Arjan Bhullar was expected to make his ONE Championship debut against Mauro Cerilli back in August. Unfortunately, this plan was nixed at the very last minute when Cerilli was forced out of the contest with a medical issue.
Luckily, this cloud turned out to have a silver lining.
Bhullar’s showdown with Cerilli was promptly rescheduled for ONE: Century – Part II on October 13 in Tokyo, Japan, which marks ONE Championship’s hundredth event, and the biggest card the organization has promoted to date.
While Bhullar was understandably gutted when his ONE Championship debut was foiled, he’s thrilled that it’s been relocated to such a massive event.
“I’m very, very excited,” Bhullar told BJPENN.com as his rescheduled battle with Cerilli draws closer. “As an athlete, I’ve travelled to over 30 countries around the world to compete and for whatever reason, Japan never lined up for me.
“It’s something that’s always been on my radar, and I’m happy to finally get there and to be on a historic card on top of that,” he added. “The world’s going to be watching, and I’m on the main card on top of that.”
Despite his excitement about fighting in Japan, Bhullar is not expecting a particularly easy night of work against Cerilli. The Italian is a former Cage Warriors Heavyweight Champion and owns an impressive 13-3 overall with a bevy of knockout wins on his resume.
“You have to give it him, he’s a winner,” Bhullar said of Cerilli. “He won a heavyweight title in Europe before getting signed [to ONE Championship]. He fought for the heavyweight title in ONE. He’s aggressive and he knows how to win, and you have to respect that about him. He brings the fight when he steps into that cage.”
While Bhullar is complimentary of his upcoming foe, he’s confident he’s well-equipped to defeat the Italian. As an Olympic wrestler, the Indian-Canadian unsurprisingly feels he has the edge on the mat in this matchup, yet he also feels he’s got advantages in other facets of the game.
“I feel that I match up extremely well with him,” he said. “He comes from a Judo background, so he likes to grapple, but I feel like my wrestling will trump that. He likes to swing power punches, but I’ve faced that many times. Every heavyweight swings like that. It’s something that I’m used to seeing, and I feel that my striking is crisper than his, and I’ll be able to impose myself on him.”
The priority for Bhullar will simply be dragging Cerilli into the realm where he’s most uncomfortable, wherever that may be.
“We’ve studied him, and he’s never been put on his back,” he said. “He’s never been put in that uncomfortable situation. He’s never been in there with someone like me. Any time you put somebody in positions they’re uncomfortable with, they burn a lot of fuel and they make mistakes and they fatigue, so that’s definitely part of the game plan. But I’m not just a wrestler, I’m a complete mixed martial artist, so I’m going to show what we’ve been working on in the gym; my well-rounded game with my standup as well.”
If everything goes planned for Bhullar in Tokyo, it’s hard to imagine that he won’t be rewarded with a ONE Championship heavyweight title shot. The division is currently ruled by Bhullar’s fellow UFC veteran Brandon Vera, who will drop down to light heavyweight to challenge Aung La N Sang for a second belt in the ONE: Century – Part II main event.
Arjan Bhullar has been paying close attention to Vera’s run in ONE, and would love to the opportunity to challenge him.
“You have to give respect where it’s due,” he said of Vera. “He hasn’t gone outside the first round. He’s finished all of his opponents since signing [with ONE]. He’s had a resurgence if you will.
“So definitely, that is something that I foresee happening,” he added. “When I signed, the goal has always been the same: to be a world champion.”
One of the big reasons Bhullar signed with ONE Championship is that the promotion has imminent plans to expand into his native India. While he’s reluctant to look too far ahead, it’s hard for him not to dream about bringing the ONE heavyweight belt to India — and perhaps even competing for that belt inside the country.
“The beauty about ONE is they’re going to India in 2020,” he said. “So what better way to go there than as a champion, and to do what Vera did [for The Philippines]? To introduce this sport to India, and lead the push into the Indian market, which I think is going to be enormous.
“They haven’t announced the exact month [for the Indian debut], but hopefully that lines up,” he added, discussing a title fight with Vera specifically.
Before any of this can happen, of course, Arjan Bhullar will have to make his ONE Championship debut against Mauro Cerilli. And that, for the moment, is the sole subject of his focus.
“None of that’s on the table until I take care of Mauro on October 13,” Bhullar said. “That’s what I’m focused on.”
How do you think Arjan Bhullar will perform in his ONE Championship debut? Do you think he’ll earn a title shot against Brandon Vera with a win?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 10/3/2019.This article appeared first on BJPENN.COM