It has often been said that the most successful professional wrestlers are the ones who are able to tap into their real-life personalities and turn the volume up to 12. Hulk Hogan, The Rock, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and Roman Reigns are proof positive that you don’t need fancy gimmicks or wacky ring attire to make a connection with the paying audience. Now, you can add AEW’s World Heavyweight Champion; Maxwell Jacob Friedman to the exalted list of wrestlers that have made it big, by embracing their true selves and unapologetically chasing their dream of being larger than the industry that they perform in.
M&F sat down with “MJF” at his home in Long Island, to find out what makes the 26-year-old tick and how close he really is to the divisive persona that’s presented on television. We also drilled down on how the champ has managed to pack on some serious muscle in the last few months.
“It helps being filthy, dirty rich, as I am the AEW world champion,” says MJF when talking about how he’s able to work on his evolving physique. “It also helps, just being born genetically better,” he concludes modestly. Of course, interviewing Friedman is a pretty surreal experience, but you never feel like he’s putting on an act. The champ has found meteoric success in AEW by saying exactly what he thinks, and only looking after number one. This man is sharp and a natural professional wrestling talent, but he’s also working hard behind the scenes, and has grown to love bodybuilding firstly through his beginnings in high school football, and then again as the king of the mountain in All Elite Wrestling.
“In football, you’re told by your coaches to do lifts that, for some reason, you just don’t see people doing in the gym anymore, like lifts as simple as power cleans,” says Friedman. “And, when you do that, it puts you in a certain mindset for sure… of power, and stability, and just overall athleticism” When MJF started training to become a professional wrestler at the “Create A Pro Wrestling Academy,” the ever-confident star says that he blew his trainers away with how quickly he picked up the basics within the squared circle. These days, however, Friedman has become just as famous for wearing a Burberry scarf and ripping verbal holes out of his opponents as he is for the art or grappling. MJF has unflinchingly mocked CM Punk for his unsuccessful stint in the UFC, and burned Ricky Starks by telling him that he’s a “dollar store Dwayne (Johnson).” But, does he ever worry that he’s gone too far in the pursuit of entertainment?
Maxwell Jacob Friedman is Not Afraid to Cross Any Line
“There’s no line I’m not willing to cross,” affirms MJF. “And, I think that’s the reason people tune in to AEW Dynamite, because no one knows what is going to come out of my mouth next, and whether you love me or hate me, you are sure tuning in to find out.”
It’s an approach that has gained him fans and those who take offense in equal measure, but one thing that you can never accuse the champ of, is trying to copy someone else. I put it to MJF that part of his success lies in the fact he is not preoccupied with emulating the wrestling heroes of the past. “I’m the first and last MJF, and I feel like I am the last of a dying breed as well, because you are right, everyone else is trying to be a carbon copy of somebody else. Everybody else is putting on this weird type of suit, I don’t gotta put on a suit, man. All I gotta do is go through the curtain and you’re going to find out what MJF is, quick. And, I promise you, whether you love me or hate me you are not gonna be able to stop looking.”
Friedman is one of those rare wrestlers who’s becoming larger than the industry that he works in. He can be spotted alongside other notable VIPs at UFC events, and is currently in the process of shooting the new “Iron Claw” movie. It’s a pro wrestling biopic on the Von Erich family that sees him starring alongside the likes of Zac Efron. “We finally have a superstar again, that we can showboat,” says MJF of his hard-earned status. “I think that I am easily the type of athlete who should be interviewed by Muscle & Fitness, as I am, and I am also being interviewed by Forbes, and ESPN, and all these news and media outlets. I got all the stroke, and I am the one that everybody is talking about in professional wrestling.”
MJF tells me he would love to find a role within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Indeed, it seems that the world is simply not enough!
The exciting star says that his AEW contact is up on January 1, 2024, and that he fully expects an all-out bidding war from the top wrestling promotions in order to secure his services. But, there are also those critics within the old guard, the pro wrestling veterans, who feel like MJF is putting himself before the business of professional wrestling. Does he respect those critics? “I could give a s**t about the older guys,” says MJF without a second for pause. “I wish they would all rot in hell and die already. It’s our time. Screw them, and screw the fans that like them still. I’ve had a phrase and a saying since I entered this business: talent over tenure. I believe in it whole heartedly, and if these old dogs don’t want to believe I’ll put them out of their misery myself. Just come for the champ, and I’ll do it.” Saying exactly what he thinks is never an issue for Maxwell Jacob Friedman.
“If you are born gifted, and you work hard, the possibilities are limitless,” he continues. “I have a personal chef; her name is Julie Posner. She makes me five meals a day, every day. I have a nutritionist, his name is Bryce Ready, and I have a personal trainer and coach; branded as Stoked Athletics. Essentially what I am doing, literally week after week is, I’m moving up in the weights that I lift. I’m training up very slowly.” The AEW Champion explains that he is progressively increasing his weights by around 5 pounds per week and while still young at 26, he is yet to hit a plateau.
Maxwell Jacob Friedman’s Approach To Bodybuilding
“I used to hate it when I was really young,” admits Friedman when talking about the gym. “Because, when I got into fitness, it was strictly because I wanted to get bigger, because I was a football player. And then I sat down, and my dad showed me this movie called ‘Pumping Iron,’ which I’m sure everyone who reads Muscle & Fitness has seen, and I went ‘oh, s**t, I wanna get that big!’ And then after that it was gangbusters, and it was fun.”
Maxwell Jacob Friedman loves to while away the hours at what he considers to be the best gym in the world—Bev Francis’ Powerhouse Gym. “And, what I think is so cool about not just weight training but bodybuilding is that you have your mirror, and some people might think this sounds like an arrogant thing, but when you look in your mirror, you have an opportunity to look at yourself and go ‘OK, what do I need to work on?’ Then you evaluate and move from there, and you get to literally watch the progress. I think that’s really cool, and I honestly think it’s much harder than say what a painter does. Because a painter, they look at the canvas and they go ‘OK, [MJF makes a brush-stroking motion] and they simply fix it No, this is our body. It’s figuring out how to get the job done, and I’ve become completely addicted to it.”
Maxwell Jacob Friedman’s Macros and Cheat Meals
“As far as my calories go, I don’t eat nearly as much as people would think,” shares MJF. “I’m at around 2,500 calories a day. I have about 215 grams of protein. My fats are always as low as humanly possible, and my carbs take up the rest of the calories. It’s just about consistency and then, just so that I don’t go absolutely insane, on Thursdays, I let myself eat whatever I want. I find that those Thursdays help carry me over not just mentally, but also physically. Because, after a Wednesday (when AEW Dynamite is broadcast live on TBS) since I am the world champion, it’s exhausting; getting on a plane and potentially wrestling or even running my mouth can sometimes be exhausting because I can get loud. So, when I get home, I like to reward myself with a lot of carbs.”
Maxwell Jacob Friedman says that his go-to ‘cheat’ meals are pizza and ice cream. “My favorite ice cream in the world is Ben & Jerry’s.” MJF’s flavor of choice? Milk and Cookies! But, when he’s on the road and doesn’t have his personal chef to rely on, Friedman takes his weighing scales right along with him. “All these fat, slob, pieces of s**t in my locker room, they’re eating everything that’s out there in catering,” he taunts. “Me, I’ve requested that they at least have grilled chicken and rice. I hit my 2,500 calories, I just eat it throughout the day, and that’s that.” And, when it comes to making sure he never misses a gram of protein, this man is on point. “A secret weapon that I have, just because it is so low in calories is egg whites. Man, if you want to try to stay relatively low calorie, why aren’t you drinking egg whites? The company that I use is called Muscle Egg. I don’t do the flavors; I do the regular straight egg whites because there’s zero added sugar in it. If it’s the end of the day and I still haven’t hit my protein quota, I drink 8oz of Muscle Egg and go to bed.” Undoubtedly, Maxwell Jacob Friedman is helping to carry the pro wrestling industry on his ever growing back. Here’s a workout that helps him to do just that. Try it for yourself:
Maxwell Jacob Friedman: Back and Biceps Workout
“I do a lot of weighted pullups,” says MJF, noting that these have been pivotal for the increase width that he is seeing with his back. “Honestly, I try to hit my back from all angles.”
The following exercises are performed as dropsets of 12, 10, and 8 reps.
- Loaded Neutral Grip Pull Up
- 3 Point Dumbbell Row
- Seated Hammer Strength Wide Row
- Seated Single Arm Lat Pulldown
- 3 Point Rear Delt Row
- Arm Seated Machine Preacher Curl
- Seated Incline Bicep Curl