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Sangram Singh: A real champion is one who never gives up, the result takes a backseat

Sangram Singh is a renowned Indian wrestler and actor, besides being a motivational speaker, philanthropist and health guru. He is also a former Commonwealth Heavyweight Wrestling Champion. Recently, he was also honoured with a doctorate during the Nelson Mandela Global Peace Awards.

Sangram Singh: A real champion is one who never gives up, the result takes a backseat-ayh
Rohtak, First Published Mar 3, 2021, 6:31 PM IST
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Famous Indian wrestler and actor Sangram Singh seems to be scaling new heights in his career. He has added another accolade to his resume, from being a former Commonwealth Heavyweight Wrestling Champion to a distinguished actor.

On Tuesday, he was awarded the honorary doctorate, alongside Indian tennis legend Leander Paes, during the Nelson Mandela Peace Award. At the same time, he has also been roped in as the brand ambassador for Fit India Campaign 2021.

Following the same, Sangram spoke to Asianet Newsable exclusively, where he talked about many things, including his recent accolade, future plans and wrestling in India.

Congratulations on being bestowed with the honorary doctorate. What does this mean to you?
It reminds me of an incident from school days when once I was playing with a local friend in my village. As we were playing, his father came up and started scolding him, saying that he would never complete his education if he continues playing like this. He has to become a doctor in his career. While he never became a doctor, I did (laughs).

During my initial days when I was learning how to wrestle, my coach showed me the picture of Leander Paes, who had won a medal in tennis. He told me that I would be rewarded if I keep working hard, just like him (Paes). Meanwhile, during the event, I interacted with Paes for a couple of hours and I narrated the incident to him. He is one of the best human beings I have ever met.

As far as the doctorate goes, I come from a family where I did not have the basic education facilities to become a doctor. Neither I had the money to pursue education to become a doctor. However, it has been wrestling that has taught me so much and given me everything, as I still keep learning.

Which is the most inspiring thing you got to learn from Paes?
Firstly, Paes is undoubtedly the greatest Indian legend in tennis. The most inspiring thing he told me, besides being a humble gentleman, is that he is practising hard to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics 2020. I was so inspired that even at 47, he aims for Olympics qualification, despite having won so much.

What next for you now?
I am now focused on giving my best and serving as the brand ambassador for Fit India Campaign 2021, which also has athletes like Hima Das, Sunil Chhetri, Bhaichung Bhutia, Mary Kom and many more. I am also planning on coming back to wrestling. If everything goes right, by god's grace, I will start with professional wrestling. If everything goes right in that, I will look to perform in amateur wrestling.

If I can make a comeback now, it will inspire other budding athletes and wrestlers, just like Paes continues to work hard even at this age. A champion keeps trying hard and never gives up. The result is secondary. Also, I'm preparing to star in a wrestling movie, which would somewhat prepare me for the comeback.

Are you eyeing a future Olympic qualification in wrestling?
One at a time. Presently, it would all start with pro-wrestling. Then, it would depend on my body. Suppose my movement and flexibility are up to the mark. In that case, I will move towards amateur wrestling, which has developed immensely in the past few years and already has a number of renowned wrestlers from the country.

How has pro-wrestling changed wrestling as a whole?
See, wrestling has been professionalised by WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). Until then, we all knew that Dara Singh from India was a renowned wrestler and that's how wrestling is done. However, the new set of rules in pro-wrestling and amateur wrestling makes it distinctive.

In WWE, matches go on non-stop until one scores the win via pinfall or submission. Meanwhile, in amateur, there are rounds of three-four minutes and points are scored based on the type of strike one lands on his opponent.

How is the training in pro-wrestling different from regular wrestling?
Let me tell you something. Although pro-wrestling (like WWE) is mostly imaginary, it is excruciating if one suffers an injury or lands an accidental blow on his opponent. Furthermore, if the damage is not severe enough to stop the match, one must continue with the pain to entertain the crowd.

The training pro-wrestlers undergo for pro-wrestling (like WWE) is vastly different to that of usual wrestling. It involves high-flying skills, abilities and manoeuvres, making sounds to make the crowd understand the severity of the injury they are selling. Also, the safety measures, on how to save yourself from the possibility of getting hit by your opponents blows, everything involves a high level of training, which is totally different.

Why have Indians struggled to make a name for themselves in WWE, barring a notable few, like Khali and Jinder Mahal?
The one things that I understand is the impact of media. WWE was immensely popular during the 90s in India. However, nowadays, the media has made it no secret that it is simulated, leading to the downfall of its craze in the country, unlike the old times when people used to consider it as an actual form of wrestling. Also, the influx of other sports and professionalising it, like Pro Kabaddi League, Indian Super League and many more, has dwindled WWE's viewership of late.

Do you have any plans to pursue Mixed Martial Arts in the future as well?
I remember Khabib Nurmagomedov's story, who trained hard to become a wrestler, but could not build a career and made a switch to MMA, where he is a champion now. MMA is the only sport I haven't touched yet and it requires a whole different training.

It is complicated for a wrestler to join MMA and only a notable few have managed to do so. It is a demanding sport, which has a high risk of injuries. Also, I am associated with the entertainment industry and I have a lot of commitment towards it. Therefore, I will need to think deep and hard before deciding whether I should take up MMA.

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