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... And “Big” is an Understatement!
If you’re lucky, every once in a blue moon, a bodybuilder hits that stage that makes your jaw drop and your eyes pop. He’s the one you can’t take your eyes off, because he makes you question everything you thought you knew about anatomy, physiology, and biology. In 1989, it was Rich Gaspari’s striated glutes and conditioning at the Arnold Classic. In 1992, it was Dorian’s hardness and graininess. In 1998, it was King Ron’s size and thickness. Fast forward to 2013; some unknown quantity who went by the nickname “Big Ramy” was making his North American debut. He stepped onstage at the New York pro at 288 pounds and left both the crowd and judges in disbelief. He went on to win the prestigious show, and hasn’t looked back since. North American had finally been introduced to Mamdouh Elssbiay, and this era of bodybuilding would never be the same.
In 2010 Mamdouh Mohammed Hassan Elssbiay joined Oxygen Gym in Kuwait. Under the tutelage of Dennis James and Bader Boodai, he was up to 200 pounds by 2011, and when he stepped on the Amateur Olympia stage in 2012 in Kuwait, he weighed in at 286 pounds. That’s where the fun began. He was declared the champion and received his IFBB Pro card, and the rest is history—both Ramy and Bader knew it was time to take his size to America. The US wasn’t ready for what he was bringing. After winning the New York pro (beating out former champs Victor Martinez and Juan Morel) in 2013, Ramy finished off the season with an eighth-place finish at his first Mr. Olympia. Not bad for a first-timer (even Ronnie Coleman placed 15th and 11th at his first two Mr. Olympia appearances). At the time, the biggest criticisms he faced were that he hadn’t nailed that grainy conditioning that bodybuilding champions have and that his upper chest was lacking in size compared to the rest of him.
Before we delve any more into Big Ramy’s present and future, we should probably talk about his past. How else can we appreciate where he’s going unless we know where he came from? When it comes to how he got started in the industry, his trainer, Dennis James, has explained it the following way: “Basically, all six of his brothers are fishermen, and they all came to Kuwait to become full-time fishermen. He was helping out his brothers with the business, and on the side he wanted to work at Oxygen Gym. Ramy always loved working out, and he had heard that Bader was bringing all the top bodybuilding pros to the Oxygen Gyms in Kuwait, so he was trying to get a job at Oxygen Gym to follow his dreams of becoming a bodybuilder some day. The club manager at one of the Oxygen Gyms, which Bader rarely went to, gave him a job. That’s how he got into bodybuilding. He told his family that he was going to stop the fishing business to get into bodybuilding. That was in 2010.” As you might know, similar to other foreign athletes who had dreams of getting their IFBB pro card and competing in North America, there was a slight language barrier. Dennis said, “I couldn’t communicate with him because I didn’t speak the language. Bader was the one communicating with him. I’d send Bader the e-mails and plan and talk to him, and he’d then explain this to Ramy. I was doing his dieting and basically giving Bader everything to pass along because I wasn’t there. He was overseeing everything, and it was unbelievable how well Ramy responded to the diet and the plan.”
Back in the late ‘90s/early 2000s, Canadian giant Greg Kovacs rocked the bodybuilding world with his stage weight of 340 pounds (off-season 420) at 6'4". But his highest placing was 13th at the 2004 Arnold Classic. Ramy is on a whole other level. Back in 2014, people were already saying he was going to have a Sandow in his hands before we knew it. His body looked permanently Photoshopped, and you couldn’t help but stare at him … all the time. He wasn’t just a one-and-done competitor, either. Ramy had an incredible run after his first year. He went on to win the New York pro again in 2014, and improved his placing at the Olympia each year (from seventh in 2014, to fifth in 2015, to fourth in 2016). Did we mention he also won the Arnold Classic Brazil and the Kuwait Pro along the way? Well, he did.
As good as 2012 through 2016 sounded, he really hit his stride in 2017. This was his year. He was one of the featured bodybuilders in Generation Iron 2, which was released in May. Then he placed second to Phil Heath at the Olympia (though many said he deserved the title) in September at a seriously shredded 295 pounds. A week later, he went on to take top honours at the Arnold Classic Europe. As much as he travels (Ramy is a GAT sponsored athlete, so he makes appearances for them all over the globe, in addition to competing), Ramy still calls Kuwait home. He doesn’t just consider Bader a coach or owner, but rather, like a father in the sport. He wakes up around 6 a.m. every day, eats, prays, and trains. This is his life, and it works for him. And based on what we’ve seen from him on the stage in the last five years, it works for us too!
Ramy’s IFBB PRO History
• 2013 New York Pro, 1st
• 2013 Mr. Olympia, 8th
• 2014 New York Pro, 1st
• 2014 Mr. Olympia, 7th
• 2015 Arnold Classic Brasil, 1st
• 2015 Mr. Olympia, 5th
• 2015 Arnold Classic Europe, 4th
• 2015 EVLS Prague Pro, 2nd
• 2016 Mr. Olympia, 4th
• 2016 Arnold Classic Europe, 2nd
• 2016 IFBB Kuwait Pro, 1st
• 2016 EVLS Prague Pro, 2nd
• 2017 Mr. Olympia, 2nd
• 2017 Arnold Classic Europe, 1st