SPORTbible Speaks To WWE Champion Jinder Mahal
Three years ago, Jinder Mahal was one of many talents given the old "all the best in your future endeavours" by WWE after languishing in the company.
Yet fast forward to the present day, and the 30-year old grappler is gearing up for the first defence of his WWE Championship against Randy Orton in the Viper's hometown of St Louis at the Smackdown Money in the Bank pay-per-view.
Having considered setting up a Subway franchise after his stint with WWE was cut short, Mahal worked tirelessly on the independent circuit and returned to WWE in July when the company were in need of extra superstars to fill shows after a brand split, in which Raw and Smackdown would be completely separate, was announced.
Mahal initially took on the role of elevating performers upon his return but his work in the ring made an impression on Vince McMahon and those backstage, as less than a year on he is the 50th WWE Champion, and cream of the crop on the blue brand - proving that hard work well and truly pays off.
"It was three years yesterday and I got a whole bunch of tweets about it," he said on a media conference call on Tuesday.
"It feels great but I believe I am deserving to be WWE Champion because I've put in a lot of hard work since [the release] and I'm going to continue to put in the hard work to be one of the greatest champions of all-time.
"I'm very proud also of Drew Galloway [McIntyre] - he's made quite the comeback and made a lot of noise away from WWE - he's put in a lot of hard work and WWE does recognise hard work. Drew Galloway could be a champion in WWE very soon.
"But it's just a great experience and it just goes to show that you can go from being rock bottom to becoming WWE Champion. It's never over, as long as you are willing to put in the hard work, WWE is willing to reward that hard work."
Mahal is one of a select few performers to have been signed with both Raw and Smackdown since the two brands became their separate entities, and in his comparison, is in no doubt that Smackdown is where it's at.
"It is different, blue really is the land of opportunity. As far as the locker room goes its pretty much the same, the boys are the boys whether it's blue or red but I think Smackdown gives opportunities to the younger stars.
"When I was on Raw, Goldberg came back, which was great - I love Goldberg, I was a huge fan growing up and obviously the people love Goldberg because when he was champion everything was great, ratings were high.
"But I think Smackdown is more of a younger nucleus in a way - you've got Shinsuke Nakamura, you've got Baron Corbin, Sami Zayn and then AJ Styles who is still relatively new to the WWE. I love being on the blue and hope to continue on the blue as the WWE Champion."
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A huge factor in Mahal's meteoric rise has been his unbelievable body transformation and if you want to look and carry yourself like 'The Maharaja' does, you need to eat and train like a champ - as evidenced by his daily routine.
"The first thing I do in the morning is empty stomach cardio, so before I eat I only drink water or black coffee and I do about 25 or 30 minutes of cardio." he explained.
"Then I start my meals and I eat every two hours - whether it's a protein shake with oatmeal or it's a meal with valid carbohydrates, valid protein and low fat - chicken breast and rice, brown turkey and rice, sweet potatoes I eat a lot of, I eat some red meat every once in a while but the main thing is that I eat every two hours and if for some reason I'm in a rut and don't have food, I always carry a protein shake with oats.
"I actually don't eat out, I carry all of my meals in a cooler bag and have meals frozen for me for the week so it's just being consistent, and not having any cheat meals, having my meals prepared for me and eating them on the road."
Should he get past Randy Orton on Sunday, Mahal will have another challenger at some point down the line - the winner of the Money in the Bank ladder match receives a customary title shot that they can activate on their terms.
There's no real best possible outcome for Jinder, as whoever emerges victorious from the six-man match has the ability to waltz into a title match whenever they see fit, but the first ever world champion of Indian descent does have some thoughts on his best and worst case scenario.
"I'm going to say the worst case scenario for me would be Shinsuke Nakamura just because he's very unpredictable and the WWE Universe haven't seen a lot of him so he's very hard to gage. For me, as a champion, I would be most concerned about Shinsuke Nakamura winning the championship.
"Best case scenario? There is no best case scenario as whoever wins is going to be coming for my championship but I'm going to say AJ Styles just for the simple fact that I think me and him can have some amazing matches - I believe our styles mesh well. I've wrestled him on a bunch of live events and think we can great matches, and I look forward to wrestling him in the future."
Beyond that, the sixth WWE champion since the brand split is targeting a lengthy run with the belt on Tuesday nights, and vows to prove his critics wrong.
"I would definitely like a lengthy title reign on Smackdown just to prove to everybody, all the sceptics, that I am deserving of the WWE Championship, I am a main event superstar and I think the longer that I hold it, people's minds are going to change and I will become a credible champion, a multi-time champion and definitely a Hall of Famer."
Featured Image Credit: WWE
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