With less than 24 hours to go for UFC 215, the fighters have successfully made weight during the early weigh ins. However, much of the shine has been taken off due to the main event getting scrapped.
“Mighty Mouse” will have to wait a little longer to edge past Anderson Silva, as the most dominant champion in the history of the company.
The PPV still has a solid headliner, with Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko taking what many believe is their rightful place in the main event.
However, a billion eyes will be on the prelims card of the Pay – Per – View. Arjan Bhullar, the heavyweight from British Columbia will be making his UFC debut. But more importantly, he will rewrite history, by becoming the first fighter of Indian descent to fight in the UFC!
For months, Arjan Bhullar has been waiting for this occasion; the night when he finally gets to represent a country with rich history and culture in martial arts, but ironically, no one to carry the Indian flag inside the Octagon. Before we get to UFC 215, we had the chance to speak to Arjan exclusively for the Indian fans.
You train with AKA, but have been in Canada for the event. How long did you train with AKA for the fight?
Arjan Bhullar: I go to AKA regularly. I represent AKA; during the lower level in the regional scene, the idea was not to represent AKA, because it’ll be harder to get fights, coming from that camp, being with the wrestlers and everything. So I represented my team I train with in Vancouver. But now in the UFC, they got me the contract.
My training, we do the same everywhere, but how it works is, I split my training camp between Vancouver and San Jose, and so when I’m down in San Jose, I’m able to train with Daniel Cormier, and I helped him during his fight with Jon Jones. And now I’m back home, training with some of the guys I brought in to Vancouver.
You will be facing a ranked fighter, who fought some tough opponents – even Francis Ngannou during his debut fight in the UFC. So how difficult was it to bring someone in to mimic him?
Arjan Bhullar: Yes, so my coach has studied him. They know his tendencies, and we’ve basically brought in training partners that we thought would give us that look. And then we focus on ourselves – on deciphering those flaws, and exploiting those holes in his game, and making sure that we’re on point. The focus is on ourselves, and that’s where we’re at. That separates us – as I said, it’s our focus, our chemistry; the team has been together since day one.
And for myself, (I’ve been) competing at a high, high level for a long time. So, you know, everybody’s going to be big, fast and strong, and know how to exploit this and that, but my Olympic pedigree in terms of wrestling sets me apart, and my insight – competing at a high level against world class competitors, in a sport like wrestling for many years.
You develop a certain quality internally that can handle — and succeed at that level. And I don’t think that there’s anybody that brings that to the table right now.
In Singapore, I spoke with Sean Shelby about how UFC can enter the Indian market. How do you think you now competing in the UFC can represent this change for the country?
Arjan Bhullar: I think 3 – 4 years is way too long. I think this thing can and should be done much quicker. They had a distribution deal for content with Sony signed 4 – 5 years ago, so the people are familiar with the sport and company. More than anything, it is easy to understand; it’s a very easy sport to understand, it’s coming from the history of wrestling in the country. It’s a natural transition; lot of wrestlers from the U.S make that transition.
So there is a feeder system in place. Obviously, at the Olympic level, there’s been success in boxing, as well as in India. And again, you got some talent there that can feed into this sport. And then again, the success of WWE – that’s their biggest market for the company. So I think all those ingredients — they understand the demographic, the largest young demographic in the world.
People want, from what I know, something outside of cricket in the country, and this is the perfect sport. If you look at every other sport – NFL equipment is too expensive; the game is too difficult to understand. NBA can get there; hockey – you’re not going to get ice in India. So out of all the sports, this makes more sense. It’s accessible to everyone, and more importantly, I think I’m the guy to make this happen.
You need someone who can naturally connect with the people. If you know me, and those who know me know that I’m a proud Indian. And my story is very Indian; the way I live currently – you don’t have to make anything up. It’s all there; all the ingredients. So, like I said, I don’t think taking four years to do a live event is a smart thing. I think we can get that done in the next 18 months.
You’re going to be making your debut at a big PPV. What is going through your mind days before the fight?
Arjan Bhullar: What’s going through my mind? It’s great; it’s a big card and all that, but for me, my fight is the most important. My fight is the biggest fight, and it always will be that, because that’s what it is for me. So I’m excited, it is going to be a great event, on my home soil in Edmonton, Canada, which is 90 minutes from where I live. So we got a lot of family and friends flying in for this. It’s going to be a lot of fun; I’m excited.
You told me you’ll be in India in October. Do you have any dates planned?
Arjan Bhullar: The Sheru Classic is on the 13th, 14th and 15th in Bombay. I haven’t booked my itinerary yet; that I will do after my fight. So if it’s 13th, 14th and 15th, I’ll probably get to India on the 9th I’m assuming. So that’s sort of how it will be.