Arjan Singh Bhullar is a 2012 Olympic freestyle wrestler for Canada who made his professional-MMA debut in 2014. The former Olympian has also previously won a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at the Common-Wealth games of 2010.
He possesses an undefeated MMA record of (6-0) and is scheduled to make his UFC debut at UFC 215. He currently trains at American Kickboxing Academy (A.K.A) alongside legends such as Daniel Cormier, Cain Velasquez, etc.
In an exclusive interview, Arjan Bhullar talks about his wrestling background, transitioning into MMA and a lot more.
Sangam Shukla: How did you get into Wrestling? What made you transition into MMA?
Arjan Bhullar: Wrestling was started by my father in our family. When he came to Canada, he moved with the family and he continued to wrestle for many years. Naturally as a kid, I got into it as well by watching him train and compete. I and the rest of the next generation we all wrestle, we have an akhara (traditional Indian dojo) here at the house. Everyone trains at the house. My success representing Canada, the “Maple Leaves” and my community has been for many years.
Soon after the 2012 Olympics, I transitioned into MMA. I had always planned to take up MMA because many wrestlers were becoming champions in the sport. There were athletes from almost all over the globe becoming top MMA champions and I thought to myself that there is no Indian in this. Thus, I believed that I could be that person and help in connecting the sport with Indians around the world. Also, I had wrestled for so long that I needed a change.
SS: You’ve talked about your akhara. Do you prefer more old-school and traditional Indian wrestling methods or have a more modern and western approach towards your wrestling?
Arjan: I prefer a little bit of both. My off-mat training mixes more old-school stuff but while training for actual competitions, its mostly done on the mat. We have Olympic style mats in the gym because that was always my dream and trajectory to represent my country in the Olympics. My dad had already done the traditional styles of wrestling, so we both decided to do something new. However, I still occasionally do the traditional stuff. I’ve even competed in mud-pit wrestling competitions as a kid.
Though, majority of my wrestling is done in Olympic style on the mats.
SS: What was it like to win a gold medal at the Common Wealth games of 2010?
Arjan: It is a huge-huge honour to represent your country, even more importantly as an athlete because you can bring communities together and unite people as an athlete.The Olympic dream was special but the Common-Wealth games in India were even more special.
My family came here (Canada) for a better future. It was a great moment for me to represent the “Maple Leaves”, a country which has given me so much but to also give back to my roots. I was the only Canadian to win a Gold-medal for the country at the games of 2010.
After the Common-Wealth games, my family went back and built the gym in Punjab. People from our village and all the neighbouring villages, they come there and train. So, that was a give-back to my roots aside from the CWG victory.
SS: You were the only athlete featured in the book “The Jewels of Punjab”. What was that all about?
Arjan: There have been such books before as well such as “The Jewels of Gujarat”. It was a list of Gujaratis from around the world who have some notable accomplishments. This time they compiled a list of Punjabis. I too had the honour to be named in that book alongside former PM, Dr. Manmohan Singh. I was the only athlete named in that book and the youngest personality as well.
SS: Now that you’ve made it to the UFC. Share with us your journey to the upper echelons of MMA.
Arjan: When I crossed-over to MMA, UFC was always the goal for me. Whenever you take up a new sport professionally, you strive to become a champion in that sport. UFC is the biggest and the most recognized company in the sport, so my goal was always to compete and be a champion in the UFC. They (UFC) too wanted to expand in India and needed a fighter with whom Indian audiences and fans can connect with.
After London Olympics, we laid down a plan to reach the top of the heap and bring the sport of MMA to India.
They had a special unveiling ceremony of the book in New Delhi. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend it because it was too close to my fight but my parents did. It was truly a huge honour for me.
SS: The level of competition in the UFC is high and top-notch. How do you plan to cope with that?
Arjan: I am a really-really high and top-notch athlete and that’s how I plan to cope with the competition. I’ve earned my way into the UFC and I’ve accomplished a lot at a high-level. Hence, I’m used to the competition.
I just can’t wait to get in there and show the world what I’m made off.
SS: How exactly did the UFC happen?
Arjan: Like I said, UFC wanted Indian athletes to market to the people in India. WWE and the UFC both approached me after the Olympics and I just felt that the UFC was the best fit for me at this point in my life.
SS: Will we ever see you inside a professional wrestling ring?
Arjan: Jinder Mahal will be walking me out for my fight. Thus, we already have that relationship with the company. He (Mahal) has been a great representative of our people as a champion in the WWE. So, we’ll see what happens down the road.
SS: A.K.A is one of the best gym’s in the world. What is it like to train there?
Arjan: They are one of the best gym’s. They are particularly very good at training Heavyweights and at wrestlers transitioning into MMA. I am happy to represent that gym and that lineage.
Cain and Cormier will be there for the fight. So I’m excited for them to be there for my debut. The gym has simply been a perfect fit for me.
SS: What is the training camp like. How different is it compared to your previous fights?
Arjan: Its quite similar. We find out about the weaknesses of our opponent and work on a set game-plan accordingly.
SS: Share with us your thoughts on your opponent, Luis Enrique.
Arjan: He’s been in the UFC for several years now. He has lost as well as won but more importantly for us, he has lost. Thus, he knows how to lose. He has quit before.
I will make him quit. I will make him lose on September ninth.
SS: Can you provide some insights on how Daniel Cormier is taking the entire Jon Jones episode?
Arjan: I think it’s best to ask him about that.
SS: If you could choose a super fight for yourself, who would you match yourself against?
Arjan: It doesn’t matter. I am the super fight. Whoever they match me up against, the opponent should consider himself lucky because he’s in a super fight.
SS: What do you think India needs to do to create more home-grown MMA fighters who can compete on an international level?
Arjan: They need to successfully transition from their wrestling or boxing backgrounds into MMA. People need to be educated and more exposed towards the sport.
SS: Finally, a message for your fans.
Arjan: I’d like to say that history is upon us, we are just a week away from my UFC debut. So, just be excited and be ready to celebrate on September tenth.