ONE Championship Chair Sityodtong Trashes Bhullar Following DQ

Arjan Bhullar, ONE 166
Arjan Bhullar, ONE 166 Credit: ONE Championship

Count ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong among those unhappy with the performance of the promotion’s ex-heavyweight champ, Arjan Bhullar, on Friday.

Indo-Canadian Bhullar, a former UFC athlete prior to jumping to ONE as a free agent, was paired up with heavy-handed Iranian wrestler Amir Aliakbari at ONE 166 in Qatar, a massive card for the promotion, which counts Qatari investors among its backers.

The fight could have produced the next title challenger, but instead, there wasn’t much fight to talk about. Bhullar refused to engage through much of the bout, being warned by ref Herb Dean early on, and more than once. Then, in the third round, after enduring a low blow (an uppercut that strayed well south of its intended target), Bhullar wasn’t just warned. Rather, he was disqualified, handed a red card by Dean for timidity.

Aliakbari got the win, though he’ll be hard-pressed to justify a title shot off a victory over someone he didn’t appear willing to fight. As for Sityodtong, it’s clear he was livid after the debacle.

“There’s just no excuse,” Sityodtong told reporters during the ONE 166 post-fight press conference in Lusail, Qatar (h/t MMA Junkie). “What Arjhan did is just unacceptable at ONE Championship.”

“That’s the first time in the history of the company that we’ve ever issued a red card on timidity,” Sityodtong continued. “He didn’t want to fight. And if you don’t want to fight then why are you a professional fighter? And you definitely don’t belong in the pinnacle of martial arts. I was deeply disappointed in Arjan, and I think he let down India.

Sityodtong saved perhaps his harshest words for last. “India will no longer look at him as a hero.”

Bhullar (11-3) posted a 3-1 record in the UFC before opting to sign with ONE Championship in 2019. He has fought only sporadically, but did claim heavyweight gold by defeating Brandon Vera at ONE: Dongal in 2021. An extended contract dispute and a revolving door of dates with then-challenger Anatoly Malykhin followed; when the pair did meet, Malykhin dethroned Arjan Bhullar in the third round of their 2023 title fight. Saturday was Bhullar’s first fight back from that loss.