The title is Cooper’s first Universe victory.

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The World Natural Bodybuilding Federation (WNBF) held one of its most recognizable contests of the year, the Pro Universe, on Sept. 23, 2023. The Pro Universe is held in high esteem by many fans of the sport, largely because the winner walks away carrying the title of “Mr. Universe” — a championship synonymous with classic bodybuilding dating back to the 1940s under a variety of bodybuilding federations.

The WNBF held its first Pro Universe contest in 1990. In the most recent edition, Malcom Cooper came away with the 2023 Pro Universe victory. Cooper weighed roughly 174 pounds (79 kilograms) when he took the stage against eight high-level competitors.

Prior to entering his first amateur bodybuilding contest in 2016, Cooper reached a body weight of 260 pounds (118 kilograms). The determination and focus required for such a significant personal transformation is likely a driving force behind his competitive success.

In a contest recap posted on his Instagram page, he referenced the necessary commitment and consistency, writing:

“PRIDE… not in an outcome… But pride in the income… The work. The sacrifice. The intent. The focus. The fire. The tears. The study… This weekend was cumulative in many ways…

But we are not. Done. Yet.”

The 37-year-old athlete has a background not only in bodybuilding, but in powerlifting as well. He appears to still maintain one foot in the world of strength sports, as he posted an Instagram story showcasing a deadlift of 525 pounds (238.1 kilograms) — three times his bodyweight — performed just days after winning the Universe title.

Cooper’s first professional bodybuilding contest was a runner-up debut at the WNBF Natural Muscle Mayhem in Oct. 2021. With his victory at the Pro Universe, Cooper now officially qualifies to enter the most prestigious WNBF contest of each calendar year — the World Championships, scheduled for Nov. 18-19 in Seattle, WA. Cooper last appeared at the World Championships in 2021 where he placed fifth.

Featured Image: @wnbfofficial / Instagram

About Chris Colucci

Chris has spent more than 20 years studying health and fitness beginning at a supplement store in the local shopping mall, earning a brown belt in Kenpo Jiujitsu and teaching martial arts to kids and adults, personal training with clients including competitive athletes and 80-year olds, interviewing legends of the strength world, and fine-tuning countless articles from expert coaches. In his “spare” time, he studies late-19th and early-20th century physical culture; takes care of his wife, kids, dogs, and cats; and tries to keep his vegetable garden producing year-round.

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