The real-life Thor shot to fame as ‘The Mountain’ on Game of Thrones, and won World’s Strongest Man, before losing 50KG to spar Conor McGregor and box Eddie Hall to complete an INCREDIBLE body transformation
The American superhero film Thor was an instant hit when it was released in 2011, starring Chris Hemsworth as the muscular title character.
In Northern Europe, the real Thor started making waves of his own.
After launching a Strongman career in his home country of Iceland in the late 2000s and winning national titles, Hafthor Julius Bjornsson, affectionately known as Thor, entered World’s Strongest Man (WSM) for the first time in 2011.
He wasn’t just there to participate, as he finished sixth, and he immediately stood out. Put it this way: it was hard to miss him.
At 6ft tall and weighing 450lbs (that’s just over 32 stone!) Bjornsson is one of the most imposing figures the sport has ever seen, and he was clearly very good when the 22-year-old became the fourth-youngest WSM finalist ever.
Bjornsson lost 50kg from his Strongman days (left) for his fight with Hall (right)
He dropped down to 335 pounds for his fight with Hall after losing 100 pounds through a strict diet
Hafthor Julius Bjornsson, aka Thor, started out as a Strongman before starring in Game of Thrones
Bjornsson played ‘The Mountain’ in five series of the award-winning television show
The following year he was back for more, this time finishing third before repeating the feat in 2013.
After taking the Strongman world by storm, it was time for a new challenge, and Bjornsson got his first big acting break when he was asked to play the role of Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane for season four of Game of Thrones.
The hit show wanted someone to take over the role of royal protector after having two separate actors for the first two series, and Bjornsson fit the bill as he starred from series four to eight.
Game of Thrones was hardly short of physically imposing characters during its eight-year run from 2011 to 2019, but none could match Bjornsson. He was becoming a household name.
Bjornsson’s fame had reached new heights and he caught the attention of one man who was reaching the height of his powers: Conor McGregor.
The MMA icon was on his way to stardom after a highlight reel of knockouts in the UFC, and just months before winning his first world title against Jose Aldo, he invited Bjornsson to his gym for a sparring session.
Bjornsson sparred with MMA star Conor McGregor in 2015, appearing in black shoes and jeans
McGregor has put on a lot of muscle mass in recent years, but in 2015 he was still a 145-pound featherweight.
Seeing him compete against a man three times his weight made for a fascinating sight, while there was also a foot between them in terms of height.
The footage of the sparring is surreal, with Bjornsson hardly lacking in confidence as he showed up in regular shoes and jeans.
McGregor, meanwhile, was dripping sweat and circling Thor as he tried to target the body.
There were no head shots – McGregor was just weeks away from the biggest fight of his life – but it was still gripping to see two physical specimens in very different weight categories boxing and wrestling each other.
Perhaps this is where Bjornsson got his real taste for the fighting game he would later become involved in.
But first and foremost, he was still a strong man, and the ultimate WSM crown continued to elude him.
He achieved six consecutive podium finishes between 2012 and 2017 without being on the top step.
Finally, in 2018, it was the year of Thor as he became the third Icelandic athlete to win WSM, after Jon Pall Sigmarsson and Magnus Ver Magnusson.
Last year, Bjornsson had been pipped to the title by one point by Britain’s Eddie Hall, but this time he refused to be denied.
Bjornsson ultimately won the World’s Strongest Man in 2018, after six previous podium finishes
Bjornsson’s rivalry with Eddie Hall (pictured) grew during their Strongman days
Bjornsson then broke Hall’s world deadlift record by lifting 501kg in 2020
That narrow defeat, however, fanned the flames for a rivalry with Hall, and their feud went up a notch when Bjornsson surpassed Hall’s world deadlift record by one kilogram in 2020 as he successfully completed a 501kg repeat.
The two men had gone back and forth in Strongman competitions over the years, but Bjornsson wanted to settle their rivalry in a different way and called for a boxing match with Hall in early 2020. Hall did not shy away from a challenge. .
Fans of the pair may have initially thought the fight was a gimmick. How could two men weighing over 400 pounds end up in a boxing ring?
Well, Bjornsson quickly realized that he probably couldn’t, and his drastic weight loss program began.
Under the guidance of trainers Billy Nelson and Vilhjálmur Hernandez, he significantly reduced his diet and began training twice a day to improve his boxing skills.
If there were any concerns that Bjornsson might not be taking boxing seriously, he quickly allayed them by setting up exhibition fights.
Thor faced ex-WBO European light heavyweight champion Steven Ward in January 2021 and took on former amateur standout Simon Vallily four months later.
He stayed active by competing in his first non-exhibition fight in September 2021, stopping Canadian professional arm wrestler Devon Larratt within a round.
The Covid pandemic delayed his meeting with Hall, but when the grudge match took place on March 19, 2022, Bjornsson was more than ready and looked to be in stunning form.
After weighing 450 pounds in his Strongman days, he tipped the scales at 335 pounds for his clash with Hall, meaning he had lost just over 100 pounds to get into excellent fighting shape.
Bjornsson is almost unrecognizable because he lost no less than 50 kg during his strong days
Bjornsson’s hard work paid off when he defeated Eddie Hall in their grudge match in March 2022
As he posed for the cameras, Bjornsson looked ripped, with bulging abs that weren’t visible before.
Bjornsson’s hard work paid off as he came out on top in the fight dubbed ‘The Toughest Boxing Match in History’.
Thor showed significantly more mobility than he had against McGregor seven years earlier, when he sent Hall to the canvas twice en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Bjornsson hasn’t fought since, but remains undefeated inside the squared circle for now.
Eighteen months after his victory over Hall, Thor’s next move is unclear. He regularly posts photos of himself working out on Instagram as he continues to keep himself in great shape.
At 34 years old, it’s still possible he can give Strongman one last chance, or perhaps another boxing match will be appealing if he can find a worthy opponent.
Bjornsson was also spotted with MMA prospect Gordon Ryan late last year, and the pair had a sparring session together. Could we ever see Bjornsson enter the cage?
Thor has plenty of options as he has proven himself to be the strongest man in the world, while also starring in an award-winning TV series and defeating his greatest rival in boxing.
He has shown over the past decade that he can do almost anything if he puts his mind to it, including losing a remarkable amount of weight, to complete an incredible body transformation.