Glendale, Arizona – For the first time in the sport’s 25-year history Arjan Singh Bhullar, the first Sikh UFC fighter will wear his turban during his walkout during his fight in Glendale, Arizona on Saturday, April 14, 2018 – the same day as the Sikh holiday of Vaisakhi.
Bhullar, was in Phoenix, Arizona, one month prior to his upcoming bout, because he intends to deliver much more than a victory. He visited several places including Gurdwaras to reach out to the community.
He has made a partnership with the National Sikh Campaign to use his sporting event to increase awareness and education about Sikhs, and what the Sikh turban represents. In addition, he is hoping to increase the interest and representation of the Indian community and other South Asians in this sport.
Arjan said, “I feel that it is important for me to use my platform and my career in mixed martial arts to transcend beyond sports. I want to light a fire and break down barriers for my community, and ultimately inspire Indians across the globe. Every culture has their sports icon. I hope one day I can be that icon for the South Asian community”
Arjan added, “It’s important for me to wear my turban into the ring. Around the world, people do not know what Sikhs stands for and what our turbans stand for. We believe in equality for any gender, caste, race. Throughout history, we have been fighting for that as a people and the turban signals a readiness to protect those values. It’s important for me to represent where I come from and what my people are all about.”
Phoenix is also a significant as the first post 9/11 hate crime happened in Mesa to Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh man who was murdered for wearing a turban. Bhullar met with the Sodhi family on Friday, March 16.
Anjleen Kaur, a leader in the Phoenix Sikh community and the Phoenix lead for We Are Sikhs, said “Arjan is engaging and motivating our youth in a way we haven’t been able to before. Our Sikh kids have never seen a successful athlete in the USA with the same skin color as them, with the same values as them and who speaks the same language as them. For me, Arjan is more than just a UFC fighter, he is a role model to my children and a positive example that you can do anything that you dream to.”
The UFC fight (airing on FOX 29) is scheduled on the Sikh holiday of Vaisakhi, which celebrates the founding of the Sikh community known as the Khalsa. Bhullar sees this as a powerful and momentous date to represent the community to help raise awareness for the world’s 5th largest religion. Over 300 hate crimes have been reported against Sikhs in the US since 9/11 and a reported 60% of Americans are not familiar with the Sikh faith. National Sikh Campaign ran an ad campaign on Cable TV networks coupled with grass roots events across America last year to increase awareness about Sikhs in the country. Its campaign caught the attention of the top PR industry network and was awarded top PR award recently. NSC had engaged top marketing and strategy firms to increase the increase the effectiveness of its positive message.
Arjan was forbidden from wearing the religious head ware for debut fight against Luis Henrique last year. Fighters must wear sponsored clothing but Bhullar, 31, and Reebok had not agreed upon a personalized turban. He reached an understanding with his sponsors after the fight and Reebok and the UFC have both been receptive. Bhullar had also represented Canada in wrestling at London 2012. The Canadian became the first Indian-born fighter to win in the UFC after beating Luis Henrique in September.