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Exclusive: Sangram Singh on return to wrestling, Dubai match with Pakistan's Mohammad Saeed and fitness at 40

In an exclusive interview with Asianet News Network, Sangram Singh discussed his preparations, reasons for returning to wrestling, and aspirations to inspire the youth. He highlighted the importance of fitness, self-belief, and pursuing dreams, shedding light on his diet and fitness regimen.

Exclusive Sangram Singh on return to wrestling, Dubai match with Pakistan's Mohammad Saeed and fitness at 40
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First Published Feb 20, 2024, 8:54 PM IST

Renowned wrestler and actor Sangram Singh is set to face off against Pakistani wrestler Mohammad Saeed in a wrestling match scheduled for February 24. The highly anticipated event will take place at the Shabab Al-Ahli Stadium in Dubai. Making a remarkable comeback to the wrestling arena after a considerable hiatus, Sangram Singh gave an exclusive interview with Asianet News Network ahead of the Dubai match. Read the edited excerpts:

This is a big match for you and for India. What are your preparations for this?

Sangram Singh: I am making a comeback after seven years, whereas Pakistani wrestler Mohammad Saeed -- aged 22-23 years -- is currently doing amateur wrestling for his country. I have done my best for the match, the rest is in God's hands. I believe the match should be good. Some people may troll me after the match, but my aim is the same that this will inspire millions of children that when I can play at the age of 40, then they can also do something in their life. To prepare for the remaining matches, I have increased my weight by two to three kg because this is Olympic-style wrestling. There are two rounds of three minutes each in the Olympics, while this will have six rounds of three minutes each.

What prompted you to make a return to the ring after seven years?

Sangram Singh: I previously represented my country in competitive wrestling in the 96 kg weight category. Additionally, I ventured into WWE and professional wrestling during that period. Initially, sports didn't offer much financial reward; our motivation stemmed from the opportunity to secure employment by representing our nation. Winning medals wasn't the primary goal back then. 

However, the landscape has evolved significantly since, with wrestling gaining considerable attention in recent years, albeit for different reasons. I vividly recall the transformative moment when Sushil secured India's first wrestling medal in 2008, which propelled modern wrestling into the limelight. I was also the first wrestler to be part of television shows such as Bigg Boss. Despite recent controversies in the sport leading to concerns among parents, I firmly believe in wrestling's status as a gentleman's game deeply rooted in our heritage, which is why I'm returning to it.

Exclusive Sangram Singh on return to wrestling, Dubai match with Pakistan's Mohammad Saeed and fitness at 40

The frustration among the youth regarding wrestling is a concern. Do you believe this match will inspire them?

Sangram Singh: My goal in returning to the wrestling scene is to inspire the youth. During my time with the World Professional Wrestling Hub (WPWH), I proposed a strategy where we would compete in 3-4 matches abroad before returning to India. My vision was to have wrestling events every week, whether in high-end venues, local arenas, clubs, streets, or neighbourhoods. I want our young talents to have the opportunity to engage with international wrestlers. 

Currently, when a team represents our country internationally, only a handful of wrestlers can participate, while millions of boys and girls are passionate about wrestling domestically. By providing opportunities for local talent to compete with international wrestlers, we can not only help them gain recognition but also establish viable careers. 

Previously, WPWH organized wrestling events in various cities like Varanasi, Hyderabad, and Faridabad. Now, wrestlers from across the globe are participating in the championship scheduled in Dubai. One of my main objectives in participating in these events is to make youngsters believe that they need not just be a Sachin Tendulkar or a Virat Kohli. I want to encourage them to pursue wrestling as a career path, offering them a suitable platform to excel.

In the past, you were involved in international wrestling, and now you've transitioned to professional wrestling. Could you explain the distinction between the two?

Sangram Singh: Certainly, I have experience in both realms. Professional wrestling, or "pro wrestling," follows Olympic rules and styles but emphasizes on greater stamina and strength. Unlike Olympic matches, pro wrestling typically consists of more rounds, aiming to engage and captivate a broader audience. On social media, I am the most-followed non-cricket celebrity in the country. Leveraging social media platforms is crucial in today's world. For instance, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has initiated movements like Fit India and Khelo India, highlighting the importance of utilizing social media for positive initiatives.

What lies ahead for professional wrestling in India, and how do you plan to further promote your endeavours?

Sangram Singh: The future of professional wrestling in India is promising, akin to the evolution of professional boxing. Initially, sceptics doubted the potential of boxing, but as athletes transitioned from Olympic to professional boxing, perceptions changed. Success hinges on diligent efforts and genuine intentions. My goal is to encourage individuals who may leave wrestling in their mid to late twenties to remain engaged in the sport. By participating in television and film projects, I aim to attract more youngsters to the sport. Currently, we have secured partnerships with the government's Fit India Movement and the Sports Council of Dubai. The upcoming match will be broadcast on a prominent channel, while an FM channel will provide the commentary. While it's challenging to pinpoint the primary promoter, we are dedicated to maximizing our promotional efforts.

At 40 years old, you maintain remarkable fitness. What's your secret, and how do you structure your daily routine to stay in shape? Moreover, how do you believe your fitness journey can inspire the youth of our nation?

Sangram Singh: Being a strict vegetarian, I focus on just two things: work and workouts. On days when I skip exercising, I refrain from eating. Additionally, I incorporate yoga and pranayama into my regimen. I firmly believe that consistent exercise coupled with a simple diet is the key to staying fit. 

My fitness mantra is simple: eat less than your hunger dictates, drink double the amount of water, exercise three times as much, and laugh four times as often. Following this regimen ensures fitness. Regardless of how much protein and vitamins one consumes, true success stems from happiness. Even a simple meal of bread and onions enjoyed with happiness, provides more nourishment than any supplement.

What does Sangram Singh's diet consist of? As a vegetarian, how does his morning and evening routine contribute to his fitness?

Sangram Singh: My day begins with the recitation of the Gayatri Mantra, and before retiring for the night, I chant the Hanuman Chalisa. In the morning, my diet typically includes fruits or juice, along with dry fruits. For lunch, I opt for pulses, vegetables, curd or buttermilk, salad, and chapati, complemented by desi cow ghee. Occasionally, in the evening, I indulge in soup, porridge, or khichdi. Before bedtime, I consume milk mixed with jaggery. I prefer climbing stairs over using elevators and ensure a daily workout routine of two to three hours. I maintain a six-hour sleep schedule and strive to rise before sunrise, aligning my body with the natural rhythm of the day.

Exclusive Sangram Singh on return to wrestling, Dubai match with Pakistan's Mohammad Saeed and fitness at 40

What dietary regimen would you recommend for aspiring wrestlers in the country? What practices should they adopt and avoid?

Sangram Singh: I believe our greatest setback lies not in the world's failure to recognize us but in our failure to recognize ourselves. It's essential to have faith in oneself. Moreover, parents should refrain from imposing their aspirations on their children and instead, nurture their individual dreams. It's the values, not just the government, that shape a nation. Encourage rather than deter anyone from pursuing their aspirations. Remember, rejection can serve as potent motivation. Every rejection I faced became a source of inspiration for me.

When faced with rejection, how did you maintain your motivation?

Sangram Singh: I've always believed that success or failure shouldn't dictate our happiness; rather, it's about relishing the journey itself. Whatever is meant to be will come to pass, but our focus should remain on giving our best. Dwelling on 'what ifs' serves no purpose. Recently, I have ventured into filmmaking, and my dear friend, Haryana CM Manohar Lal, encouraged me to contribute positively to our youth. With rising concerns about substance abuse and fascination with crime-themed movies among the youth, my upcoming film aims to inspire them to steer clear of such vices.

What's the title of your upcoming film and when can audiences expect its release?

Sangram Singh: The film is titled 'Udaan Zindagi Ki' and it's set to premiere on OTT platforms in March 2024. Expect it to deliver the same exhilarating experience as 'Dangal' and 'Sultan'. We've captured the essence of Haryana during the shooting of the movie.

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