For a fighter like Cain Velasquez to become the best in the world he needs to have a great sparring partner to sharpen his game against, like Daniel Cormier. And when those elite heavyweights aren’t beating up on each other, they need other supremely talented fighters in the gym to push them to their limits. For Canadian Olympic heavyweight wrestling star and 5-0 MMA pro Arjan Bhullar, the opportunity to learn the MMA game alongside two of the very best heavyweights in the world made his choice of training camp very easy.
“When I made the switch to MMA I hooked up with American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, and I started splitting time between AKA and Vancouver. AKA has a proven track record of turning world class wrestlers into world class fighters, especially at the heavier weights. And I had a good connection with a lot of the wrestlers already there, so everything lined up for me”
Arjan wrestled his way to gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games
Cormier and Velasquez are both smaller heavyweights, and at an even six feet tall the stocky yet explosive Bhullar shares a lot of the same physical attributes that those men possess along with a similarly well-polished amateur wrestling pedigree. Arjan has been improving greatly over his last few fights, and part of that has to do with the guidance that he receives from those two AKA superstars.
“I’m molding myself after Cain Velasquez, Daniel Cormier, these types of guys. They’re at the top of the heap and coming from a similar background.”
“I’ve duplicated what I did in wrestling, when I decided to make MMA my new journey, I put a world-class team around me of world class trainers and training partners and people who care about me.”
While there are always a few larger-than-life giants patrolling the UFC heavyweight division like Francis Ngannou, Bhullar points to the success of similarly-sized, smaller heavyweights in the modern game as a reason that he plans on sticking to heavyweight rather than the 205 pound division.
“I walk around and I fight at 240. And a lot of these top guys, Cain fights at 240, Junior dos Santos fights around 240. I’m not a fan of cutting weight. You just need to become a better fighter.”
While AKA provides the perfect training ground for continuing to develop his already impressive wrestling game, Arjan has embraced the full set of tools that MMA has to offer. In addition to working his striking at AKA, Bhullar also maintains close relationships with coaches in his native British Columbia.
“I’m working my striking diligently so that I can wrestle with world class wrestlers and strike with world class strikers, and mix it together. And that’s the key, right? And that’s where I’m at.”
“I’ve really connected with (BC-based kickboxing star) Josh Jauncey. It’s not just about the quality training it’s also about the chemistry. Anyone can teach you how to punch and kick and hold pads, but it’s deeper than that with us.”
This upcoming weekend at Battleground Fight League 48 in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Arjan will work toward his second BFL heavyweight title defense against Arizona native Joe “Yagerbombz” Yager (11-5), who lost his last bout against #1 Canadian heavyweight Tanner Boser in September but has won six of his last eight fights overall. Despite the fact that Yager will be the best opponent that he’s faced so far, Arjan didn’t mince words about what he thought about the 36 year old veteran’s game:
“I think he’s fat, I think he’s slow, I think he’s outmatched. He was one of those guys who was supposed to be the next big thing coming out of college, and he missed the boat on that, and now I’m that guy and I’m not going to let this guy stand in my way. He’s in a lot of trouble.”
“He’s the perfect opponent for me to be able to showcase my skillset. And I’m excited, we’re gonna have a packed house on my home soil.”
Nonetheless, Bhullar recognizes that beating a relatively well-known name like Yager would make him 6-0 and could lead to a promotion to the UFC sooner or later:
“This guy has been in there with some guys who are already in the UFC, and I’m looking forward to putting on a heck of a show and making the jump up after this win.”
Arjan has big goals once he makes the seemingly inevitable jump to the UFC. Along with the usual championship aspiration, Bhullar also looks forward to becoming the first fighter of Indian descent to step inside the Octagon. He thinks that the sport of MMA is ripe for an explosion of popularity in India, and he thinks he will be the man to lead that movement:
“If you look at the sport of wrestling in Indian culture, it goes back for thousands of years. And Super Fight League has recognized that. They wanted to get me out there to get into their organization but there were some hiccups and some challenges, but now it looks like they’re really coming into their own as a company and I’m really excited for them and for the Indian market. “
“I think (Indian MMA) needs a really big player to step in, and I think I’m the guy to make that happen, to advance the sport at all levels in the country.”
Beyond his competitive goals, Arjan is a polite, thoughtful guy who professes dedication to family and community. He believes that, while his fight achievements are important, the contributions that he makes outside the cage will be even more important in the long run.
“Records and stuff will always be broken, it’s good to set goals in that regard. But people … always remember what kind of person you are rather than records, and that’s more important to me in the long run than anything.”
“I want to thank everyone who’s been supporting me throughout my competitive career, and I thank my fans for their support. My bandwagon’s not full yet but it’s filling up real quick.”