Wrestler Dalip Singh Rana, popularly known as The Great Khali, is well-known in the WWE Universe where he battled professional wrestlers like Batista, Shawn Michaels and even John Cena and Kane. But that’s not all. While he won many fans with this successful WWE stint, he also added another feather to his cap when he took up roles in movies like Get Smart and The Longest Yard.
While he admits that he misses his wrestling days, Khali — who is 7 feet 2 inches tall — says that he continues to train in a similar way and is also extremely conscious of his diet, as doing so helps him maintain his fitness levels.
In an exclusive email interaction with indianexpress.com, he talks about his wresting days, the pressure he used to face before hopping on to the ring, his pandemic experience and of, course, his experience of shooting with Hollywood stars. Excerpts:
You have inspired many with your fitness level. How long did it take you to reach your goal when you had just started?
To be honest, I wasn’t thinking too far ahead when I started. I started by keeping small, simple and short-term achievable goals for myself. I knew from a diet perspective, my intake of carbohydrates, protein and fiber needs to be balanced and I had to avoid junk food – all of which I did. But in between all of this, I never thought that I would become this huge global icon, The Great Khali, or do brand endorsements, work in Hollywood and Bollywood. I wasn’t aiming for this.
My area of concerns were as simple as any other Indian. We celebrate so many festivals and end up overeating; so I would put in simple restrictions for myself – like not taking up festivals as an excuse to break my diet or consume too much sweet. But one thing that has been consistent is that I never gave up, I kept trying and doing my best. It began with body building and then moved to wrestling. So, my funda is that if you start something, you have to continue doing it with the same amount of energy and dedication. I have seen many people who after gaining success deviate and change their line of interest, but for me it was always wrestling and body building.
What does your daily fitness routine look like?
I begin my day by exercising for about 2 hours, then in the evening I train with my CWE team for close to 2-3 hours.
How conscious are you about your diet. What does your daily food chart look like (protein, carbs, sugar, etc.)?
I am very conscious of what I eat, but I also enjoy my favorite dishes. So, it’s a balanced eating routine for me. My diet includes chicken, egg, rice, dal – a balance of carbs, fats, proteins and fiber. I recommend these to other aspiring people, too. Nowadays, because of unhealthy eating habits, we see people’s health deteriorating — so to avoid that we should be conscious of what we are eating. Also, I don’t believe in taking shortcuts to achieve a certain level of fitness. To build a good body you need to put in the time and effort, it is not something you can do overnight. There is no shortcut.
What about wrestling do you miss the most?
There are many things I miss, but what I miss the most is people cheering for me. Thousands of people cheering around you, believing in you, and going crazy for you is a godly feeling. I miss that vibe but other than that, it is pretty same. I continue to train, and now that the Covid situation has eased up a bit, we are back to training people in my academy.
Lately, there has been a lot of conversation around the mental health of sportspersons. As a professional wrestler, was there ever a moment when you felt stressed/uncomfortable before going to the ring?
When you are a part of such a global platform, it’s obvious that there is a lot of pressure and stress – in the ring as well as outside. So, I used to feel a huge pressure to perform my best when I started initially. You know, billions of people are watching you live and there is pressure to do your best. I used to sweat initially, but I slowly got used to it. I knew what my strengths are and then performed my best under pressure.
You have also experimented with acting. How would you describe your experience of working with actors like Anne Hathaway, Steve Carell and Adam Sandler?
Oh yeah, those days, it was nice; I really enjoyed it. Specially working with Adam Sandler was great, it was my favourite as we used to have fun on sets. With Anne Hathaway, the shoot was happening while I was still wrestling. So I was hopping in-between both; it was hectic but fun. I used to wrestle for four days and then travel back and shoot for remaining days. I wasn’t allowed leaves to shoot for the movie, but I managed somehow. The shooting days were my favourite because there was no rush, everyone was giving their best performance and I made some good friends.
How do you unwind, something that is extremely important for sportspersons for good health and mental well-being?
I am not very used to this unwinding or taking a break concept because I never thought of it. I never took a break in the past, I just worked. The lockdown was, in a way, a break which made us all slow down. But if ever I feel like I have a day or two off, I still exercise but I spend some time with my family, learning new things with my daughter, learning to cook new dishes (which is what I did during lockdown), I shoot some fun videos with my daughter, too.
What has been keeping you busy these days?
I am working towards setting up a wrestling academy in Haryana which will have sports like Karate, Judo, Boxing, Kick Boxing, Kabaddi and of course body building. Also, planning to make a hotel there. Apart from that, I run CWE where I work with aspiring wrestlers and train them for events/competitions. I want to make an identity for wrestling in India considering how much Indians love WWE.
You are extremely popular on social media; but there have been instances when you have been trolled, and even switched off your comments section. How do you deal with the pressures of social media?
To be honest, it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care what trolls think or comment. I never let them influence my life; I don’t give the key to my peace to anyone else. If I start listening to what others say, they wouldn’t let me do anything. I will probably have to sit home then. So social media is not something that bothers me, I know there are people who love me and that is what matters.
Do you feel a professional WWE league can be set up in India, like leagues for other sports that have become common in the recent years?
Wrestling is very popular in India, perhaps the Indian viewership of WWE is more than American viewership. So yes, definitely a WWE equivalent can be in India. I am working towards it and contributing towards making wrestling more feasible in India.
Can you tell us about your association with KFC?
I have always been a huge fan, so, when I heard they have a new burger, which is literally like the Khali of all burgers, I knew it was for me. I had a lot of fun working because I got a chance to do and try things that otherwise my fans don’t expect me to do. Also, I can eat chicken in all forms. So, it was fun to work on this and give the world a glimpse of the true chicken lover in me.
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