. He gave me a tremendous amount of guidance, showing me how to train and eat, and was the one who talked me into competing.


Looking back, what were the things you did right back then in terms of training and nutrition, and what were you doing wrong?

MC: I was obviously doing some things right, but I have always been a little lazy with my training. I’d have to say the worst thing back in my early years was my attitude. I still had that gang mentality of wanting to beat people up. I was very arrogant. When I started competing, I would go to other gyms and tell the other guys not to bother competing, because I was going to win anyway. And for a long time, I did.


How fast did you respond and start getting very muscular?

MC: I was a genetic freak, as pretty much anyone who gets to the highest levels of bodybuilding is. I put on about ten pounds of muscle the first three months I was there, which was a lot for me. But I would quit training for months after a contest, and continued to do that through my pro career. In hindsight, I would change that. I would only take two weeks off.


If I remember correctly, weren’t you pretty small in the off-season compared to your stage weight?

MC: Yes. I was talking to IFBB judge Clark Sanchez not long ago, and he remembered seeing me a month or two before a contest and being very shocked at how much less size I carried than what he was used to seeing. I was always able to put it all together in six to eight weeks. Guys would see me at that point and count me out, but then I would put on thirty or forty pounds of muscle leading up to the show. I took a lot of pride in being able to wait until the last minute, when other guys had to diet and train hard all year. Me and Mike Quinn almost got into a fistfight one time over that, because he was so envious.


How long did it take you to get to your eventual contest weight of 245?

MC: That took a whole ten years of training. I always had a fast metabolism, coupled with a pretty poor appetite – not the ideal combination for bodybuilding. I had to force myself to eat six to ten meals a day, even though I was often full after just a few bites. I got really sick of eating so much. Now I only eat twice a day, which isn’t the best situation either, but that’s how often I get genuinely hungry.


Which bodyparts came first for you? Which ones were a struggle?

MC: Arms were the first thing, arms and shoulders. Later my back was very well developed. I used to only train arms four weeks before a contest, letting the other bodyparts catch up, and it worked pretty well. My legs were always a challenge. I never got into leg training the way I did for other muscles. I tried so many different routines and exercises to make them grow, and in the last five years I was competing they finally came up. But they were definitely my weak point for a long time.


How did you go about entering your first contest, and what was it like?

MC: Once I had been training with Chuck for a couple months, he tried to talk me into competing. I thought it was kind of gay, with the little Speedos and getting all oiled up, so I just said, “no, that’s not for me.” But he kept at it, and would show me pictures from contests and tell me how good he thought I could do. I finally agreed to do the Amateur Mr. Portland and won that. I was hooked from that point on. I was able to get the same attention and respect that being in the gang had given me, except this was something positive. Winning also fueled my fire. And I won the second show I did, the third, and the fourth. After a couple years, the judges got tired of my arrogance and started shutting me down with lower placings.


When did you start getting some humility?

MC: I moved back down to L.A. in ’81 and entered the Cal that year, after having just won my class at the North American. Of course I was cocky and thought I would win. I didn’t even make the top ten in my class. For someone who was used to winning so easily, it was devastating. Granted, I overdieted and wound up in the lightheavyweights at 198, but I still thought I was good enough for the top ten. I mean, I was small, but I was also ripped. That experience humbled me and gave me a new outlook.


Where did you get the nickname, “The Iron Warrior?”

MC: After I finally won the Cal in ’83, I decided I wanted a cool nickname. Sergio Oliva was the Myth, Tom Platz was the Golden Eagle, Arnold was the Austrian Oak. Since I had a background of being from the streets and being a warrior, I came up with the Iron Warrior. It caught on pretty fast.


What was it like earning your pro card? How did the amateurs of that day compare to the guys today?

MC: It all came too quickly for me to really appreciate what was happening. I won the ’84 Nationals, beating 54 guys, then went on to the Universe the next week and beat 57 guys to win. The Olympia was right after that. Joe Weider wanted me to enter, telling me how well I would do against Haney and the other guys up for the title. But I thought it would be smarter to stop and capitalize on my new titles instead of going into the Olympia and taking fourth or fifth. The amateurs back then? They were a lot smaller and smoother than the guys today, but we trained differently. We went on very low carb diets for long periods, and we didn’t do the severe cardio that they do nowadays to get all the freaky cuts. But I think, overall, the depth of competition was stiffer. We had men like Rory Leidelmeyer, Matt Mendenhall, Jeff Williams, Bob Paris, a lot of outstanding physiques.


Describe your first Mr. Olympia contest.

MC: I was so excited to be competing in it, I trained my butt off. I was being pumped up by the magazines to win on my first try because I was one of the tallest and biggest guys in bodybuilding at the time. 235-240 doesn’t sound like much compared to the Olympians today, but in ’85 that was a lot of mass. I looked good, and wound up fourth. It was in Belgium that year. The only guy who beat me who I thought shouldn’t have was Mohammed Makkewy, who was on a comeback. He was a great poser, but not the biggest guy.


What do the tattoos on your chest and right arm say, and are there stories behind them?

MC: I can’t go there. They go back to the gang stuff.


You are married now, correct?

MC: Yes. I married my wife Patricia at the Excalibur hotel in Las Vegas in 1997. We have a seven-year-old daughter, Brianna, and a four-year-old son, Myles.


Have you been married before?

MC: No. I have a 28-year-old stepson, Ricky, who is the son of the late former Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Ricky Bell. He’s actually the biggest fan in my family, along with my dad. Dad still carries around my pictures to show everybody. Ricky has all the old magazines with my pictures. My daughter Toekeyba is 24, and I have a son Treaudaine who’s 13 now.


One marriage? You’d make a terrible country western singer. How often do you see your older children?

MC: They’re all in the Portland area, and I try to get up there every two or three months.


When you were competing in the Olympia, what would your anabolic stack look like?

MC: I would do 250 mg. of test every five days, 200 mg. of deca the same, maybe six Anavar a day, and throw in Parabolan once a week toward the very end. I was a baby compared to some of the guys.


So it is true. Rumors used to say that you were one of the lucky few who didn’t need much at all.

MC: Right, I didn’t need to use a lot to respond well. And I was always worried about things like damaging my liver or kidneys, or my ability to reproduce. I wanted to be able to have kids when I was done competing. I did my cycles under a doctor’s supervision and had blood work and sperm counts done all the time. Even though I wasn’t using high dosages, I still didn’t want to take any chances with my health.


Do you think the pro’s today really use the outrageous amounts of drugs people say, or is it all just a bunch of hype and sensationalism?

MC: They do. I’ve talked to a lot of the guys competing now. What I was taught was that your body can’t even use as much as they take nowadays. They’re just over-saturating their systems and shutting down their receptor sites. The other thing I think is crazy is how they take literally twenty different drugs at a time. How can you know which ones are really working for you? I used to try one at a time, noting the effects to find out which ones were best for me. I found I couldn’t use test or equipoise. Most of the guys would use about 60% androgenic products and 40% anabolics, but I did the opposite. As a result, I never had water retention, never had that puffy look. Between contests, I never used steroids. I was really only ‘on’ maybe ten weeks out of the year, or less if I was only competing in the Olympia that season. I would set up my guest posings around my shows. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do them, even if they offered me three, four, five thousand dollars. I simply didn’t want to be on drugs if I didn’t have to.


In 1990 when the IFBB tested the Olympians for steroids, did any of the guys actually go in clean, or were guys either using masking agents, blockers, or had tapered down to only using drugs like test propionate, that cleared the system very rapidly?

MC: The guys I talked to all stopped two months out from the show. Shawn Ray had just lost his Arnold Classic title and prize money due to testing positive at that show earlier in the year, and we were all afraid of having that happen to us. We weren’t sophisticated enough back then to have a strategy of tapering down like that to pass the test. I heard about guys using blockers, but I don’t know how much of that was true.


Which of your competitors did you respect the most? Which pro’s could you honestly call friends?

MC: Lee Haney on both counts. I respected the man he was, the dedication he had, the physique, and the fact that he stayed in Atlanta all those years and wisely avoided the craziness of L.A. He did come to L.A. for a time, and I was the one who showed him around, where to eat and train and so forth. We became very good friends. Ali Malla and Aaron Baker are also two close friends in the sport, and I can’t leave out Charles Glass and Lou Ferrigno. I’ve known them for years and years.






FACEBOOK: MuscularDevelopment Magazine

TWITTER: @MuscularDevelop

INSTAGRAM: @MuscularDevelopment

YOUTUBE: http://bit.ly/2fvHgnZ