Exclusive: Arjan Singh Bhullar opens up about bringing UFC to India, going for the Title and more
Arjan Singh Bhullar is one of the first ever fighters in the UFC to be representing both India and Canada. He ended 2018 on a high note with a win over Marcelo Golm and took his professional MMA record to 8-1. Known for being extremely generous and open with his message of the importance of representation, and being the first fighter to wear the turban to a UFC show, Arjan Singh Bhullar is all set to take on his next opponent in the UFC.
When I was fortunate enough to catch up with him, he talked about that, representing India and Canada, winning the Gold Medal at the Common Wealth games, and much more.
Without any further ado, let's get into what he had to say!
Q. India has a great pedigree of amateur wrestlers but we still haven't had a lot of them transition into MMA. What advice do you have for wrestlers aspiring to fight in the UFC one day, given your own background in wrestling?
ASB: India has a long history of amateur wrestlers achieving success internationally. Even now, they are doing fantastically – men and women. My suggestion to them would be to consider the sport. WWE is doing great things by recruiting within India and UFC is the other outlet for amateur wrestlers. We have two professional outlets, where someone can have a wonderful career in. Amateur Wrestling is a very very difficult sport. If you can get success in that, you can get success in MMA and in many other things in life. If you have a passion to compete, being a professional athlete, give it a go.
Q. Do you follow any Indian MMA league?
ASB: I used to follow Super-Fight League, I know they've down-sized some. I follow Brave, which has done a show recently. Those are the main two that I have kept my eyes on. But once UFC comes to town, all the little shows will see more opportunities. They can develop fighters to go to the UFC. It helps all business – sponsorship, athletes that want to become stars, they see the product in their home soil and their home country, then they get inspired.
Q. Do you have any ideas or plans to help bring UFC to India, with possibly a headlining position for yourself?
ASB: Yes, definitely. That's why I signed up for the sport, and we had that conversation before I even signed the contract, and those are the plans. I can't say when, but they are working on it. They are studying the data, how many people watch the show online and on Sony Pictures Network, in the country of India. They study the data, then they know when the country is ready.
Tune in to UFC 235 at 8:30 AM, 3rd March, Sunday on Sony Six and Sony Six HD to see all the action from the main card, as Jon Jones defends his UFC Light Heavyweight Championship against Anthony Smith. Also, in the co-main event, Tyron Woodley will defend his UFC Welterweight Title against Kamaru Usman.
Q. What does 2019 hold for Arjan Bhullar?
ASB: It looks fantastic. I actually have a contract offer in my email that I'm gonna be signing tonight and sending back. There's going to be a fight announcement in the next week or so. I'm excited for that – the goal is this year to fight three times and get in the top ten, and get in position for a title shot in the early 2020s. I want to put my position this year, to get the title fight in the 2020s.
Q. Given your background in wrestling, could a possible shift to WWE be there in your future?
ASB: You know what? I love WWE. I grew up watching that stuff. It's a lot of fun, I grew up watching it. And yes, that's something that I think about, and I will definitely consider once I am done competing. I like competing right now. That stuff is difficult but it is scripted. I want to be able to compete, and then when I'm done competing maybe I'll look at that for entertainment.
Q. In UFC, is there any fighter right now, whom you'd like to face next?
ASB: As I said, there is a contract I am going to be signing tonight, so you will see who I am going to be fighting in the next couple of months. It will be announced in the next week. That's who my chances are with first, and once I take care of him, then we'll go to the next one.
Q. In UFC, is there one fighter you consider to be your major inspiration or mentor?
ASB: The Heavyweights that have come from wrestling, you had Mark Coleman, Randy Couture, Cain Velasquez, Brock Lesnar, these people were all great amateur wrestlers. They inspire me. And Daniel Cormier now for me especially, Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier, we are on the same team – AKA, so personally, they inspire me. I want to continue that legacy of wrestlers are champions and fighters who are champions.
Q. You’ve represented your Sikh heritage and were the first fighter to wear the turban to UFC shows. What is the importance of the turban to you, and was there a struggle to be allowed to wear it?
ASB: No one had asked that before. Whenever you're the first, people don't understand sometimes. We had to educate the company as to what Sikhi is, what the turban represents, and once they understood that, they understood it was beautiful and they allowed it. You know, as athletes, you can represent your community, and who you are – your identity. And now that's important to be able to represent who I am, and our heritage as a people, on the Global platform in the UFC.
This is what we need. Even within India at this moment. If we get people to accept being different and embracing people from different backgrounds and minorities. Sometimes politics divides people around the world, but the sport is able to bring people together.
Q. You have used your position in the UFC for good, promoting positivity and speaking out against violence against women, as well as the dangers of drugs. The way you speak about all of this makes it seem extremely important to you. Could you talk about what this means to you?
ASB: When you are an athlete, you have a responsibility and a platform to raise your voice. Politicians and politics divide people, but sports bring them together. My father was a Kushti-style wrestler, Olympic style wrestler. They raised me with the message – 'You're going to be a great Champion one day. When you get there, you make sure you use that for good and make the world a better place. It is your responsibility. And also represent you're identity and educate the world as to who you are and where you come from.' So these are things that I've been taught as a child, and I feel it's my responsibility, and to the people around me and to myself to be true to this.
Q. You won the Gold Medal in the Common Wealth Games in 2010. What was that moment like?
ASB: It was beautiful my brother! Canada has given my family so much of an opportunity, to be successful and opportunities which were not available for my family elsewhere. So it was a beautiful moment to be able to give back to Canada, but also represent India and Punjab. I was the only Punjabi athlete in Team India or Team Canada. It was beautiful to be able to represent both sides of the world and my whole story of my family. It was an amazing moment for me.
Q. Being of Indian origin, what has it been like competing in the UFC?
ASB: It feels amazing. When you're able to represent who you are and a select community, it feels very special. You make history when you do that, and you open the door to many other people. That's what I feel like I've done, for all of us. Personally, my goal is to be Champion, and I will continue to do that.