Former two-time Mr. Olympia (2020-2021) Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay entered the 2022 edition of the contest with high hopes. Should he have come out on top, he would’ve become only the ninth athlete to win the competition at least three times. Elssbiay would fall short of that lofty goal, taking home a fifth-place finish instead. In the immediate aftermath, the Egyptian competitor reflected on what lies ahead in his career, vowing to come back “stronger than ever.” Roughly a month later, in January 2023, it was revealed Elssbiay would make his second-ever career appearance at the 2023 Arnold Classic (AC) in March. It’s there where one of the people closest to the athlete’s professional exploits thinks he can get back on track.
On Jan. 29, 2023, Elssbiay’s coach Dennis James discussed the bodybuilder’s chances of winning the 2023 AC in Columbus, OH. In a contest that will likely require Elssbiay to topple former AC champions like Nick Walker (2021) and William Bonac (2018, 2020), James maintained if Elssbiay shows up in top form, he’ll capture his first-ever AC title.
While breaking down the 2023 AC contenders, James spoke with fellow trainer Miloš Šarčev. Per the latter, overlooking Elssbiay at the Mar. 2-5, 2023 competition would be a mistake.
“Big Ramy [Elssbiay] slipped from first from fifth [at the 2022 Mr. Olympia] and Nick Walker was in third, his highest placing,” Šarčev said. “Obviously going into the Arnold [Classic], you would assume the highest-placing Olympian would be the favorite. But how do you ignore Big Ramy, who was a two-time [Olympia] champion? Okay, he slipped a little bit, but assume he’s going to be in better condition.”
Meanwhile, James believed Elssbiay should’ve won the 2022 Olympia, despite the eventual judging going against him. According to the coach, if Elssbiay looks roughly the same as then, he can expect to put an AC trophy on his mantel.
“All I’m saying if he’s [Elssbiay] going to look like he looked leading up to the  Olympia five days out, I don’t see why he shouldn’t win the Arnold [Classic],” James said. ” … If he can put that weight back on and he fills out like he was and the conditioning is right.”
James and Šarčev are not the first prominent members of the bodybuilding community to tout Elssbiay as one of the 2023 AC favorites. Former four-time Mr. Olympia champion (2006-2007, 2009-2010) Jay Cutler believes Walker should have the pole position but that a “100 percent” Elssbiay is capable of anything.
Elssbiay uncharacteristically entering the 2023 AC might not only be related to the athlete seeking a quick rebound from his disappointing output at the 2022 Olympia. In mid-January 2023, the Arnold Sports Festival revealed the first-place prize for the competition would be $300,000 — a $100,000 increase from the previous year. Someone who likely also would’ve centered only on Olympia preparation, Nick Walker, admitted the lucrative money was a deciding factor for him to participate in the 2023 AC. It’s not hard to imagine a comparable Olympia-level bodybuilder like Elssbiay being similarly incentivized.
That said, being able to beat his elite peers again probably comes first and foremost for Elssbiay. He has noted professional bodybuilding is his passion, and the implication of first-place achievement is arguably baked-in for a former champion.
Featured image: @big_ramy on Instagram