ARJAN SINGH BHULLAR CARRIED THE HOPES of one billion people on his shoulder when he stepped into the UFC octagon at UFC 215 to face Luis Henrique.
His UFC debut might’ve been just another fight for the fans outside India, but for the MMA lovers in the nation, it was a historic moment.
When he faced Henrique at the event, Arjan became the first fighter of Indian descent to step into a UFC octagon and it will forever be etched into the history books as a milestone for Indian MMA.
And the best part is: Arjan’s journey has only started. Before Arjan embarks on his next big step, The Fan Garage’s Kevin Barboza managed to catch up with the Heavyweight fighter in Mumbai. Below are some highlights from the interview.
On why he took up MMA:
"When I was wrestling, the sport was really growing in North America and even around the world. Apparently, it is the fastest growing sport in the world. Many people I wrestled against or trained with were already in the UFC, some were champions and were doing really good in the sport. So I just started watching them because I knew them
I was a fan of the sport and it was exciting to watch. The more I watched the more I was like 'I want to do this'. Heading into the Olympics, I had already made up my mind that I'm going to jump into it"
The differences and similarities between wrestling and MMA:
"The biggest natural part is the training which is both very difficult, number two is competition is still one on one in front of lots of people. Number three you can use your wrestling in this. Wrestling is the best base for this game why because in all fights we are standing. If I'm punching him and say he is beating me up, I can take him down. I control where the fight goes. I'm able to use my wrestling skills but in the UFC and MMA, you have to have extra skills as well.
It was tough [Learning striking techniques]. You used to be the best as used to wrestle for so long and now I'm a rookie again. It was exciting to learn something new"
Being the first UFC fighter of Indian descent:
"I feel prideful. Anytime you can make history is special. When you are done and look back at your resume and see the history created for your next generation. But my goal was always to be the best. But the fact that I'm the first Indian to do such a thing that's a bonus"
What to expect from his next fight:
"Much of the same, I will continue winning, will continue to climb the ladder. In the last fight, the guy was highly ranked, big name but I was able to go in and comfortably beat him. I’m excited for the round that will be around New Year, January or February"
His journey to India:
"The head of the UFC, he had a meeting with all the executives told them on the priority that one of the new markets they want to go to, is India. The fact is that they have a fighter now who has been successful and has the potential to be the champ and will be the champ. When you go to a market, you need to have a connection with that market. My story is very Indian, my lineage, roots. I've done a lot of work in Northern India over the years"
There is a documentary coming up called 'One billion strong' on my whole journey on NetFlix. We are doing a lot of different projects to connect with the people and show to UFC that India is ready. We have great Wrestling history here. There is free distribution of content so all can see the fighter, understand and connect. All these are good recipe to bring UFC"
His take on people criticizing that he is not a true Indian:
"My roots come from India. I represented Canada. If you know my motivation, if you can tell speaking to me, I'm not a typical fighter, I have other motivations. I'm not the typical fighter. I want to create the biggest platform and do the good and make an impact for people.
If I can make a change in India, why wouldn't I represent and connect with those people? To me to represent that flag would be easier to connect someone from here saying like Hey he looks like me, talks like me, eats like me. India is tough to be successful maybe you have to inspire a little more. I really want to spend the last part of my athletic career connecting with those people"
Message to Indian fans
"Support your guy. I'm here for you guys. My father wrestled our here, I used to follow him as a kid those are my earliest memories of India. We have an own gym, we built and donated in Northern India which is free of use to kids. I'm coming back to Chandigarh next month. I'm a coach for wrestling at a university in Canada. I'm bringing wrestlers here and we are going to compete with some university kids for an exchange. I would love to connect and have been doing this every year and it will really make a difference.
It's all Indian; I eat Indian food every night, stay like Indian and live Indian. It is who I am and very prideful of that. We are going to show the world what Indians are about and bring that to the mainstream now"
Tune in for the Podcast edition of the Interview where Arjan also talked about his take on the Indian MMA scene, his advice to the youngsters and more.
You can follow Arjan's journey in UFC through Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) which provides free access to UFC Fight Nights and UFC Pay-Per-Views. Subscribe to our newsletter for all the latest updates.
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