The UFV Cascades wrestling coach is set to take on Luis Enrique Sept. 9 in a heavyweight division fight at UFC 215 in Edmonton. It will be his first time fighting on the biggest stage in Mixed Martial Arts, after years fighting on local circuits and competing at the Olympics.
Bhullar has coached the Cascades varsity wrestling program alongside former Canadian national teammate Raj Virdi since its inception, ushering the men’s and women’s squads into Canada West in 2014-15.
The Richmond product was a member of the Canadian senior national wrestling team for five years, highlighted by a bronze medal at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2007 and a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in India in 2010. He was a member of the Canadian Olympic team for the London 2012 Summer Games, finishing 13th in the men’s freestyle 120 kg division. Bhullar was the first Canadian of South Asian descent to qualify for freestyle wrestling in the Olympic Games, and he was named Canadian Wrestler of the Year in 2009.
After retiring from wrestling following the London Olympics, Bhullar transitioned to MMA and won his first six professional bouts. That drew the attention of the UFC, who signed Bhullar earlier this summer. He’s the first athlete of South Asian descent to sign with the company. Also recently announced was the fact that WWE champion Jinder Mahal, who has struck up a friendship with Bhullar, will escort him to ringside in Edmonton.
Steve Tuckwood, UFV director of athletics and campus recreation, extended congratulations to Bhullar on his accomplishment.
“We’re proud of Arjan,” said Steve Tuckwood. “He’s been a great asset to UFV Athletics, and he’s a great example to our student-athletes of what can be accomplished through hard work and determination. We’ll be cheering him on Sept. 9.”
Satwinder Bains, director of UFV’s South Asian Studies Institute and Principal, UFV India, hailed Bhullar’s move to UFC.
“Arjan Bhullar’s proclamation of breaking another glass ceiling is apropos as he covers new ground in signing with UFC,” Bains stated. “Reaching these new heights as a young Canadian of South Asian heritage is both exhilarating and poignant to the community at large and to us in particular at the South Asian Studies Institute at UFV. We recognize that he stands on the shoulders of giants of the past who have helped pave the way for Arjan to dream and for his hard work and dedication to make that dream a reality. The future generations have a role model to look up to and aspire to do the same and more as he leads by example.”
Bhullar, reflecting on his time with the Cascades and his transition to UFC, thanked Tuckwood, Bains, and UFV vice president, students and enrolment management Jody Gordon for their support.
“I want to thank them for the opportunity to be a coach, while continuing my own pursuit as an athlete at the same time,” Bhullar said. “I’d like to thank Raj Virdi as well – he’s allowed all of this to happen, helping me to balance coaching the wrestling program on campus and my professional goals off campus.
“I’m very fortunate to be in the position I’m in, and there are many people to thank outside the UFV family as well. I think our Cascades athletes can benefit greatly from having someone around them who is competing at a high level.”
The UFV wrestling program opens its 2017-18 schedule Oct. 28 at the Calgary Dino Invitational.