The Indo-Canadian pro wrestler Yuvraj “Raj” Singh Dhesi battled his way right to the top rungs of WWE Championship, despite all the personal trials and tribulations. He performs for the SmackDown brand under the ring name, Jinder Mahal, and is the current WWE Champion in his first reign.

Yuvraj took a sabbatical from WWE and returned in 2016 renewed and restrengthened. With his evolved style of fighting and remarkable physical transformation, Yuvraj finished as the runner-up in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, defeating five of SmackDown LIVE’s finest to become the the top contender for a WWE Championship.

He speaks to Guardian 20 about the challenges he faced as a wrestler and why positivity is important in a fighter’s life.

Q. What were the major challenges initially when you wanted to be a WWE fighter?

A. The basic challenge was to get recognised by the WWE as there are millions of people who want to be a WWE superstar. There are thousands of people who are actually pursuing this dream. And after that, training is very intense. You not only train yourself in wrestling but in your mind too, and intense workout is very, very important. And you have to sacrifice a lot of your personal life because people of my age go on parties and vacations and spend time with their family. But I had to sacrifice a lot.

Q. Could you please tell us about your fitness regime?

A. So, every morning when I wake up, before I eat anything, I drink water or may be black coffee without sugar or any calories. And then for half an hour, I do intense cardio and then I eat. I eat oatmeal, white protein shake and bananas and lift weights. And also, every day since last year, I have been doing yoga, as stretching is very important for recovery and injury prevention. Most of my workouts are athletic-based alongside body-building workouts.

Q. Most WWE fighters have their signature steps. What is yours?

A. I am still discovering myself and still discovering my wrestling potential as I am still 30 years old. So, I am working on my strategies and I must keep it a secret as it mainly depends on with whom I am fighting. I try to find my opponents’ weakness in the ring and then defeat them.

Q. Whom do you see as your biggest competitor in the WWE?

A. Right now, I am focusing on my match with Randy Orton as I want to retain my title. But I think John Cena is my biggest competitor because for a long time, John Cena has been the face of the WWE and he won’t give up this title anytime soon. So, it would be challenging.

Q. For more than a decade, Khali was known as India’s representative in the WWE. How do you feel about representing India after him?

A. I feel proud to represent India and first of all, Khali is like my big brother and a good friend. He represented India so well and I want to do the same thing. I want to show that India has world-class athletes who are the best. I surely feel the pressure and I feel this pressure only drives, it will enable me to retain my title. 

Q. Could you also talk about your techniques and fighting styles which you use to defeat your opponents?

A.I watch rivals similar to some opponent’s size and also study tapes of his previous matches as well as those of his opponents. To be a WWE Superstar, you’ve to constantly be evolving and improving. I study a lot of tapes, I watch a lot of old wrestling matches and see moves that work and moves that don’t work. I watch guys that are similar to my size, frame and body shape and the moves they do.

Q. Tell us about your association with your trainer, Bad News Brown.

A. The greatest influence on my life, I would say would be my original trainer, Bad News Brown. He taught me so much, not only in wrestling but taught me so much in real life—what it is to be a man, taking care of your family, and that life outside the ring is also very important. He taught me that.

Q. What would be your advice to budding wrestlers?

A. My advice would be, stay motivated and work hard and don’t give up. Because miracles could happen and that big break could be right there in the corner. Stay focused and driven. Take care of your body and stay away from drugs and stuff like that. Respect your body and your coach. And keep working hard and nothing is impossible as long as you are ready to work hard for that.