In the world of professional wrestling, finding a vegan wrestler is very rare. One wrestler, though, is bucking the trend of his meat-eating brethren. His name is Zack Sabre, Jr, a 29-year-old British athlete who has made a name for himself not only as one of the best independent wrestlers in the world but also as one of the few vegan pro wrestlers. Sabre went vegan in 2015 after winning Pro Wrestling Guerilla’s Batlle of Los Angeles, and has since won the Wrestling Observer award for Best Technical Wrestler in 2016 (he also won in 2014 and 2015). Last year, he competed in World Wrestling Entertainment’s Cruiserweight Classic Tournament, and currently holds multiple championships, including the Evolve Championship, the Pro Wrestling Guerrilla World Championship, and the Revolution Pro Wrestling British heavyweight championship. He was also announced as a participant for New Japan Pro Wrestling’s 2017 G1 Climax tournament running from July 17-August 13. With Sabre’s busy schedule, we knew we couldn’t say no to a sit-down with the acclaimed grappler to talk about what it’s like being vegan in the world of pro wrestling.
VegNews: What was your motivation to become vegan?
Zach Sabre, Jr: I think it was a long-time building. I got back from LA and watched Forks Over Knives. I think that documentary just has such a great approach to veganism in a multitude of ways.
VN: I’m guessing you were a meat-eater before you became vegan?
ZSJ: I was never a passionate, blood-dripping, steak guy. I would enjoy stuff for a Sunday dinner or an English breakfast, but I wasn’t a passionate meat eater. For my career in Japan, a big part is corporate dinners and sponsors would take you out for meals. They really want to spoil you. It was always meat heavy, like Korean barbecue, sushi, and fish. I was eating more and more meat and fish and animal products than I would have ever eaten naturally. I would wake up the next day feeling awful.
VN: Was it hard transitioning to become vegan?
ZSJ: I became vegan in Japan.
VN: That’s must’ve been hard!
ZSJ: (laughs) Not being able to read the labels is an obstacle. As far as not eating those foods, it’s no problem. You’ve got so many options to be vegan. Certainly, living in a country where you can’t read the labels is a challenge. Google translate has a good app that you can use to scan foods. It’s always a work in progress. It’s just a learning experience as opposed to challenging. Nobody forced me to become vegan. It’s something that resonates with me.
VN: Going by their Instagram and Twitter accounts, many wrestlers love eating meat. The only other wrestlers I can think of who are vegetarian or vegan is Daniel Bryan and Austin Aries.
ZSJ: I think it’s certainly growing. The wrestling community kind of represents the mainstream bodybuilding and fitness mindset, which is based around animal products, but I think it’s slowly catching up in the fitness world. British heavyweight boxer David Haye has been vegan a couple of years. I think it just takes time.
VN: How did your wrestling colleagues respond when you became vegan?
ZSJ: I think they had curiosity. I’ve gotten, “Oh that sounds neat! I’ve got to try that.” Some people would get defensive. You almost invite what they’re doing is wrong or immoral. I try to be as non-condescending as possible and just talk about the positive facts. I would say people have been more intrigued and curious than judgmental.
VN: When you’re traveling from to place to place, city to city, how do you become aware of vegan options?
ZSJ: You can always get food somewhere. When I was in Peru and Chile, I could find rice and beans at food carts. If you’re not fussy and open-minded, you can find places. I try to make the most of the Happy Cow app and support a vegan/vegetarian business.
VN: Do you cook anything yourself?
ZSJ: I cook a pretty mean tofu scramble. I am by no means a culinary master. I can make a vegan chanko, a staple food of pro wrestling and sumo, lots of smoothies. I make vegan roast dinners. I still haven’t mastered chia pudding.
VN: Did you notice any changes when you became vegan?
ZSJ: One hundred percent. I don’t think there is any question. Part of going vegan [was that] I just wanted to eat food that would make me healthy. Travelling, you end up eating more processed foods. I was bloated from eating animal products. I had more energy within my matches.
Andrew Benjamin can be found at wrestling events in the NY work area while munching on kale chips.