The Big (Ramy) Custody Battle

Published: 12 May 2015

After storming the 2009 Arnold Classic like a striated shock-trooper, Kai Greene ascended the professional ranks as the heir apparent to the Olympia crown. It seemed that it was only a matter of “paying his dues” to the organization before becoming the successor. Unfortunately, Kai would be denied his destiny as the genetically gifted Phil Heath stepped in to take over where Jay Cutler left off. In true Olympia fashion, it created an invariable one-two at the top of the contest rankings with Phil riding high as Kai fell short of the conditioning needed to topple the champion. Bodybuilding is in-of-itself an inherently lackluster sport in terms of entertainment value, which does little to stimulate fan excitement when it’s a fight for the third spot. As a result, we have resorted to speculating the potential of bodybuilding’s new-blooded talent to generate interest and push sales of the division.

Among a steady stream of prospects and hopefuls, none have broken through to be considered a serious contender. Rising stars, such as Centaponi, Feroce, Beyeke, Cedric, and the like, have all seemed to stumble over a step on the competitive staircase. However, the Middle East’s influential and affluent sons of oil royalty have taken a great interest in sponsoring muscle monsters. Funded by black gold, these premier princes have created a virtual assembly line of behemoth bodybuilders. Talks of state sponsored drug regiments have swept online forums. This is in addition to rumors of exceptional pharmaceutical grade myostatin inhibitors, growth hormone, and IGF-1 not available in the United States being supplied to athletes. It is one such athlete in particular though that has been the centerfold of discussion. Egyptian demigod Mamdouh Elssbiay, better known by the much more easily pronounced name Big Ramy, astounded the American bodybuilding scene after his impressive domestic debut professional victory at the New York Pro. Sadly, the fanfare was short-lived as the hype surrounding Ramy greatly exceeded his ability to match it. Riddled with potential, the comparatively young Ramy fell into line with the other Olympia contenders, but failed to crack the top five. All he needed now was the proper tutelage to guide him into first place.

It has been well-documented that Ramy and renowned guru Dennis James were paired as the quintessential power couple; to the extent that ones’ name became synonymous with the other. Their seemingly unbreakable partnership, however, went the way of Gabe Moen’s nauseating spandex pants and split at the seams. The cause of this has various explanations with one being a polar difference in lifestyles. Dennis James likens to more of an international public figure than an elite trainer while Ramy is far more reserved and focused in his pursuits. Nonetheless, these two individuals possessed a synergistic effect that put both of their names across magazine covers and bodybuilding websites. In all actuality, the more likely cause of the dismemberment is none other than a case of typical bodybuilding “politics.” As a highly sought after commodity, Ramy is in the crosshairs of every top coach in the industry. Having the behemoth in their client cache will only bolster their stock value. This is particularly true should he obtain an Olympia title while under their guidance. But who can claim stake to Mamdouh? Intuitively, one would surmise that this would be the decision of the bodybuilder himself. Such is far from being the case. Back room dealings, alliances, and financial prospects carry more weight than Hafthór Björnsson could ever dream of. What it amounts to is which guru has networked his way into the right circle; in this case, who has connected with the Arabic equivalent of the Powers That Be, Oxygen. Much of the information surrounding the infamous training facility’s influence over Ramy is based solely on conjecture. What is certain though is that Oxygen is behind the dealings that forced him to leave the well-liked Chris Aceto for George Farah. According to Aceto, this was to the dismay of Ramy, who stated he was in a position that required the transition. The true, underlying issue is less about who is working with Ramy and more of how this effects his ability to capitalize on the potential he brings to the stage. Allegedly, Aceto was making great strides in prepping him to reach his best ever physique. Considering Aceto and Farah have differing coaching styles and that Ramy responded optimally to the former then what chances does he have of succeeding with the latter?

Personal relationships and bureaucratic bullshit are an unnecessary hindrance to who many consider to be the heir-apparent to the Olympia crown. Despite being a frontrunner at pro shows, Ramy is at risk for never achieving the ultimate in bodybuilding accolades should the clamoring continue. As true advocates of the sport, is it not the duty of all parties involved to forgo politics in favor of realizing the second coming of Jesus Christ? While that may be a gross exaggeration of the titles overall significance, it is nonetheless of great interest to the athletes and fans alike. Few have been heralded as possessing the genetic means and financial backing to overthrow a seemingly unstoppable Phil Heath; a possible exception being Justin Compton. In a relatively one-dimensional sport there is nothing that stirs excitement quite like the changing of the guard, or at the very least having some scuttlebutt at the top of the pack. Prior to the Egyptian’s breakout appearance it seemed that nobody could challenge the Gift. Until Ramy steps onstage at the upcoming Arnold Classic Brazil we can only speculate the impact the changes will have on his physique. Is he destined to reach bodybuilding nirvana or simply to become a distant memory of pros long forgotten?