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Arjan Singh Bhullar hopes to hit the UFC 'pay dirt' in India

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the largest Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) promotion in the world, is now looking to capture the Indian market. It may seem UFC is venturing in to uncharted waters when it comes to this cricket-crazy nation, but they have come prepared. Arjan Singh Bhullar, the first Indian origin fighter signed by the UFC, has navigated tougher waters and has broken the proverbial 'glass ceiling'.

So, it seems fitting that UFC is banking on this former Olympian from Richmond, British Columbia, Canada to do the job. Bhullar was the first Indian origin wrestler to represent Canada at the Olympics (London 2012), a gold medal winner at the Commonwealth Games (Delhi 2010) and he now boasts of a 7-0 record in MMA. Bhullar, born and raised in Canada, is visiting India to find a connect with the fans here and to promote UFC. However, despite being Canadian, Bhullar is by no means disconnected to his roots.

TOI Sports caught up with the uber-confident 'Punjabi' as he discussed his prideful lineage, transition from wrestling to MMA, huge potential UFC sees in the Indian market and WWE Champion Jinder Mahal.
What are you looking forward to the most during this visit to India?

Connecting with the media and getting the story about UFC out there, that is the priority. Let people know that India is ready for UFC. There is knowledge about the sport here and with free content which is already out there via Sony ESPN for the fans, I am excited to bring UFC out this way.

How do you see UFC stacking up against cricket, the one sport that supersedes everything in India?

It is wide open boss. Such a big population and you can't have just one sport here. Potential to grow here is huge. But the right person at the right time has to come though. You know there is no one Indian in any of the major sports, so I think there is a great opportunity for us. This is a simple game, people can understand - get in to a cage and you are having a fight. And I think, things are falling in to place here.

The Idea is to bring UFC here and in 18 months we hope to bring our events here. All we have to show is that the people have the interest. We have to go out there and do events, it is easy. UFC is looking at China as well, but China doesn't speak English the way India does, and it is difficult to do business there; so, India is the place to be. To the fans, I just want to say that I want all your support, UFC wants your support and let's bring UFC to India.


Was the transition from wrestling to MMA always on the cards?

MMA is one of the fastest growing sports in the world so I always had my attention towards it. Lot of people that I know, that I wrestled against or trained with, were in the UFC and were being successful. I was their fan and I watched them, and then slowly I got it in my head that I want to do this. Heading into the Olympics, I knew this is my last wrestling match and after that I wanted to go to UFC.

How tough was the transition?

Wrestling is very tough and I am used to it and that tough training allows me to do what I am doing right now. You compete one on one in both sports, so all that stuff was normal; it was the new skills that I had to learn like how to punch somebody or how to take a punch. And at the end of the day when you want something that bad in your life and you have the love for that, you will do it and that is how I was able to push through that initial phase.

You are good friends with WWE Superstar Jinder Mahal. Ever thought of pro-wrestling as an alternative?
You know what, I love pro wrestling. I have been a big fan since I was a child and much like probably you and many others, pro-wrestling is lot of fun to watch and Jinder is a great person to represent the sport as the WWE champion. For me I love to (be a part) for sure; but not full time. Actually, I had the offer after the Olympics; WWE did approach me, but I still wanted to compete and also WWE's schedule is 


How similar or different are WWE and UFC?

Anything in sports comes nowadays down to entertainment. Fans tune in to be entertained, so in that respect both UFC and WWE go in hand in hand. If you want to create a market, you must do certain promotions and be entertaining for the people. But, at the same time, UFC is completely different as it is not scripted, so that sets both sports apart.



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