Samir Bannout Answers: Is There A Middle East Movement Dominating Bodybuilding?

Samir Bannout analyzes the rise of Middle Eastern bodybuilders and the future of bodybuilding champions.

Samir Bannout has the distinction of being the first Middle Eastern bodybuilder to win the Mr. Olympia. A lot has changed since then. The rise of the camel crew and an exceptional focus put on bodybuilders who train in Dubai has increased the dominance of Middle Eastern pro bodybuilders. Most recently, Big Ramy, hailing from Egypt, won the Mr. Olympia title. In our latest GI Exclusive interview, Samir Bannout analyzes whether or not this is a Middle East movement that will dominate bodybuilding for years to come.

Samir Bannout is proud to be the first Middle Eastern bodybuilder to win the Mr. Olympia. He also has stayed extremely passionate and focused on the sport of bodybuilding ever since his retirement. Event today, he dedicates himself to further helping improve and educate new generations of bodybuilders to support the sport. So what does he think of the rise of Dubai as a mecca for bodybuilding? And of Big Ramy’s win at the Mr. Olympia 2020? Does he see this as a true movement of Middle Eastern bodybuilding?

Samir Bannout admits that there has been a cultural shift in competitive bodybuilding. Dubai has become a hot spot for bodybuilders. While not all of them are actually from the Middle East, Dubai has become a new mecca that promises unreal transformations for competitors who train there. Brandon Curry is the most notable man to train in Dubai, transform his physique, and become a Mr. Olympia champion.


But of course, this new sort of mecca is also benefiting competitors from the Middle East. Big Ramy is now our current Mr. Olympia champion and we’ve seen the likes of Hadi Choopan and Kamal Elgargni show extreme dominance in the sport.

Samir Bannout is unsure if this is a true long term movement though. He points out that bodybuilding has always been a very diverse and international sport. He’s personally seen many rising bodybuilders across a variety of countries that have him excited for the future of the sport.

On top of that, the past year of pro bodybuilding was marred by COVID-19.Big Ramy certainly deserved the Mr. Olympia and showed his best physique. But there will always be a “what if” about 2019 and 2020. We have no idea how the virus affected the top pros personal lives and training. Samir Bannout believes that perhaps 2021 will be bigger indicator. Will Big Ramy and Hadi Choopan continue to thrive at this year’s Mr. Olympia?

During this interview clip, Samir Bannout also talks about his own success as being the first Middle Eastern Mr. Olympia – and reflects on whether not he retired too soon. As he had mentioned previously, he felt slighted by the sport after his 6th place finish in 1984. This got into his head and took the fun out of the sport. He often wonders if he could have stuck with it and eventually moved past the negativity.

You can watch Samir Bannout talk about the rise of Middle Eastern bodybuilding in our latest GI Exclusive interview segment above!

Derek Dufour has been managing all digital operations on the Generation Iron Network for over six years. He currently manages a team of editors, writers, and designers to provide up-to-date content across the GI Network.