From an Olympic wrestler to an MMA fighter, the journey of Arjan Singh Bhullar

Bhullar recently made his debut against Brazil’s Luis Henriques in Edmonton, Canada last month

Olympians who have turned Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) are plenty. The trend is not new with the likes of Kevin Jackson, Mark Schultz, Ronda Rousey, among others being prime examples. Canada’s Arjan Singh Bhullar is the latest to do so.

Bhullar made his debut against Brazil’s Luis Henriques in Edmonton, Canada last month was a master class. The 31-year-old, whose family migrated to Canada in the early 20th century, beat the Brazilian 7-0.

However, the result shouldn’t surprise his fans given his fantastic MMA record which stands at 6-0 including three knockouts. Before joining MMA, Bhullar already knew the nuances of the sport given his wrestling background. He was a part of the Canadian Wrestling team and represented the country at the 2012 London Olympics. He had beaten India’s Joginder Kumar for the gold. He also bagged the bronze medal during the Pan American Games in 2007 in Rio. Bhullar has come a long way and has his eyes set on the UFC Heavyweight title.

“My first fight was fantastic. Making my debut in Canada was historic. Around 200 of my friends and family had come down to see me fight. People came from California, United Kingdom and India. It was wonderful,” said Bhullar.


A family that loves wrestling

Born into a family that has a wrestling history, Bhullar knew that he wanted to make a career out of the sport. “My father trained me when I was young. We have an akhada at home and dad used to train after he used to finish his practice,” said Bhullar.

“He always had wrestling as a career option even when he was young. Right after the London Olympics he discussed the UFC switch with me. So we supported him 100%,” said his father Avatar Singh. His uncles and grandfather were all into wrestling and played the sport at some point in their life.

After the London Olympics, Bhullar had set his sights on the UFC. “After the Olympics, I finished that chapter in my life and I switched my focus to the UFC. I spent 26 years of my life to compete in the Olympics,” said Bhullar.

But given how gruesome the sport is, a career-ending injury is always on the cards. “As an athlete you can’t be worried about injuries. If you are worried about them then you shouldn’t be on this line. If it is something you enjoy doing then just go for it,” said Bhullar’s father.

Arjan Singh Bhullar won the 2010 Commonwealth Gold medal. Reuters
Arjan Singh Bhullar won the 2010 Commonwealth Gold medal. Reuters

A tough transition

For an onlooker, transition from an Olympic wrestler to a brutal UFC fighter seems to be tough. But, for Bhullar, given his wrestling background, the transition was easy.

“Wrestling is the best base to have. It is a very tough sport to be honest. I had to learn many other things like how to punch somebody and how to take a punch. It was exciting and fun to do,” said Bhullar.

He has his sight sets for the UFC Heavyweight title currently held by Stipe Miocic of the United States. Bhullar is leaving no stone unturned and is training for his upcoming clashes. “I train six days a week, twice a day in the morning and evening. I train six hours a day. There is fitness, strength and conditioning and running. Then I follow it up with wrestling training, boxing training and MMA training which is a mix everything,” said Bhullar.

Another athlete that has followed Bhullar’s path is India’s Vijender Singh, who took to professional boxing after quitting his amateur career. So why do athletes make this switch even after being successful in the sport?

“As an athlete as long as you are healthy and your fitness is good, you want to still compete. Vijender did that and now he is doing great. He is 9-0 now. I want to still compete as well and I am doing that in the UFC,” said Bhullar.

UFC matches will be broadcasted in India by SONY ESPN.

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