by Christian Duque
Rumor has it, Big Ramy was getting $25,000 a month from Enhanced Athlete, as part of his sponsorship. The 2x Mr. Olympia was living the high life, but not in Vegas, Cali, or sunny South Florida. He wasn’t in North America or even Europe; instead, the champ resided in Egypt. His English, while much-improved, is still not where it needs to be. So he lived in Egypt, so what? I’m sure that was just homebase, but he was probably on a plane every weekend, right? I’m sure he was all over his Instagram, doing interviews every week, really connecting with the fans, right? Well, not so much.
In many ways, Ramy is a throwback to the Dorian Yates era of Mr. Olympia’s. Like The Shadow, The Egyptian Phenom emerges, as if from a long hibernation each year, just around the time his Olympia prep starts. He’ll post photos on social media and he’ll put out teasers. In years past, he’s caught some flack for posting old photos, but overall, he’s pretty good about letting go of some jaw-dropping content as the big show approaches. I’d say that as far as his prep’s concerned, he keeps the fans’ interest high. Also, he’s very active during the Olympia Weekend. He gives great interviews, he hangs at the booth of whatever company he’s working, and he’s a joy to be around. No matter what anyone says about Ramy, everyone agrees that he’s got a great heart, loves bodybuilding, and treats the fans with the utmost respect. I would never take that away from him. In fact, I was lucky enough to interview him, some years back, with Hector Mendoza. That said, with the exception of some leaked content over the course of 16 weeks and some great PR over the course of 4 days in Orlando or Vegas, what’s to be said about the rest of the time?
This is 2022, not 1992. People can’t be asking “where’s Mr. Olympia?” They can’t be left in the dark, wondering what the champ is doing, what he looks like, what his mindset is. We are very much in the heart of the age of technology. We couldn’t be any more wired, today, than we ever have been. Social media continues to consume more and more of our lives. And bodybuilding fans have never been hungrier for news, than today. I mean, just take a look at popular channels like Ivan Bodybuilding, Desktop Bodybuilding, and Bodybuilding & BS, just to name a few. Years ago, bodybuilding news was a non-factor during the off-season. There were no contests, the guys weren’t in shape, and there was very little going on. Today, the aforementioned news sites always have something juicy to put up. Sometimes it’s gossip, other times they blow little social media squabbles way out of proportion, and other times they break major stories on tips from snitches and haters. Hey, you can’t shoot the messenger, right? They’re just reporting news, but many add a little something to the mix, as well.
At the end of the day, there’s no longer such a thing as an off-season. News outlets don’t relax anymore. So with all that being the case and fans wanting constant updates, how then can Mr. Olympia live in a country that has little, if anything, to do with being at the center of the sport? And how can he be totally cut off from his sponsor, who yes, happens to be on the hook for more than a quarter of a million dollars to him, per year?
Let’s not forget that we’re talking about a start-up. Yes, it’s true that EA is a household name among bodybuilding fanatics, but it’s not a giant like MuscleTech or BSN. They don’t have endless resources and while they’re very popular and very respected, that’s largely due to the guerrilla marketing and big picture thinking of guys like Tony, Coach Trevor, Craig Golias and an army of pioneers of freedom, who wear the clothes and live the life, each and every day. That said, I can’t speak with any degree of certainty as to Enhanced’s finances, but I think it stands to reason that a contract of this size, surely required a great deal of resilience on their part. To say that this level of a financial commitment didn’t require a huge return, would be the understatement of the century. Again, we’re not dealing with a dinosaur company with limitless resources. Further to that, I highly doubt you can find EA at GNC or Walmart. I’d bet the lion’s share of their business comes from online commerce. And if it weren’t bad enough that Big Ramy chose Egypt as his homebase, he hasn’t really become any more active on social media than in 2021, 2020, or prior to the pandemic. Again, maybe it’s because his English could be stronger, but if that’s the case, move to America, move to Britain, don’t live in Egypt. The fact is, I think Ramy put all his eggs in one basket. I think he figured that since he won the biggest title in bodybuilding, that that would be enough to push sales to Enhanced. And clearly, that wasn’t the case.
There’s only one, maybe two bodybuilders, who can sell products based just on their name or likeness, alone. Arnold and Lou – that’s it. That’s not opinion; it’s fact. Not too long ago, there was a company that had Arnold all over it. He never appeared in ads, he never said he used their supps. In reality, he didn’t do anything except allow them to use his name and likeness. And guess what? It sold like hotcakes! But with the exception of Arnold and maybe Lou, no bodybuilder can simply sign a contract, do nothing, and generate big sales. Even huge Mr. O’s like Phil, Jay, or even the G.O.A.T. Ronnie Coleman couldn’t do that.
Bodybuilding may grow every year, but it’s still a niche sport, and simply being the top titleholder in a niche sport, requires a lot more than a signature or an ad campaign. You look at guys like Jay was with MuscleTech or how Ronnie was with BSN and you understand why both of these guys were making more money twenty years ago than guys are making today. These guys were making upwards of $500k in the mid 2000’s (in 2022, that amounts to $788k+ of spending power) and the companies were more than happy to sign their checks. Why? Because they were bringing in truckloads of cash. They always used the products, they understood them, and whenever they interacted with their fans, they were always working up the companies who supported them. They talked about the companies, talked about the products, and they did so in a a natural kind of way. It was part of the conversation. The athlete became an extension of the company. Today, it’s seldom to find an athlete who really goes the distance for their sponsor(s). Do I think Ramy gave his all to Enhanced? No.
I love Big Ramy. Do I think he beat Brandon in 2021? Hell no! But I do like Ramy. I think he wants to be the best champion he can be, but wanting to do something and actually doing it – are two different things. Also, as great as the champ has been able to look, it’s taken a lot of people pushing him to get there. It takes a village. After all, teamwork makes the dream work, but all that being said, the guy on top needs to work his ass off. And to be totally honest, I don’t think Ramy has worked his ass for a company in a long time – if ever! I get that once upon a time he was a fisherman; once upon a time, I had a full head of hair. The past is great, but we’re talking about the present and the future. Based on what Enhanced has seen of Big Ramy’s best efforts at making them money, is it any shock they dropped him? The decision may have some blowback, but the alternative could have spelled financial disaster for a company that many consider to be on the rise.
I think Enhanced Athlete dropped a bombshell when they signed Ramy. That was a textbook major supplement company move, if there ever was one. That said, there’s a reason major companies don’t pay these big contracts anymore. It’s a sad state of affairs when guys were making substantially more two decades prior, but the work ethic is different, today. For as much as I’m not a Phil Heath fan, I have to give props where props are deserved. Phil followed the path of Ronnie and Jay. Shawn Rhoden and Brandon Curry did the same. Big Ramy has not. Some of his defenders argued that anyone would have had their work cut out for them, given the pandemic in 2020/21. Well, the pandemic is largely controlled and here we are in 2022, and to date, Ramy hasn’t upped his social media presence, he lives in Egypt, and most bodybuilding fans don’t have the faintest idea what he’s up to. How does that translate to sales for Enhanced and/or how does that grow the sport of bodybuilding?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the winner of the Mr. Olympia should be contractually-bound to growing the sport. For most guys, such a clause would be redundant, but for this champion, it might be the only way to get him in the spotlight. That said, the odds of such a clause being implemented are almost nonexistent. For whatever it’s worth, EA made the right move. There’s no way Ramy was bringing in anywhere near the kind of revenue that would have justified the amount of money he was rumored to be getting. With regards to the sport, bodybuilding is doomed. It won’t grow with a champion as withdrawn as the reigning one is. For as nice as he is, as freaky as he looks, he’s just too inactive to even grow bodybuilding where he lives. He needs to roll up his sleeves and work, work like a blue collar guy, like someone who wants to win hearts and minds. I don’t see that happening with Ramy. And that said, I suspect he’ll probably “win” another 3-4 titles. I say “win,” because Brandon wiped the floor with him last year, but Brandon took 2nd. Go figure.