When it comes to the world of bodybuilding promotion there’s no bigger name in Maryland than Rich Siegelman of Kutz Promotions. The one-time NPC (or National Physique Committee) Chairman of Maryland promoted three contests per year for that organization and was consistently one of its top earners. Maryland plays a very important role in physique-based sports given its proximity to our nation’s capital, Washington D.C., its strong military ties, and the countless world class gyms and fitness clubs in the area. In terms of growth, “The DMV” (which covers D.C., Maryland, and [Northern] Virginia) has become one of most lucrative regions in the fitness industry. This is why when Siegelman left the NPC for the IFBB Physique America it sent shockwaves throughout the bodybuilding world. The Battle for Maryland will likely be the first decisive victory the IFBB Physique America celebrates over the IFBB Pro League in the United States. It may very well be followed by victories in Kentucky and Virginia, as well.
Siegelman’s contests were all held at the BWI Hilton, a premier hotel and contest venue that offered all the amenities top tier athletes could ask for. These events drew hundreds of the region’s and the country’s best competitors and gave them a world class stage to compete on. The shows were run flawlessly by a team handpicked by Rich, with state-of-the-art lights, acoustics, backdrops and stage props. Seating was mapped out in such a way that there wasn’t a bad seat in the house.
Security was tight and very well-trained (after all Rich is a retired police officer and safety was always a chief concern). No one just wandered into the audience-section or much less backstage. Every contest that Kutz Promotions put on was a showpiece for the NPC. The only other Maryland show, not run by Rich, was a pitiful effort run out of a high school auditorium, with low budget graphics, and very weak attendance and competitor turnout.
Rich Siegelman couldn’t stay in the NPC after the front page stories run by the Washington Post emerged. Although the Post seems to have quieted down – either because they’re investigating and writing new articles or because someone got to them – the damage was done. The class action lawsuit spearheaded by Lisa Bloom created more pressure on Siegelman, as did the courageous initial break of legendary Kentucky Muscle promoter Brent Jones.
Jones was the first promoter to publicly break with the NPC and IFBB Pro League. Almost immediately, the promoter who single-handedly landed bodybuilding a spot on the prestigious Kentucky Derby Festival calendar of events, was ostracized from the bodybuilding world. Friends whom he’d known and worked side-by-side with for over thirty years totally ghosted him. He became persona non grata instantaneously. Nonetheless, he stood his ground and remained driven by his convictions. Jones’ courageous move undoubtedly inspired Siegelman’s. And Siegelman’s undoubtedly inspired Tim Estell’s. Tim broke with the NPC and would go onto become the IFBB Physique America’s Chairman of Virginia. All three men hit the ground running and put on contests in 2023.
That said, the vast majority of promoters, expeditors, and officials remain loyal to the NPC. Whether they remain on board as a result of fear, loyalty, or the fear of being shunned is up for debate. The organization led by Jim Manion is anything but a democracy. It’s often been referred to as a family business. That’s a stark contrast to an international committee run by officials who are elected annually and who approve bylaws and have congresses. That would be what a true federation looks like and how a true federation would carry out business.
If and when Jim was ready to retire, he could have let the zone and state chairs elect a successor, right? But no, the heir was simply chosen from within his family. As of the last few years, Jim’s grandson Tyler Manion was tapped to become Vice President of the NPC and IFBB Pro League. He was taken under the wing of a longtime official and schooled in everything from judging, to contest promotion, and problem-solving techniques. Tyler’s ascension was without question and the cult came to celebrate him as the second coming. The idea that countless promoters and officials got passed over so the old guy’s grandson could take over everything speaks to how serious of an organization we’re dealing with.
Power should come as the result of merit and hard work. Things that are given are never as cherished as things that are earned. Love him or hate him, Jim Manion rose to the top of the bodybuilding world all on his own. How he got there is up for debate, but no one can argue he’s a top guy. Rich Siegelman and Brent Jones have also earned their spots as top promoters and powerhouses in their regions. The same can be said about Rafael Santoja and Wayne Demilia. Everyone mentioned thus far has earned their spot through hard work and determination. When they got started in bodybuilding, their last names didn’t open any doors for them nor were they given the keys to the kingdom just for being at the right place at the right time. They had to do it all, from the grunt work to the ribbon cutting. They were the expeditors, the door men, and the shot callers. Their backs ached, they had to wipe sweat off their brow, and they had to make budgets without wasting time on excuses. They went from working small shows to, like Wayne, being responsible for overseeing the Mr. Olympia – the Super Bowl of Bodybuilding. A battle between someone who worked for his and someone who was given it, is akin to a lion versus a gazelle.
Guys like Rich Siegelman, Brent Jones, and Tim Estell are all hardworking men who under normal circumstances would all be state chairs, top officials, and shot callers in any organization they were a part of. In the NPC, however, Jones could never have been made chair of Kentucky. To date, there is no actual chair for the state. And while Siegelman was the NPC chair of Maryland at one time, he was stripped of that title. Even after it became clear that that decision should have been rescinded, it never was.
In fact, the NPC wants less state chairs, opting instead to have “vice chairs.” Tony Roberts is currently the vice chair of D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Does he have any actual power? Well how much power does the Vice President of the United States have? How much do you think a vice chair of a closely-held family-run organization that resembles a cult far more than an actual sporting organization have? He probably can’t tie his shoes without asking the former meter reader zone chairman first. And that guy is little more than a family lap dog. Don’t be fooled, he may act like a shot caller but all he is an errand boy.
To be honest, the only state chair in what’s known as the Mid Atlantic Zone that I can recall was Todd Howe. Todd, an active police officer, was the Chair of Delaware back when I was still doing contest coverage. For a zone of six states plus the District of Columbia, there was just one state chair. All other territories, like Kentucky, were run by Rick Bayardi on paper.
The fact is the Battle for Maryland, much like the Battle for Kentucky, will be pivotal points of interest in the United States in the showdown between the IFBB Pro League and the IFBB Physique America. The two generals, in Jim Manion and Wayne Demilia, will fight it out over the coming years. Although Wayne’s people are far fewer than Jim’s, they’re backed internationally by a robust organization, and what they lack in numbers, here, they more than make up for with courage, work ethic, and actual knowledge of what they’re capable of. These are self-made men after all. If they did it once, they can do it again. On the flipside, those who continue to bow down and work tirelessly and selflessly for the benefit of a family not their own, can continue living on this earth as modern day peasants in the NPC fiefdom. Meanwhile, the alpha males like Brent, Rich, and Tim will stand up for what they believe in and in time, they will prevail.