When you have an opportunity to talk exclusively with WWE’s Tribal Chief and Universal Champion, Roman Reigns, you must adapt to his busy schedule. If that means having a conversation with the 6’3” warrior while he’s in the middle of blasting his morning cardio, then so be it.
It’s just another day in the life of Reigns, who invests countless hours of his limited time to be the best athlete and performer he can possibly be. As the title holder, he must also look over his shoulder because the former pro football player is once again on a collision course with the “Beast Incarnate,” Brock Lesnar. The former UFC champ is set to return on a special extended episode of “SmackDown” this Friday night on FS1 and They will officially square off at Crown Jewel on Oct. 21. We found out how Reigns stays committed to his fitness when time is so stacked against him, learned how he values his position in WWE, and discussed his highly productive relationship with Y3T program founder, Neil “Yoda” Hill.
You seem to have really found your groove as the dominant Tribal Chief. Is this the most comfortable that you have felt since joining WWE in 2010?
I guess there’s two sides to it. I think yes, as an in-ring performer, as a character, and the presentation that goes into that, I’m the most comfortable that I’ve ever been. But then, on the other side, when you find yourself in this untouched territory, this tippy-top of the mountain position, it can be uncomfortable because there’s a lot of people coming for me. Everybody, from everyone in the locker room, all the way to Hollywood megastars, and MMA box office draws like Brock Lesnar. It feels like everybody’s kinda got their eyes on me, which is what you work towards, right? So, it’s a great position to be in, but at the same time there’s a target on your back.
Speaking of Lesnar, he challenges you on Oct. 21 for the Universal Championship at Crown Jewel, and he is scheduled to make an appearance on the extended 2 1/2-hour episode of “SmackDown” (live on FS1 this Friday night). You’ve tangled before, but it seems like he’s fronting up to a whole new Roman Reigns this time around?
One hundred percent. The difference is all the way around, it’s 360 degrees. From my personality to the business side of it, to the mindset, I’ve always had a killer instinct from my days in football, and from just being in the shark tank of WWE, swimming at the deep-end for so long, but now it’s absolutely greater than ever. You’ve heard me and Paul (Heyman) talk about it. It’s years of accumulating this experience and going through these loops and hoops to figure myself out, and also GPS myself as a performer, and where I feel like I belong. What I’m doing now and have been doing [as the Tribal Chief] for almost a-year-and-a-half now, is unprecedented. Nobody’s been able to do what I’ve done with this Universal Championship, and also the way I display the face of WWE. It’s unmatched. So, I think he’s gotten himself into something that he may not quite understand or be ready for.
You’ve had such physical clashes with Lesnar in the past that your history together is proving to be one of WWE’s greatest rivalries. Where do you rank him as far as your toughest opponents?
Yeah, I mean, it dates all the way back to 2015 and the WrestleMania 31 main event. From there, I’ve worked really hard not just to be in the main event but to become “the main event.” The way we attack our fights, we are just trying to “out-physical” each other. We’re more intense, more believable. With his [MMA] background, that’s spoken for, but people forget that I played at the highest ranks of American football. I would definitely say he is without a doubt the hardest. There’s been a few others that I’ve struggled with, Seth Rollins being another one, he’s just a whole different type of opponent, but yeah Brock is absolutely the greatest rivalry I’ve ever been a part of. I’m looking forward to continuing it.
Now that WWE is back on the road touring, how do you continue to keep your nutrition on-point and fit your workouts around wrestling, media duties, and everything else that you have to tackle each day?
Well, that’s the hardest part, the nutrition. Especially as someone who has been on the road, coming from a small little beach town, Pensacola, in the panhandle of Florida, all the way to traveling all over the world, it’s really cultured me. As we all know, food is a huge part of our (Samoan-American) culture, and I have a great taste for some really good food, and different types of foods, and I thought that this would be my struggle. But I think [it’s all about] the discipline of putting in the work.
As we speak right now, I’m a little out of breath because I’m on the arc trainer right now. My time management has to be crisp. I have to be on point at all times, otherwise if I fall behind, I miss a meal, then I have to go to bed later. It’s all on a string and everything is connected. It’s important that we have the discipline and the time management to make it all happen. Then if I’m not motivated, and I don’t want to do it, I still have that discipline, that drive, and that anchor, and that “why” to do it.
Sometimes just starting the race, taking that first step is the most difficult part, but once you get going, you eventually find that groove. I’m on the 33-minute mark (on the arc trainer) right now, and in that first five minutes I was like, “Ah, I don’t want to do this! Why not just sit in this chair behind me and do these interviews?” But it’s one of those things that when all else fails, that’s why you have discipline. I don’t have to do it; I get to do it.
Is your morning cardio fasted or do you have breakfast beforehand?
I do fasted morning cardio, and then I’ll knock out some light cardio to help with my appetite later in the evening. For me, cardio is integral to always being able to ‘go’. It’s good to be able to put the boots on and wrestle for a long time and not get tired, but it’s also good for my mind.
There’s such an important relationship between physical and mental health, isn’t there?
It’s something that helps me. Mental health is a huge topic of conversation now, and it’s something very serious, but I think also, as opposed to just talking about it, we have to do things about it, we have to take action to help ourselves and create that therapy, that meditation where we can be in our thoughts, have that clarity, and see that clear view of what we are trying to do with ourselves and the people around us.
You’ve been working closely with Neil “Yoda” Hill and training with the Y3T program, do you think that you will always use elements of this plan going forward?
Oh yeah, I’m in Week 2 right now, so it’s getting brutal again. It’s that heavy, focusing on load, more of an eight-to-12-rep range. I wanna always be as strong as possible. I have four sons, and one day, you know, in a decade or so, they are gonna try me [laughs], and I wanna be able to look at them and say, “Hey, I can still go. I can pick up a grown man and throw him if I need to.” But yeah, Y3T is great, but I think it’s the man behind the program, Neil Hill. I can’t say enough about him. I think no matter what the goal is, or where I’m trying to be from an athletics point of view, I enjoy picking his brain and working with him, and having him as a coach to lean on. He’s so well versed that I think he’ll be able to ride with me as my goals and career trajectory changes. It’s a journey that we are both excited about.
Tonight will be a special 2 1/2-hour Supersized edition of SmackDown airing on FS1 at 8pm ET. Roman Reigns will defend his Universal Title against Brock Lesnar at Crown Jewel Thursday, Oct. 21 at 12pm ET on Peacock and WWE Network everywhere else.