Arjan Singh Bhullar has become the first ever South Asian to compete in the UFC
When Salman Khan’s movie Sultan was released, it beat all the box office records at the time. This was perhaps for two reasons. First it starred Salman Khan, second it was a big hit with the South Asians around the world because the movie highlighted a popular dream of Indian wrestling fans to see one of their own fighting in the world of Mixed Martial Arts, which is the world fastest growing sport in the world.
Since the release of Sultan, Indian fans did not have to wait too long for this fiction to become a reality.
Arjan Singh Bhullar, the former Olympian who was the first South Asian to wrestle for Canada in the London 2012 Olympic games and is a Commonwealth Games gold medallist in the sport of freestyle wrestling, was born and raised in Richmond, British Columbia. Arjan has now also become the first ever South Asian to compete in the UFC – which is the biggest Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) company in the world.
Entering UFC was just the first record, Bhullar went on to make a history by winning his debut fight against Luis Henrique by a unanimous decision at UFC 215 at Rogers Place in Edmonton in September 2017.
“It was amazing, it’s something that you visualize,” Bhullar told reporters after the fight. “From getting my hands taped, to the actual fight, the walk-in, walk-out. Everything went according to how we foresaw it. The fight went good too.”
But absent from the Canadian fighter’s walk-in was Jinder Mahal, the WWE star and friend of Bhullar. “He gave me a call, he was caught in [Hurricane Irma],” Bhullar explained. “He lives in Tampa, Florida and he’s like ‘you know what brother, I’ve got four different properties down here, I’ve got my dog down here, I just haven’t been able to make peace and leave this.’ So he decided to bunker down there.”
Bhullar went on to talk about his Sikh lineage and how wrestling was and still is a very popular sport in India. He talked about his dream to be the ambassador of Indians around the world.
“Wrestling has a huge history in India. The founders of our religion practiced wrestling.” He said with him entering the UFC, more opportunities will open for Indo-Canadians and Indians across the world. “There are over one billion in India. We are everywhere. Every big sport wants to enter the Indian market but either there are no facilities or no talent. But wrestling for sure has great scope. And we want to crack that market.”
It is to support his Punjabi roots that Bhullar has decided to fight under the Indian flag for the UFC. He said that I come from Sikh lineage and my ancestors are warriors. “My dad wrestled before me. This is all I have ever known since I was in diapers – to train and compete.”
Wrestling has a rich history in the Bhullar family. Arjan’s father, Avtar Singh Bhullar was the first to excel in both the traditional Indian style of wrestling (Kushti) and Olympic style wrestling.
All ten of the Bhullar boys (Arjan’s brother and his cousins) were eventually put through the same rigorous training regimen at the Bhullar “Akhara“ (gym), which was built on the family farm where Arjan lives with all of his extended family. Equipment was scarce and sympathy non-existent; while work ethic and a desire to become the best abundant. This was the unofficial beginning for Team Bhullar, which is now taking the world of MMA by storm.
Having trained almost exclusively with the family through high school, he was able to win multiple provincial and national high school championships. He went on to wrestle for wrestling powerhouse Simon Fraser University on a scholarship, while pursuing a degree in
Political Science. When he was competing for Simon Fraser, Bhullar made the Senior National Team and represented Canada around the world. Building upon his success at the university level, he was able to have some early success while competing for Canada. He was named Wrestler of the Year in 2009 and followed that up with a dramatic Gold Medal winning performance in Delhi at the 2010 Commonwealth Games over the hometown hero from India.
From the outset, his goal was always to become a world champion. That was always the mindset, and the ultimate goal. Wrestling at the 2012 London Olympic Games (as the first ever South Asian to represent Canada) in Freestyle Wrestling – the stage was set for the grand finale but he didn’t achieve overall what he wanted to there and the hunger to be a world champion still remains in Arjan.
Being a true competitor and a champion in wrestling is one part of Bhullar’s story, living every aspect of his life as a champion, is something he continues to work towards. Knowing the world needs more than just athletes to help make it a better place, Arjan continues to be extremely passionate and devoted in the community. He has continually donates his time, energy, and money towards various causes and non-profit organizations.
This heavyweight fighter wants to make a difference in the world, beyond sport. That’s why he says he plans to wear a turban to the ring for future fights.
“I want to empower people to be unique.”
It is Arjan’s goal to represent his community and make a difference in it and this has made him very popular amongst his core fans around the world and people who don’t watch sports even.
Arjan’s first fight at Roger’s Place in Edmonton was a very historic event for the South Asian community and history was indeed made!
‘I don’t think anyone debuted like that before in his first fight out and a fight that was the second fight on the prelim card’ Bhullar said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour.