In Conversation With UFC Heavyweight Arjan Singh Bhullar

UFC 215 heavyweight Arjan Singh Bhullar
Credit: Arjan Singh Bhullar / Twitter - @theone_asb

Arjan Singh Bhullar is one of the brightest heavyweight MMA prospects today. The former BFL heavyweight champion had a decorated wrestling career in which he managed to win a gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and a bronze at the 2007 Pan American Games. A former Olympian as well, he made the switch to MMA in 2014 and since then has wreaked havoc on every person who dared to face him. The Punjabi-Canadian titan will be making history at UFC 215 when he becomes the first fighter of Indian origin to step into the UFC octagon. That night, the UFC newcomer will be facing decorated BJJ artist Luis Henrique. Ahead of the battle, Singh took time off to answer questions about personal life, his future, his Indian heritage and more.

What got you into combat sports? Is there someone who influenced you?

 I started my combat sports journey by taking up wrestling. Wrestling is a popular sport in the Sikh community. We had an akhara at our home and that is how I started practicing the sport.

My father influenced me to take up wrestling.

When you look behind and realize how far you have made it, how does it feel? What in your opinion is your greatest achievement?

I think my greatest achievement is yet to come. I still have a long journey ahead. I guess when I am old and when I retire, I will look back at all my accolades and feel proud. Until then I’ll let you guys figure out what my greatest achievement is.

Who is your favorite fighter and why?

I like many fighters.

Ali, because of what he was able to do beyond the ring. The way he managed to help his community by working for his people is something that I can relate to.

I like Tyson because of his strength.

I like Fedor as despite being dubbed as a small heavyweight, he went on to become one of the best heavyweight fighters of all time.

What are the biggest challenges that you have faced?

The biggest challenge I have faced is to make the decision of taking [on] this sport. Usually, when I make a decision I take advice from my close friends and parents. However, the decision to take up MMA was solely my call. I am happy that I made this decision.

You hold a perfect record. Does being undefeated boost your confidence or add more pressure? What is the most difficult part about holding an undefeated record?

I don’t feel any pressure. Holding an unbeaten record proves that I whatever I am doing is right and I need to continue to do so. It also adds credibility to what I am doing. It is not difficult.

You have finished most of your opponents, with 3 of 6 finished via KO. What is your game plan? What is your emotional state as you enter a fight?

My game plan is to continue to finish my fights. I train at an amazing gym at American Kickboxing Academy where my coaches help me in planning out my game.

I have no emotions when I enter a fight.

You will be making your UFC debut on UFC 215. The event has managed to assemble one of the most stacked cards of this year. How are you feeling? Does the attention bother you?

Hahahahahaha, if the attention bothered me I would have shriveled up in a shell and wouldn’t have taken up this sport. I don’t care how big the fight card is or which fighters are competing on the card. For me, my fight is the most important fight on the card.

Fighters have in past succumbed to the audience and have developed nervousness but I am not every fighter.

You’re the first Indian origin fighter to compete in the UFC. How does that feel?

It feels amazing. Indians are very special to me. It’s a great opportunity for me to represent Indian culture in the UFC.  In fact, I’ll be coming to India in October and November to meet the Indian crowd.

WWE champion, Jinder Mahal will be accompanying you for your fight. How does that feel? Are you both close friends?

We are Punjabi brothers. It feels great that he will be there to support me. He’s at the top of the hierarchy in his sport; I plan on to be at the top of my sport. Together we will raise the Indian flag. We have the support of over a billion people. I am very happy that I will get him to support me.  

You will be facing BJJ artist Luis Henrique. What are your thoughts on him? How do you see this fight going?

I will stop him. As you have stated he comes from a BJJ background.  I plan to pressure him until he breaks. One way or other I will finish him before the fight comes to an end.

Fighters have time and again commented that they have faced some form of racial discrimination. A notion which has come out is that some MMA promotions don’t treat fighters of color the same way they treat white fighters. What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever faced such problems?

The world works that way. Denying that racism doesn’t exist is stupid. I have faced some problems but it doesn’t affect me. My destiny is in my control. What I do in cage cannot be affected by the way I am treated. If you’re an Indian you always get a lot of support from your community. Hence, I always have a lot of people who support me. I do my job, that is get in the cage and get my hand raised. I have a lot of people who support me

You belong to a relatively younger generation of heavyweight fighters. Overeem is 37, Stipe is 34 and Werdum is 40. Do you think you can be the next big name for the heavyweight division?

I am 100% sure that I will be the next big star of the UFC heavyweight division. I come from an amazing camp at American Kickboxing Academy; over there I have heavyweight legends like Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez to help me. I certainly believe that I can be the next big name in the heavyweight division.    

Do you follow the Indian MMA scene? Do you think MMA can be a popular sport in India? What are your thoughts on the position of MMA in India?

Yes. I do follow the Indian MMA but not as much as North American MMA.  Yes, MMA can become a popular sport in India. As I have said, wrestling is a very popular sport in India. It generates the interest of people. When MMA was introduced in the North America, many wrestlers crossed from wrestling to MMA. It became an avenue to earn a living for many wrestlers. Similarly, I expect MMA to become a path for many wrestlers to switch over to.

I think MMA is yet to break into the Indian market. With my help, I am pretty sure UFC will be able to set up a market here in India. This will also help in uplifting the position of Indian MMA fighters and will make MMA a big sport in India.

One of the most discussed topics in MMA today is fighter pay. What are your thoughts on the money made by an average MMA fighter?

MMA is a young sport. So one cannot compare the money made by athletes in other sports to the amount made by an MMA fighter. That being said, I think in the near future the situation will improve a lot.

A message for your fans.

Thank you to my fans and my brothers for supporting me. Keep following me and I will give a voice to the Indian community in the MMA world. I will be coming to India in October and November to meet my fans. I am excited to meet all of you.