Of all of the bodybuilders of the Dorian Yates era, few men possessed the size and density to rival that of Dorian Yates. In an era filled with bodybuilders who appeared to be a collection of balloons, Yates and men like Mike Francois appeared to have been carved out of granite. Massive, blocky, and dense, Yates and Francois had a particular package that that era’s fans loved, and for which they went nuts.
Mike Francois his adult career path seeking the priesthood. After meeting a woman in the seventh year of study (you become a priest in the eighth ), Francois quit the priesthood and turned his eye to bodybuilding. After winning his first three shows in 1990, Mike Francois appeared to be poised on the brink of stardom.
By the time Mike Francois nabbed his pro card in 1993, Dorian Yates had already begun his Olympia streak. As such, he set the gold standard by which the rest of the field would be judged, and 5’8” 235lb Mike Francois fit the bill exactly. Francois won his professional debut at the Chicago Pro International in 1994, then followed that up with wins at the Night of Champions and the Arnold (cementing himself as the second best bodybuilder to Yates), then won again, becoming the only bodybuilder to win their first four pro shows.
By 1996, however, Francois had started to get the symptoms of the disease that would ultimately sideline him- ulcerative colitis. In spite of that fact, Francois continued training as heavily as Ronnie Coleman would years later, with 800 pound deadlifts and 900 pound rack pulls. Training with the Westside Barbell Club lifters helped add density and size to the already mammoth Francois, and many saw him from 1993-1996 as the uncrowned Mr. Olympia as a result.
Tragically, however, Francois’ health steadily deteriorated due to his colitis, which inhibits the body’s ability to absorb nutrients in the intestines. Though he was hospitalized for three weeks before the Olympia, he kept it secret and managed to compete, then trained for the following Arnold. Francois never made the Arnold stage, however. After two surgeries, the removal of his intestines, and receiving his last rites twice, Francois had lost 170 pounds and his career was over.
Thus, the Francois story is one of a meteoric rise cut far too short in a career that might have never happened if not for the love of a good woman- it’s a story fit for a romantic comedy there if ever was one, though it’s unlikely a bodybuilder will show that kind of acting range. In any event, you know know the tale of Mike Francois, the Mr. Olympia who almost was.