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 Big Ramy return



Big Ramy Before His 2020 Olympia Win – the Early Years


As Muscular Development celebrates Big Ramy’s 2020 Mr. Olympia win, we look back at the events that helped shape his path to victory, with highlights from the MD archives. Today, The Return of Big Ramy!Did He Deliver? originally published in May 2020.



The Return of Big Ramy!

Did He Deliver?


By Ron Harris


Do Call It a Comeback


Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay was a pro on the rise, to put it mildly. After winning his debut at the 2013 New York Pro, the massive Egyptian training in Kuwait soon became one of the most popular bodybuilders on the planet, with a rabid fan base in all Arab-speaking nations as well as the rest of the world. He became the greatest success story of Oxygen Gym in Kuwait, a kid who started out putting weights away and spotting members whose incredible potential was noticed by owner Bader Boodai. Within a year of Ramy joining the Camel Crew, as Team Oxygen Gym has become known, he had gained as astonishing 100 pounds of muscle and earned his pro card with a win at the Amateur Olympia in Kuwait. Over the next few years, he would rack up five pro wins and steadily climb the ranks at the Mr. Olympia contest. From 2014 to 2017 he Placed seventh, fifth, fourth and second, respectively. He seemed to be on the verge of finally claiming the elusive Mr. Olympia title.


2018 and the Rug Gets Pulled Out


Since Ramy had been runner-up to Phil Heath in 2017, he went into the 2018 Mr. Olympia as The Gift’s main threat. If Ramy came in a little sharper than ever, or if Phil showed up off his best in his bid to earn Olympia title number eight, the throne would be all Ramy’s. As fate would have it, Phil did indeed take to the Orleans Arena stage with a serious chink in his armor in the form of a blurry, distended midsection. The Ramy of 2017 might very well have beaten him. But the Ramy at the judging of the 2018 Mr. Olympia was not the one we had all hoped to see. Simply put, he was blurry and soft. Though he did manage to tighten up significantly by the finals Saturday evening, it was too little, too late. He dropped down to sixth place, which some even felt was generous. Meanwhile, a razor-sharp Shawn Rhoden usurped Phil’s title, the same title millions of Big Ramy fans around the world had fully expected him to take. No one was more disappointed in Ramy than himself. The following day he posted this on his social media:


“Thank you everyone, for the ultimate support you show me through emails and msgs. I know most of you feel disappointed and angry and hate me. I’M SORRY FOR THAT.Some say ramy you should do this and that and they don’t know how hard and painful to be up on Olympia stage! With those amazing athletes.I hear and read everything But you should know that i did my best GOD witness and the people around me know that. It was very hard prep. I did everything i should do and follow. But from now on I will work to change everything. This will never stop me this will never happen again. God bless you all.”


Adding to the drama, Big Ramy subsequently left the only training home he had ever known, Oxygen Gym. No longer would he be under the watchful eye of the Camel Crew, who had guided his every move from day one. Rumors swirled that he had returned to his native Egypt or relocated to Dubai as his new headquarters.


A Year in Limbo


2019 was a strange year for Ramy and his fans. We heard he had a serious shoulder injury that required surgery. We didn’t know where he was living or training, or who, if anyone, was coaching him. He was not qualified for the Mr. Olympia, a contest he had featured prominently in for the last five years. As the spring shows came and went and Ramy was nowhere to be seen, it became a countdown of which contests were left. In the final weeks and days leading up to the last chance to qualify for the O at Tim Gardner’s Tampa Pro, excitement was running high as we expected to see a showdown between Ramy and the legendary Dexter Jackson, who had committed to competing there. Even as I flew into Tampa for the show, I was hoping to see that battle. But no! The unthinkable had happened. Ramy would miss the Mr. Olympia contest. Making matters worse, both Phil and Rhoden were absent from the 2019 Mr. Olympia as well, meaning Ramy most likely missed a golden opportunity to snatch the Sandow. Surely, he was going to jump into one of the post-Olympia shows and secure his qualification for 2020? That never came to pass either, though Ramy did make several guest-posing appearances from August through November, looking within striking distance of contest condition. Frustration set in. When would we see this giant ever compete again?


2020 – the Return of Ramy!


When the list came out for the 2020 Arnold Classic competitors, Ramy’s name was on it. His fans rejoiced. This would be his first time competing in the Arnold Classic in Ohio, and his first competition in just about 18 months. That’s a long time for any top pro to be missing in action. Ramy would not have an easy go of it, as he would be up against not one but four previous Arnold champs – one of them, Dexter, also a former Mr. Olympia. Still, he was a heavy favorite going in. Just days before the show, we learned he had been coached by Chad Nicholls, whose roster of past champions includes names like Flex Wheeler, Ronnie Coleman and Nasser El Sonbaty. The bodybuilding world eagerly awaited its first glimpse of Ramy in a year and a half.


When he strode out early Saturday afternoon on stage at the Battelle Grand Ballroom, jaws dropped. Ramy was 300 pounds of crushing muscle mass. Though he still lacked the deep lines and details many of us had hoped to see, his conditioning was far from awful. He was moved in the middle more than once on Saturday, leading some to speculate if perhaps he was being looked at by the judges to win. In the end, Ramy was awarded the new Franco Columbu Most Muscular Award and third place behind William Bonac and Dexter Jackson. It wasn’t the outcome he, his coach, or his fans wanted, but nonetheless, Big Ramy was back. Surely, he and Chad will figure some variables out and go on to carve out more of those chasmic separations that will vault him to glory. In the meantime, Big Ramy is back where he belongs, on the contest circuit and fighting for the most prestigious titles in pro bodybuilding. I have a feeling his best is yet to come.


Ramy’s New Coach!

An Interview With Chad Nicholls


Note: This interview was conducted on Thursday, March 5, two days before Ramy’s return at the 2020 Arnold Classic


Chad, I and many other people assumed Ramy was doing his own prep for his comeback show here in Columbus. Only three days ago you made a post announcing that you were working with him. Why did you wait so long to let people know you’re his new coach?


We’ve actually been working together since last August, but we kept it a secret. When we went into this prep, there was already so much talk about Ramy on social media leading into this show. I didn’t want any distractions, or people comparing him to past clients of mine like Ronnie. None of that nonsense. I wanted him to have a really solid prep and just enjoy himself. Stay with his family. Eat, sleep and train, just be as stress-free as possible. I thought that was the key. I wasn’t looking for fame, and I didn’t care about attaching my name to him or taking any credit. I was trying to figure out how to make his life as easy as possible, because I felt maybe he’s never had that. For years, he’s been pulled this way and that. I felt like Ramy needed a relaxed prep. Everything fell into place. Every time I talked to him, I asked, “Are you good?” He would always answer, “No, I’m great!”


I’m just curious because I’ve heard different answers to this. Where does Ramy live now?


He’s been back and forth. He has a Place in Dubai, a place in Kuwait, and he’s from Egypt. His wife and kids are in Kuwait, and that’s where he did most of his prep for the Arnold.


Ramy has had all the size he ever needed from his pro debut almost seven years ago. What I have always wanted to see was more detail and crisp condition to make all that mass so much more impressive. I know the Camel Crew liked to bring him in big and full. As soon as I heard he was working with you, I thought OK, maybe Chad is going to do something different with his physique. Something we’ve been waiting to see for a long time.


At the end of the day, I’m a fan just like anyone else. When I look at him, I’m thinking, what more do I want to see from this guy? I think we all want to see the same things from Ramy. We want to see deep separation and crisp lines. I told him from day one that of course we still want to see you big. Your name’s Big Ramy! But I can sacrifice 10 percent fullness for 100 percent dryness. If you’re 90 percent full and 100 percent dry, we’re golden. That was the game plan from the get-go. He agreed with me 100 percent. Even if he’s not as full as he has been, no one can tell except him. Ramy is still 300 pounds. Yesterday we carbed him up heavy, and that’s the only day we are doing that. We want to keep smaller amounts of food to make sure his stomach is nice and flat. He was 310 pounds last night. He will probably step on stage right around 300. I don’t think anyone’s expecting that.


You keep hearing people say, “Oh, if he can just come in at 280 pounds, he will win.” Yeah, that would be great, but I don’t know if he’d look the same at 280 pounds, because he does carry so much muscle. I don’t have a problem with him being 290, or 285, or whatever. It was always about where his condition took him. We pushed to that level, not for some arbitrary weight. The lowest he ever got was 302, completely depleted. Then we gradually started filling him back up. Let’s be real, you don’t load a 300-pound bodybuilder overnight. We pushed him hard on Wednesday, got him as full as I was comfortable pushing him to, then we are coasting in and drying him out to give the fans exactly what they want to see.


Giles Thomas’ Initial impression of Ramy at Arnold Classic Judging

Big Ramy!!!!!!
Was sharper at 2017 Olympia when he Placed second.
Watery but completely huge.
No detail …
Rear double bicep is ridiculous!
Not hitting his rear lat spread properly.
Looks 2 weeks out …


Big Ramy’s Contest History




2011 Oxygen Gym Championships, Kuwait



2012 Qatar Golden Cup



2012 Amateur Olympia

Super Heavyweight and Overall




2013 New York Pro



2013 Mr. Olympia

Eighth Place


2014 New York Pro



2014 Mr. Olympia

Seventh Place


2015 Arnold Classic Brasil



2015 Mr. Olympia

Fifth Place


2015 Arnold Classic Europe

Fourth Place


2015 Prague Pro

Second Place


2016 Mr. Olympia

Fourth Place


2016 Arnold Classic Europe

Second Place


2016 Kuwait Pro



2016 Prague Pro

Second Place


2017 Mr. Olympia

Second Place


2017 Arnold Classic Europe



2018 Mr. Olympia

Sixth Place


2020 Arnold Classic

Third Place


2020 Mr. Olympia