Mboya Edwards is not your typical teacher.
The 34-year-old Woburn Collegiate graduate who now works out of the Highbrook Learning Centre will make his professional bodybuilding debut this February at The Pro Ironman Invitational in Torrance, California.
Edwards, who teaches students from several local schools in the TDSB’s behavioural consulting sector, received his pro card this past September at the 2008 Canadian Bodybuilding Federation’s National Championships in Laval, Quebec.
He says he started entering amateur bodybuilding competitions as a hobby back in 1996.
“My cousin got me to start going to the gym after I graduated from Woburn, and I got really hooked,” Edwards says. “I started noticing bodybuilders and personal trainers practicing their posing routines.”
“One day they saw me, told me to take off my shirt, and my body looked just as good as theirs.”
Those men were amateur competitors, and they wagered he could enter a competition with only a couple more months of training.
“They said they would give me like $150 if I won,” Edwards says.
Sure enough, three months later he entered as a lightweight (155 lb or lower) and won his first ever show, the 1996 Novice Toronto Championships.
From that point on, winning became a habit for Edwards, and he started to see the true potential of his unique body.
“I’ve always been blessed with a small bone structure, but at the same time I was always very solid and muscular growing up,” he says. “So the main thing was changing my diet, and then just intensifying my workout plan.”
As a lightweight, Edwards won the 1997 Mississauga & South Central Ontario Bodybuilding Championships, and finish second at the 1998 Ontario Championships. He then decided to take things to the next level and progress up through weight classes.
Moving from welterweight (155-165 lbs) up through light heavy (185-195 pounds) over six competitive seasons since 2000 he has taken five national titles and one second.
He’s looking to gain some weight to compete in the open professional class level (over 202 pounds) in February, where a top-five performance will gain him entry into Arnold Schwarzenegger’s annual professional show, The Arnold Classic, and most likely the Mr. Olympia Weekend.
However, with so much discussion of steroid use surrounding bodybuilding, Edwards’ coach and mentor of five years Issa Abdulla, who he describes as “a respected trainer in Canadian bodybuilding,” set the record straight on Edwards’ increase in mass over the last decade.
“I saw right away he had a sleek v-shaped upper body, and he was extremely dedicated,” says Abdulla. “People can say whatever they want about steroids, I’m the one who sees him sweat and vomit out pounds to make weight, I see him at the gym at 5 a.m., and then back there in the evening.
“I’m the one that sees him diet, what his body goes through.”
Edwards takes pride in his exceptional genetics, but says size isn’t everything.
“Certainly having massive muscle size helps, but Mr. Olympia 2008 only weighed 235 pounds, when the 2007 champ was 285 pounds,” Edwards says. “A lot of factors I take pride in come into play that steroids just don’t help.
“We’re judged on symmetry, aesthetics, balance, as well as muscularity.”
Edwards credits a lot of his recent success to the support of his coach.
“He keeps me stable, and when I want to give up he’s there encouraging me and dieting with me, we do everything as a team.”
Asked about the possibility of fame and fortune as a result of his future down south, Edwards, who has appeared on TSN’s Off The Record with Michael Landsberg and graced the cover of a couple of Canadian bodybuilding magazines, chuckled.
“Publicity never hurts, because the judges are human, but I’m pretty low-key. I could always use the money though, especially since I’ve only ever won trophies and sponsorships up here in Canada.”
Edwards says he would like to use any extra money earned to start a program for less fortunate youth here in Scarborough, especially those with behavioural, emotional or mental troubles, such as those who enter his classroom.
“I’d like to provide kids with a supportive atmosphere to meet friends, and also instill the initial fundamentals of strength training and calisthenics,” says Edwards. “Some of my students want to know how to look like a comic book hero, and I like them to have this healthy mindset.”