Arjan “Singh” Bhullar is ready to etch his name in the record books.
On Saturday, 15 May, he will attempt to become India’s first-ever Mixed Martial Arts World Champion when he challenges ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon “The Truth” Vera for the gold in the main event of ONE: DANGAL.
Bhullar wants nothing more than to leave the Singapore Indoor Stadium with the belt. Not only would he achieve an enormous personal goal, but he believes a victory would elevate mixed martial arts in India and motivate his compatriots to take up the sport.
“It’s always special when you can make history because history lasts forever,” the 34-year-old says.
“Being a World Champion will be a major milestone for me and my family, but being the first from India will make it that much more special for myself and for the future wrestlers and athletes from India.
“They will know that it’s possible, and it’ll be easier for them to do – and knowing that it’s possible, there will be more athletes coming in, and we will be able to multiply our fan base.”
Of course, dethroning “The Truth” will not be an easy feat.
No heavyweight in ONE Championship has fought Vera and made it out of the first round. The Filipino-American has been a destructive force in the weight class, knocking out every opponent, claiming the inaugural belt, and defending it against all challengers.
That complete domination has stemmed from a combination of sharp Muay Thai skills, frighting knockout power, immense height, and underappreciated wrestling prowess.
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Bhullar is well-aware of the danger that Vera presents. And even though the defending king is now 43 years of age, “Singh” knows he must be ready for anything on fight night.
“He is older, but he’s undefeated as a heavyweight champion in ONE. He’s been a champ for a very long time now, and he stopped every one of his opponents [at heavyweight], so he’s very dangerous and very experienced. He’s dangerous everywhere,” Bhullar says.
“He’s good everywhere, and he’s very experienced with his kickboxing, his Muay Thai, his kicks, his knees, and his elbows. He’s good off his back, too. He’s been in the game a long, long time, and you must be ready to go in all places.”
At the same time, Bhullar is confident that he can hang with “The Truth” in every facet of the game.
The Canadian-born Indian is a former Olympic wrestler who’s masterfully applied his grappling repertoire to mixed martial arts while compiling a 10-1 professional record.
“Singh” has also continued to develop his all-around skills at the famed American Kickboxing Academy. That includes his improved striking, which he showcased in a victory over Italian hard-hitter Mauro “The Hammer” Cerilli in October 2019.
But beyond the physical attributes of his fight game, the World Title challenger believes he has something even more important in his back pocket.
“My greatest strength is my insights, which allow me to train daily, weekly, and yearly. For as long as I have, I stay disciplined all the time – not just when I have a fight booked or I have a competition coming up. I keep my eye on the prize,” Bhullar says.
“This is my life, my priority, and my life’s work, and I take it very, very seriously. There is nothing more important to me in my life and no other priority, so my insights will separate me from [Vera].
“Skills are great, and being faster and stronger, all those things [are helpful]. But when you have a war of attrition, it’s the insights that always come out, and that’s going to be the difference in this fight.”
It’s clear that Bhullar believes his skills and mentality will propel him to history in “The Lion City” next Saturday.
However, he won’t be satisfied with a decision victory. “Singh” wants to win decisively and predicts he will finish the seemingly invincible Filipino-American who’s been towering over the heavyweight division for years.
“The outcome of this fight will be a stoppage for me and with my arm raised,” Bhullar says.
“The stoppage will be standing up or on the ground, me pounding him out. It depends on the [path of] least resistance he shows, the way he will concede easily. But it will be my hands on his face and his body, and him conceding victory to my will.”