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Arjan Bhullar hoping for Reebok turbans and a spot at UFC London in 2018

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Arjan Bhullar became the first Indian-origin athlete and the first Sikh to compete in the UFC back in September.

Following his decision win over Luis Henrique in his debut, the former Olympian wants a sophomore outing at UFC London.

“I really want to come over to London for my next one,” Bhullar told MMAFighting.com. “There is a huge Indian population over there, and I think that would be a tremendous event for me to get on.”

England boasts an Indian population of approximately 1.5 million. As well as that, there are nearly 500,000 Sikhs in the country, which Bhullar believes will allow him to make a lasting impact on the event.

“My management company has contacted the UFC and have tried to communicate what kind of an impact I could have in London. I really don’t think they understand the kind of support we’d have out there,” he explained.

“It would be one of the biggest events they could put on outside of India for the Indian community. It’s one of those things, I just looked at the calendar and said, ‘Of all these events, that’s the one we need to get onto’. We’re trying to make it happen, so we’ll see.”

Although Bhullar was not permitted to wear a turban during his walk out for his debut, he believes that Reebok should mass-produce the headwear, the most recognized symbol of the Sikh community, to avoid missing a big opportunity.

“If I walk out there with the turban, and they allow me to connect with the community, it’s not only good for me, it’s good for the company,” said Bhullar.

“You know they said, ‘Hey, this goes against Reebok’s code of conduct’, my first call was to get Reebok to start making turbans. We have engaged with them. We want to educate them and get them to understand what the turban is.

“In terms of a product, I think it’s a no-brainer. I think they should jump on that soon or they’re going to miss the boat.”

The 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medalist is confident that he will be able to sport the turban the next time his makes is way to the Octagon.

“We’ve been told that it’s no problem and before the next fight we’ve got to reach out to them so they can give us the green light on that.

“You look at something like WWE and you’ve got Jinder Mahal wearing the turban, it’s something that is unique to our people. If you’re talking about connecting with people through sport, that is how you do it.”

With a market of over one billion people, and with no major US sport yet to make a lasting impression on India, Bhullar doesn’t think the UFC recognizes the value that he brings to the table.

“I don’t think anyone outside of me fully recognizes what I bring to the table here,” said Bhullar.

“We’re not just talking about an athlete, we’re talking about an athlete who can talk and connect with people. This is a lot more than a guy who can punch or wrestle. This is the total package.

“As a company, UFC should want this for themselves. No major sport has been successful in India – baseball, hockey, soccer, football – it’s wide open. We’ve got the blueprint to make it happen with MMA and we’ve been in touch with the UFC office about that.

“Conor (McGregor) has been able to create such a buzz because of his ability first and foremost, but he’s unique and he has a massive following as an Irishman. If I can get one billion people me just imagine what we can do.”

In the same way that the NBA used Yao Ming to stimulate the Chinese market, Bhullar wants to be the man that brings the UFC to the Indian masses.

“The market is there. You compare it to a market like China. India is democratic. They have social media, cell phones and access to information. They have free content available through one of the sport channels over there.

“The people are educated on the sport and they all speak English because of the schooling that came in under British rule. Everybody seems to be very excited about having Indian representatives in the UFC. They’re ready for an event tomorrow.

“A UFC event in India is a no-brainer. It’s bringing the west to the east and the east to the west. We are the bridge. It’s about bringing the company and the sport out that way and being the first out of any major sport to that.

“China has been done with basketball with the likes of Yao Ming. This is it for India. They never have someone come through and they’re familiar with combat sports. It makes perfect sense.”


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