Who is the 1st Indian-Origin MMA Champion?

Arjan Singh Bhullar is a trailblazer in MMA and even made history when he became the first Indian-origin world champion.

Who is the 1st Indian-Origin MMA Champion f

"Just patience. I knew I was gonna hurt him."

MMA is still a relatively new sport and there is a gradual increase in Indian-origin fighters but one name stands out – Arjan Singh Bhullar.

Bhullar has had a remarkable journey, transferring his wrestling pedigree to the world of mixed martial arts.

Born in Canada, Bhullar was introduced to combat sports at an early age.

He soon began winning championships and represented Canada in various competitions.

Using wrestling as his foundation, Bhullar learnt other skills to become an effective MMA fighter and it paid off as he became the first Indian-origin world champion.

Although other South Asian-origin fighters are emerging, it is Arjan Bhullar who has had the most success.

We explore his rise to becoming a world champion and beyond.

Early Life

Who is the 1st Indian-Origin MMA Champion - wrestl

Born and raised in Vancouver, Arjan Singh Bhullar is of Punjabi Sikh descent.

He discovered his passion for wrestling at a young age, first learning Indian Kushti-style wrestling from his father before moving into Freestyle.

During his collegiate years, Bhullar represented the Simon Fraser Clan at Simon Fraser University, then at NAIA university.

Wrestling in the heavyweight division at 285 pounds, he enjoyed a highly successful career.

Bhullar’s achievements included a third-place finish in 2007 and consecutive championship titles in 2008 and 2009 at the NAIA Wrestling Championships.

His outstanding performance led to accolades such as Canada’s Wrestler of the Year and NAIA Outstanding Wrestler in 2009.

Notably, Bhullar made history at the 2009 CIS Championships by becoming the first wrestler to win both the NAIA and CIS titles in the same year.

Wrestling Success

Who is the 1st Indian-Origin MMA Champion - early

For five years, Bhullar proudly served as a member of the Canadian national team, demonstrating his prowess on the international stage.

Notably, he held the prestigious title of 120 kg national champion from 2008 to 2012.

In 2006, Bhullar showcased his skills by securing a commendable third-place finish at the World University Championships.

Continuing his impressive trajectory, Bhullar earned a bronze medal at the Pan American Games in 2007 and went on to compete at the World Championships in the same year.

He returned to the World Championships in both 2009 and 2010, achieving significant milestones.

In 2010, Bhullar won gold at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

Bhullar made history in 2012 when he became the first wrestler of South Asian ethnicity to represent Canada at the Summer Olympics.

Though facing formidable competition, he displayed unwavering determination and represented his country with pride, ultimately finishing in 13th place.

Turning to MMA

After having a successful wrestling career, Arjan Bhullar transitioned to MMA, a sport that continues to grow at a rapid rate.

His first amateur fight came in August 2014 and he turned pro in November of that year, fighting in the Canadian promotion Battlefield Fight League.

Over the next few years, Bhullar dedicated himself to competing solely within his homeland of Canada, where he maintained an impeccable record of six consecutive victories.

He had his first taste of MMA gold in 2015 when he secured the vacant BFL Heavyweight Title by defeating Blake Nash by TKO.

By using his wrestling, Bhullar was able to take down his opponents before using his powerful striking to try and finish them.

Demonstrating his prowess as a dominant force in the heavyweight division, Bhullar successfully defended his title on two separate occasions.

His talent soon caught the eye of several major promotions.

Joining the UFC

Arjan Bhullar joined the UFC in 2017, competing in the heavyweight division.

He also began training at the renowned American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California to sharpen the rest of his skill set.

Also known as AKA, the gym is home to several prominent fighters, including world champions.

He made his promotional debut on September 9 in front of his Canadian fans at UFC 215.

Bhullar was the second fight of the night, facing off against Brazilian Luis Henrique.

Bhullar secured a unanimous decision win, making it a successful start to his UFC run.

However, he would taste defeat for the first time in his MMA career when he fought Adam Wieczorek on April 14, 2018.

Despite controlling the first round with his wrestling, Bhullar got caught in a rare omoplata submission early in the second round.

Bhullar had two more fights in the UFC, defeating both Marcelo Golm and Juan Adams by unanimous decision.

His fight against Adams was the last on his UFC contract and the promotion opted not to re-sign him.

But this decision ended up being a blessing for Bhullar as he continued his MMA career.

Becoming World Champion


In July 2019, it was announced that Arjan Singh Bhullar had joined ONE Championship, the premier MMA promotion in Asia.

He was expected to make his promotional debut against Mauro Cerilli at ONE Championship: Dawn of Heroes on August 2, 2019.

However, Cerilli withdrew from the bout just hours before the event due to a staph infection.

At the time, Bhullar tweeted: “Hey guys unfortunately my fight was cancelled.

“My opponent has a staph infection and wasn’t able to get cleared in the medical check.

“I’m very disappointed not to be able to put on a show for all of my fans and loved ones.

“Was extremely well prepared for this fight and can’t thank my team enough for their sacrifices during preparations.”

The fight eventually took place on October 13, 2019, with Bhullar winning by unanimous decision.

He then got a title opportunity against the longtime ONE Championship Heavyweight Champion Brandon ‘The Truth’ Vera.

They were set to fight in May 2020 but Covid-19 put a halt to things. Their fight did not happen until May 2021 at ONE Championship: Dangal.

The first round was fairly close, with Vera landing a few leg kicks and keeping his distance with the jab.

Bhullar managed to score a takedown towards the end of the round.

He increased the pressure in round two, rocking Vera with some big punches.

Bhullar then took Vera down and wore down on him while landing heavy ground strikes.

Unable to defend himself properly, the referee stopped the fight and Bhullar made history by becoming the first Indian-0rigin MMA champion.

After the fight, Bhullar said: “Just patience. I knew I was gonna hurt him.

“The plan was to keep patient… the intention is to rule the five rounds and I don’t believe he’s got five rounds.”

Meanwhile, a disappointed Vera admitted he got tired, saying:

“This is the first time in my entire career that I’ve gassed.

“I’m disappointed. I don’t know. We just keep training, we just keep grinding to get my belt back.”

On becoming the first Indian-origin MMA champion, Arjan Bhullar told Firstpost:

“Amazing. I am born and raised here (Richmond, BC).

“I have represented this city my entire life and I always will.

“But I have also represented my culture and my roots. I continue to do that now and it has been a very lovely reception.”

When it comes to Indian-origin MMA stars, no one has more of an impact than Arjan Singh Bhullar.

Although he has since lost the ONE Championship Heavyweight title, Bhullar remains one of the most accomplished Indian-origin MMA fighters.

He may be on a two-fight skid but the 37-year-old remains focused on getting back into title contention and continuing to shape his legacy.

Dhiren is a News & Content Editor who loves all things football. He also has a passion for gaming and watching films. His motto is to "Live life one day at a time".

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