OTTAWA — Now that he has a few UFC fights under his belt, Arjan Bhullar can give an honest appraisal of his skill set. And he’s not selling himself short.
The 32-year-old heavyweight prospect held an open workout Thursday at the New Era Combat Sports gym in Kanata, just outside of Ottawa, Ontario, where he will fight Juan Adams on the preliminary portion of Saturday’s UFC on ESPN+ card. Afterwards, he answered questions from fans and media, including what he thinks of persistent comparisons to two-division UFC champion Daniel Cormier.
Like “DC”, Bhullar comes from a decorated wrestling background, winning a gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games that took place in Delhi, India. That location was of special importance to Bhullar, who is of Sikh descent, and Thursday’s workout was attended by many members of Ottawa’s Sikh community. The British Columbia native was also flanked by Vancouver Canucks defenseman Ben Hutton (Canada’s Minister of National Defense Harjit Sajjan, the first Sikh to hold that title, was also scheduled to be in attendance, but was called away to address the flooding that is currently ravaging Eastern Canada).
Given that Bhullar also has a short, stocky stature, and that the two have trained together at the American Kickboxing Academy, it’s understandable that Bhullar has been viewed as a fighter in the Cormier mold. He embraces being mentioned in the same breath as the UFC’s current heavyweight champion.
“Absolutely I welcome [the comparisons], he’s the greatest fighter the UFC’s ever seen. 40 years old, two-weight champion, natural, no bullshit,” Bhullar said. “And he carries himself amazingly inside the cage and outside. For me, that’s a big reason I went to AKA.
“He comes from a similar background in terms of wrestling, similar frame, and he’s the champ, so if I could photocopy his blueprint, that’s the way to success. Why reinvent it? So if people see that, then I’m doing the right thing because I’m trying to do that.”
Cormier isn’t the only standout heavyweight at AKA, Bhullar has also had a chance to learn from two-time UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. All three fighters are known for their high-level wrestling and Bhullar declined to make a prediction when a fan asked if he would be able to defeat either of his training partners in a wrestling contest.
“Hey! I’m a competitor, so I will compete, but I got a lot of respect for [Cormier], let’s just leave it there,” Bhullar said. “Cain, he’s a phenomenal athlete too. I hope he bounces back for another fight. He wrestled for Arizona State, great athlete, these guys are my seniors, I’ll never say anything bad about them. Good guys.”
The early returns for Bhullar have been promising, though he suffered his first pro loss last April, submitting to an omoplata against Adam Wieczorek at UFC on FOX 29. He rebounded with a unanimous decision win over Marcelo Golm and still feels that he’s shown enough in his three Octagon outings to validate his status as a blue chip prospect.
At the very least, he’s confident that among the up-and-comers in the heavyweight division, he stands apart.
“I feel certain prospects out there, Greg Hardy and others, are unproven,” Bhullar said. “I think I’ve proven myself in my abilities in terms of wrestling and even in the fight stuff. I did get caught in that one fight, but every second of every fight I’ve been in control. I’ve been dictating where the fight is and been comfortable, all that stuff matters.
“I’m excited to shed the prospect-to-contender title, and in my head it’s already there, it’s a matter of you guys starting to write it.”
Bhullar was also asked what steps he needs to take in the future to make that leap from contender to champion and his answer was a pragmatic one.
“Everything. You need everything,” Bhullar said. “And then you still might not make it. If there was a simple answer to that, everyone would be a champion. It’s very difficult, everything has to align, the timing of your come-up, the right support network, obviously your motivation, staying healthy. It’s a long road.
“You need everything and at the end of the day—athletic success, you still might not be the champion, but you’ll be a better person for walking that path anyways. So it’s worth it in my opinion to chase that.”