WWE NXT Star Ilja Dragunov Opens Up About Not Having Specific Goals For Wrestling Career

Unlike a lot of his peers, Ilja Dragunov did not have to wrestle in scores of indie promotions in the United States before catching the eye of WWE. Instead, his journey to WWE was closer to the likes of Toni Storm, GUNTHER, and Ludwig Kaiser, all of whom went from the European indie scene to "NXT UK" to "WWE NXT," and ultimately the main roster. 


The only time Dragunov experienced the U.S. indies was at the 2018 PWG Battle of Los Angeles, and it was around this juncture he was convinced he had a shot at making it in the big leagues. That said, Dragunov doesn't approach his career with any specific goals in mind, believing it better to live in the moment and focus on the journey, arguing that focusing on goals can lead to an empty feeling after they're achieved. "After a certain amount of time, I knew for myself [that] this profession is where I need to be," Dragunov told "Out Of Character." "Somewhere around 2017-18, I knew there was nothing else I could do better than this. But all the options that came after that, especially "NXT UK" ... I knew the possibility was there."


Dragunov acknowledged that the launch of "NXT UK" in June 2018 changed "the whole landscape" for Europe-based wrestlers as they now had a greater shot of making it to WWE. "There were more options for people like me to succeed," he said, while detailing the miseries he endured prior to his big break. "2017 and 2018 were the most horrible years of my life. In those two years, my body composition changed ... I did a very rough diet because I wanted to be as lean and as good as possible for the ring. I worked crazy shifts — I worked as the manager of a gym, for which I had to put in lots of hours. Then, I had a very young child, a wife, and a family life I had to manage. Plus, every other weekend, I was wrestling. So, those years [I] had next to none of recovery time."