Canadian Olympic wrestler and proud Indian Arjan Bhullar made his UFC debut a successful one, defeating Luis Henrique by decision at UFC 215. One thing seemed to be missing though - a few weeks ago, it was announced that WWE champion Jinder Mahal was going to accompany Bhullar to the Octagon for his fight, but he was not in attendance in Edmonton.
Bhullar spoke to the media after his fight and explained Jinder’s absence - namely, Hurricane Irma (video via MMA Fighting):
"Yeah man, he gave me a call. He's caught in the hurricane. He lives in Tampa, Florida. And he's like 'You know what brother, I've got four different properties down here, I've got my dog down here, I just haven't been able to make peace and leave this.’ So he decided to bunker down. So The Maharaja got grounded. But I told him I'm thinking of him, stay safe first and foremost, and we'll see him in the foreseeable future.”
Mahal, real name Raj Dhesi, was born and raised in Calgary and has been friends with Bhullar for a while. It would have been very unique to have a WWE champion accompany a fighter to the cage, though Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer reported that Mahal was just expected to be in attendance, not actually walk to the Octagon (info via Cageside Seats). Regardless, Bhullar went onto to explain their relationship and what wrestling means to his people:
“Jinder is a Punjabi Indian just like me. We're brothers, we've known each other for 10, 12 years. I was on the University wrestling team at that time, he was still trying to make it on the regional scene. And look where we are now. It's pretty cool, we laugh about it sometimes. He's at the top of the food chain where he is, and I am where I am.
"Wrestling has a huge history in India. It's the unofficial national sport in the country. You look at the cave paintings, all the way through, it's wrestling. It's in our - the founders of our religion practiced wrestling. And that is the biggest market for the WWE, period. So to do that cross-promotion, it was - aside from our personal relationship - it was a no brainer for me."
Bhullar hopes they get the chance to do it again in the future.