by Christian Duque
The bodybuilding world has been waiting a long time. Each and every year fans grow frantic, wondering if this will be the year that The Egyptian Phenom, the one simply known as “Big Ramy,” arrives in Las Vegas, larger than life, peeled to the bone, ready to take the Mr. Olympia. Ramy is a very good bodybuilder, he’s worked with all the big names, from Dennis James to Bader Boodai, but the question remains, why hasn’t he won the Sandow yet? In 2017, he placed a commanding runner-up and the bodybuilding world was in a total frenzy. When I saw him earlier this year in Pittsburgh, people couldn’t stop marveling out how huge he was – and mind you – 7x Mr. Olympia, Phil “The Gift” Heath was at this contest too. That didn’t matter, because even with his seven straight wins, all the attention remained on Ramy. This was always a point of contention for the champ. If he had seven Sandows, why was the attention on the big man?
A big part of why he’s captured the attention of so many fans, is the fact that when you take all the high value contracts out, all the press, and all the fanfare, you’re left with a very down to earth, very humble man, a man who loves his fans. Also, most guys hate not winning – that’s a pretty common fact. When faced with a bad placing or downright defeat, most top tier athletes will blame their corners, blame their coaches, and/or cry foul for any number of reasons. For Ramy, he made a point of wpublicly expressing great disappointment in himself and actually apologizing to his fans, following the 2018 Olympia. Who does that? You could tell he was distraught. That’s mighty big of a star to do, but what will the future be different? He’s still a very young man, but competing at the top level, with the very best in the world, and in front of the lights and cameras, age has a way of creeping up on the best of the best.
Ramy had a very good corner when it came to his team in Kuwait. They did everything for him, from meals to training to everything else you can probably fill in the blanks. In addition to supporting him as an athlete, he was their guy, they really went to bat for him, arguing on his behalf and insisting he’d be the next champ. I’ve seen interviews on all the big websites and it was always all but cast in stone. Their faith in him was unwavering and it was always speculated what the sport of bodybuilding would look like, if Ramy won the title, and then retired back to Kuwait. Many had flashbacks to the days of Dorian’s reign. Back in the 90’s, no one ever knew where Yates was – I mean the guy trained in an underground gym, was cut off from the States, and this was all during the pre social media age. He’d re-emerge only prior to the Olympia, hit the stage and walk away with the Sandow and a huge check. After that, Dorian would be MIA again. That was what worked for him and it he got six straight wins on the most prestigious stage in bodybuilding. Would a Ramy reign be the same? That was uncertain, but one thing was very clear, was that had Ramy won, his victory would have been felt from Kuwait to Egypt. Ramy would have been an even bigger star than he already was, he would’ve toured throughout Kuwait, Dubai, and gone back home to Egypt, the fisherman turned Mr. Olympia. The media and PR would have been a bonanza to say the least!! And I believe all of that was ready to go, from shirts to hats to world tours – but it just never happened.
Everyone said it, including me – come in lighter and you’ll win, but that just never happened. Ramy always came in huge, even in 2017 when he took runner-up. Size and Ramy were synonymous, you couldn’t have one without the other. If he was going to win, he was going to win on his own terms. Were these Ramy’s terms or Kuwait’s? Others speculated that the big man’s desire to be huge were all fine and well, but that he tended to second guess his coaches. That’s the problem with rumors though, more than most time, they’re just hot air. Then again, Ramy has worked with all the big names, including Chris “The Technician” Aceto, the guru behind your 2018 Mr. Olympia, Shawn “Flexatron” Rhoden. Rhoden pushed it to the limit, he have 110%, and could barely stand, let alone walk after the contest. We’ve never seen Ramy like that, giving his absolute all, just a few seconds away from collapsing. Should an athlete push that hard? Is that necessary to win? Probably not, but when you’re going about toppling a 7x Mr. Olympia, that seems to be what’s required to “knock out” a champion of that kind. If one thing’s for sure, Flexatron did absolutely everything he was told to do, no second guessing, and put all his faith in Aceto. Did Ramy ever do that with Kuwait? Will Ramy do that with Neil Hill?
Like Aceto with Rhoden, Neil Hill is the coach behind 7x 212 Olympia Showdown Champion, James “Flex” Lewis. Lewis, also known as The Welsh Dragon, adhered to Hill’s philosophies, implementing everything he was told in terms of training, nutrition, and supplementation. Another big-name client of Hill’s, includes William Bonac, the 2018 Arnold Classic Champion. Between Lewis and Bonac, there’s no question Hill knows what he’s doing, much like Aceto, Boodai, and James before him, but will this experience be different for Ramy? The fans really seem to think so, but I’m not so sure. What if Hill stresses Big Ramy drop his size or carb-up differently or change his approach to training? Will these instructions get lost in translation, fall on deaf ears, or simply be ignored?
Ramy is a very humble guy and very good to the fans, but I think that that side of him may not be the same side coaches work with. I’m sure he’s great to work with and has a great attitude, but when left to his own eating habits, I suspect he may be falling off the wagon. A guy can be very nice, very kind, and very soft-spoken, but if you as a coach can’t get through to him on diet, training, or supplements, then your efforts won’t have the desired effect. There have been times where I believe Ramy may have been far more strict in his compliance and implementation of plans than others. In 2011, per Wikipedia, he weighed 200lbs, by the following year’s Amateur Olympia, he weighed in at 286 lbs, winning the contest. That’s insane!! Ramy gained nearly 90 lbs of muscle, such a high quality muscle, that he not only won one of the biggest amateur contests in the world, but he earned his pro card. A year later, he made his pro debut at the highly prestigious NY Pro, and won there as well. That sort of thing just doesn’t happen. Upon defending his NY title the next year – he won again! Add to this impressive resume, a huge Arnold win in Brazil, and of course the Olympia runner-up in 2017, and you have the kind of resume that would make any coach’s head turn. Ramy has definitely had a great run, but what’s the future hold? Will Neil Hill have the time he needs to familiarize himself with how Ramy’s body responds to nutrition, to training, and to supplements? I honestly don’t know what any better than Kuwait he can do. Just look at what Oxygen Gym has done for Brandon Curry and look at how many guys want to go there each and every year. That being said, it hasn’t worked for some (e.g. Regan Grimes), but again, one look at Ramy’s resume and I think it’d be hard to say Oxygen Gym didn’t work for Ramy. He had a bad outing in 2018, but O2G has definitely delivered!
One of the best coaches Ramy ever had was Dennis James and I say that because James was always by Ramy’s side. Some critics say that a top tier bodybuilder shouldn’t require a guru to basically hold an athlete’s hand through a prep, monitor everything he eats, and keep him true to his commitments. Others would say, do whatever it takes to win; if an athlete needs more attention, you give it to him, because if he wins the Sandow, then it’s all worth it. I tend to agree more with the latter than the former. So what if an athlete can train himself alone, where’s the big award there? If, however, an athlete becomes a Mr. Olympia, then that’s a game changer for all everyone involved. All the sponsors, the gyms, the city where the champ is from – everyone now has a link to the greatest bodybuilder on the planet. The stakes are definitely high!
Only time will what happens. What we know is that Ramy is a world class athlete, Hill is a world class trainer, and both have impressive resumes. How will this end? I, personally, don’t think it will work. I’m glad Ramy left on good terms from Oxygen Gym and I predict, Ramy will return. In fact, I have a feeling he may even return before the 2019 Olympia. It’s nothing against Hill and I have a ton of respect for him and his accomplishments, but Bader and the Oxygen Gym crew know Ramy, they have been by his side, faithfully, for many years, and they know him and his physique, maybe even better than Ramy knows himself. I don’t know what caused the break, but I suspect that time will be working against the new pairing and I also doubt that Hill can clear his schedule and give Ramy 100% of his time. Also, Oxygen Gym will continue to flourish with Curry, Roelly, and DeAsha. They don’t need Ramy, but I suspect, Ramy needs them. I’m sure they definitely miss him as well.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and I look forward to reading your comments, whether here at Iron Magazine or wherever you may see this article. Thanks for reading!