MMA star Arjan Singh Bhullar fights to empower women in Punjab village
Indian-origin Canadian wrestler and MMA athlete Arjan Singh Bhullar is helping the women of his ancestral village in Punjab grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and stand tall in face of adversity.
The 2012 Olympian and Commonwealth Games 2010 gold medallist traces his roots to Billi Bhullar village in the Jalandhar district of the North Indian state of Punjab.
“I have been frequently visiting India since I was a child. We have built a very special place within the village for the women to gather, as they, unlike men, have nowhere to go and spend time,” he told the Press Trust of India news agency.
The women’s community centre, named after Arjan Singh Bhullar’s grandmother Bibi Gurmit Kaur Bhullar, has also doubled up as a face mask manufacturing facility to help the women be self-reliant in these challenging times.
Helping hand during tough times
“During the pandemic, they have been making masks with sewing machines that I have procured for them. Today, these women are not only self-sufficient but are also helping and empowering the entire village and the neighbouring region,” the ONE Championship star revealed.
For the 34-year-old, the intent to help out his Pind (Punjabi for place of origin) through his philanthropic endeavours is nothing new.
Arjan Singh Bhullar had previously built a gym to help the children of Billi Bhullar and neighbouring areas nurture their sporting talents.
“We built a gym shortly after the 2010 Commonwealth Games for the youngsters. It’s connected to the local school and kids come to practice sports from the adjoining villages too.
“The kids have all taken on sports in a professional way and it keeps them focused,” said the 2007 Pan American Games bronze medallist.
“I want to make my village a model village and spread the message that anything is possible all over India when the intent is right,” he adds.
Arjan Singh Bhullar’s India connect
Born in Richmond, British Columbia, Arjan Singh Bhullar is a fourth-generation Indian-origin Canadian. It was his great grandfather who immigrated to Canada back in 1904.
The Bhullar family, however, never lost touch with their roots in India and practicing pehlwani (Indian style wrestling) was a big part of the connect.
Avtar Singh Bhullar, Arjan Singh Bhullar’s father, was an accomplished wrestler himself and was even in contention to make the Canadian wrestling team for the 1998 Commonwealth Games.
Inspired by his father, Arjan Singh Bhullar took up wrestling at a young age and excelled.
Interestingly, the Commonwealth Games gold medal he won in 2010 – one of the biggest achievements of his wrestling career – came in his ancestral country with the Indian capital of New Delhi playing host to the event.
He was also the first Indian-origin athlete to represent Canada at the Olympics.
After competing at the London 2012 Games, Arjan Singh Bhullar turned his attention towards MMA and also became the first Indian-origin athlete to step into the UFC octagon in 2017.
He joined the ONE Championship two years later.