It seems like every bodybuilding generation has its own version of the “biggest man” in the sport. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, that position was filled by Ronnie Coleman, whose massive 295-pound physique earned him eight Mr. Olympia titles from 1998 to 2005.
In 2013, Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay broke onto the scene, touting a body that rivaled Coleman’s in terms of sheer size. Elssbiay has won two Mr. Olympia titles as of February 2023 and stands out as one of the most accomplished bodybuilders of the past decade.
While fans will never get to see these two behemoths pose side by side in their primes, we here at BarBend are breaking down their physiques and accomplishments to see how both competitors compare.
Credit: B.Stefanov / Shutterstock (Coleman) // @big_ramy via Instagram (Ramy)
Both Coleman and Elssbiay have more than their fair share of hardware to back up their lofty reputations. Here’s an overview of their professional highlights.
Ronnie Coleman turned pro at the 1991 World Amateur Championships, but it would be seven years before he secured his first Mr. Olympia title. Following the retirement of six-time champion Dorian Yates, Coleman shocked the world when he defeated then-favorite Flex Wheeler to become the champion in New York City’s Madison Square Garden in 1998.
Coleman went on to win seven more titles before finally being dethroned by Jay Cutler in 2006. Coleman retired in 2007, and at the time, he was the all-time winningest bodybuilding pro with 26 victories. As of 2023, he’s still tied with Lee Haney for the most Mr. Olympia titles in history. Here are his most notable career accomplishments:
Eight-time Mr. Olympia (1998-2005)
Arnold Classic Champion (2001)
World Amateur Champion (1991)
26 Total Career Wins
One of Coleman’s most impressive runs came when he dominated the stage in 2003 and 2004. After being upset by Günter Schlierkamp at the 2002 GNC Show of Strength, “The King” re-emerged at the 2003 Mr. Olympia weighing 287 pounds and rode that momentum to another Sandow.
A year later, he placed first again at the 2004 Olympia in a landslide, besting Cutler and Gustavo Badell. Coleman then won three IFBB Grand Prix shows in Russia, Holland, and England in the weeks following the Olympia, capping off arguably the most incredible year of his storied career.
Mamdouh Elssbiay turned pro by winning the 2012 Amateur Olympia title. He then made his pro debut at the 2013 New York Pro, which he won thanks to his size and symmetry. But like Coleman, it would take him seven years to reach the peak of the sport.
Elssbiay became the 16th Mr. Olympia in 2020 by topping the then-reigning champion, Brandon Curry. Elssbiay weighed around 290 pounds at that show and would repeat in 2021 at 295 pounds. Here are his notable career wins as of February 2023:
Amateur Olympia (2012)
New York Pro (2013, 2014)
IFBB Kuwait Pro (2016)
Arnold Classic Europe (2017)
Mr. Olympia (2020, 2021)
When it comes to training, Coleman and Elssbiay aren’t as similar as you’d think, despite their massive frames. Here’s how their styles compare.
Coleman’s Training Style
Even though he is best known for his 800-pound squats and deadlifts for doubles, Coleman often stayed in a typical 8-15 rep range when he was pushing himself in Brian Dobson’s Metroflex Gym in Arlington, TX. Here’s what one of his back routines looked like:
Elssbiay’s Training Style
Elssbiay has used similar rep ranges and volume as Coleman, but he focuses more on using machines. Whether he’s working out in the famous Oxygen gym in Kuwait or in his home country of Egypt, Elssbiay seems to like being able to isolate the muscle and not impact his joints or tendons as he may with free weight movements.
As Mr. Olympia champions, both Coleman and Ramy were — and still are — immensely popular with fans. Though it’s impossible to compare their popularity directly due to the different eras they competed in, there are some takeaways to consider.
During Coleman’s time in the sport, most of his exposure came from the bodybuilding magazines that dominated the scene. He also released a handful of iconic training DVDs featuring his staggering feats of strength. These lifts — including the aforementioned 800-pound deadlift and squat for doubles — helped his legend grow even further.
Coleman also achieved some mainstream exposure with an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno after the Mr. Olympia victory in 2000. And his catchphrases, such as “Yeah buddy!” and “Ain’t nothing but a peanut,” have become bona fide memes today.
And despite being retired for more than 15 years, Coleman has remained relevant for a younger generation of fans. New videos on his YouTube channel regularly rack up hundreds of thousands of views, and he’s also made recent appearances on Joe Rogan’s podcast and in videos with modern influencers like Jesse James West and Larry Wheels. And in 2018, a documentary about his life, titled Ronnie Coleman: The King, premiered on Netflix and other digital storefronts, further solidifying his place in fitness culture.
Bodybuilding is arguably much more popular in Elssbiay’s home of Egypt than it is in the United States. As a result, he’s one of the most popular sports figures in his homeland, even having a town square named after him.
Though you can argue that modern competitors like Chris Bumstead outshine Elssbiay in terms of mainstream popularity in the U.S., the big man still holds his own, thanks to his over 4.8 million followers on Instagram. Still, he has a long way to go if he wants to beat out Coleman’s 6.2 million Instagram followers.
The Coach Factor
There’s another reason that these two get paired up in fantasy bodybuilding matchups: They both worked with coach Chad Nicholls during their Olympia reigns. From early 1998 until his retirement, Coleman teamed with Nicholls, and the duo dominated the scene for nearly a decade.
After working with multiple coaches and “gurus” in his pro career, Elssbiay then joined forces with Nicholls in early 2020. After a third-place finish at that year’s Arnold Classic, Elssbiay and Nicholls won their first Olympia together in 2020. They repeated in 2021 before Elssbiay placed fifth in 2022.
For fans wondering which athlete Nicholls would take in a potential matchup, he has yet to go on record with that answer, and he may not anytime in the foreseeable future.
Both Coleman and “Big Ramy” defined the “Mass Monster” look in their respective generations. They each pushed the 300-pound mark on stage but also showed up symmetrical and conditioned enough to score wins at the Olympia.
Does Elssbiay have a chance of matching Coleman’s eight Sandow trophies? That would be a Herculean feat for any bodybuilder in today’s landscape. And in terms of who would win a side-by-side physique comparison, that’s up for the fans to judge.
Coleman had mass and density that would be hard to beat, while Elssbiay’s symmetry and proportions are nearly unheard of for someone of his size. Whoever you choose, there’s no denying that each competitor pushed the boundaries of the sport and always wowed the audiences.
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Featured Image: B.Stefanov via Shutterstock (Coleman) // @big_ramy on Instagram
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