GLENDALE, Ariz. - A Sikh mixed-martial-arts fighter became the first UFC athlete to enter the octagon wearing a turban, during an event this month at Gila River Arena.
“I knew as soon as I walked through that curtain, history was being made. It’s something I’ve always said I’d always stay true to, once I get a great platform like the UFC,” said Arjan Bhullar, a former Canadian Olympic wrestler.
Bhullar is hoping to raise awareness of the Indian religion Sikism. At his pre-fight weigh-in Friday, members of the Sikh community were beaming with pride.
“For him to do that and step in the ring with that, that’s something that’s going to go down forever. He’s a great role model for our community,” said Jasdeep Soni.
Jupi Singh brought his children to the event.
“I wanted to expose them that it doesn’t matter your background or your faith – if you are good at what you do, you can be successful,” he said.
It wasn’t long ago that Arizona was the site of one of the country’s most infamous Sikh hate crimes. A Mesa gas station owner was shot to death in the days following 9/11, after the killer mistook the Sikh man for a Muslim man.
“That just speaks to the work that needs to be done. There’s no reason to fear the turban. Especially in Phoenix, in the state of Arizona, that education is needed,” said Bhullar.
Saturday is also Vaisakhi – a day celebrating the founding of the Sikhism. No matter the outcome, Buhullar says he’ll continue to spread his religion’s principals of equality, service, and honesty.
“That gives me additional purpose, motivation. It fills up my tank. That’s the beauty of sport you’re able to connect people,” he said.
The UFC also said Bhullar will be allowed to wear his turban at future events moving forward.