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UFC’s Arjan Bhullar: It’s ‘hypocritical’ to punish Khabib given Conor McGregor’s controversial history

Khabib Nurmagomedov’s AKA teammate Arjan Bhullar discussed the infamous brawl that occurred at UFC 229.

Arjan Singh Bhullar (7-1) is currently preparing for the third fight of his UFC career. That goes down on October 27th versus Marcelo Golm at UFC Fight Night: Oezdemir vs. Smith in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.

The Indian-Canadian, who resides in Richmond, British Columbia, has split time training for Golm between his hometown gym and San Jose’s American Kickboxing Academy (AKA). Bhullar, who represented Canada in wrestling at the London Olympics in 2012, has trained at AKA ahead of each of his UFC fights.

For this training camp he worked alongside UFC lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov, who would go on to submit Conor McGregor at UFC 229 on October 6th. “It’s cool to be part of a great team like that,” said Bhullar to Bloody Elbow. “Being in a training environment with that caliber of a fighter, it really gets you on track for what you’re aspiring to become and what your performance is going to be when it’s your time to compete.”

Though Nurmagomedov displayed undoubted supremacy over McGregor en route to tapping out the Irishman, the Dagestani’s title-retaining performance has been largely overshadowed by what happened after the fight was waved off.

The chaos at the T-Mobile Arena included Nurmagomedov climbing over the cage and launching himself at McGregor’s teammate Dillon Danis. The brawl Nurmagomedov created outside the cage, swelled to skirmishes inside the Octagon involving McGregor and Nurmagomedov’s retinue. Afterwards, there were fights between fans across the arena.

Bloody Elbow asked Bhullar what he thought about the brawl involving his friend and training partner.

“None of it’s right,” said Bhullar. “Number one. None of it should be happening. It’s a shame for our sport. Kids look up to us. We have a certain platform as athletes and it would be much better if we’re able to showcase positive attributes and what it means to be a world class athlete and especially a martial artist. You think martial arts, you think humility, loyalty, all those good things. Why not be a champion of that stuff?”

Despite bemoaning the brawl itself, Bhullar defended Nurmagomedov’s actions. In doing so, he cited McGregor’s actions (including persistent taunts and inflammatory comments) leading up to the contest.

“It’s unfortunate that that happened and the part that I connect with is this; Khabib, much like myself, he comes from a certain culture, a certain background, a belief system, a family up-bringing. He’s a practicing Muslim and all those things were attacked by Conor and, you know, there was basically nothing left for him to say. No other line left to cross. He knew what he was doing. He did his research. He offered him alcohol, talked about his father, talked about his belief system, his heritage, where he comes from, what else was left?

“It was very personal. And you can’t just chalk it up to fight promotion. So that part really resonates with me. It was very personal, I know, in the training room with him. And there’s a lot of pressure on him because he had to stand-up for the honour of his people, the honour of his countrymen and that emotion came out. It was very real, very raw.”

Bhullar, who is a Sikh, repeated that he sees similarities in how he and Nurmagomedov — a Dagestani Muslim — were raised. Because of this, Bhullar said, he understood why Nurmagomedov took such offense to McGregor’s antics.

“You have to understand the East is much different from the West, you can’t do that stuff,” said Bhullar. “I’m brought up in a different way, different culture. I’m from the East, you don’t touch on family, you don’t touch on beliefs. You compete, one-hundred-percent full tilt, and you leave that in the cage. So that’s where he was coming from and I think, obviously it wasn’t an ideal situation — you don’t react in that manner, but I understand why he did. And you know what? I support him one-hundred-percent for his decision making.”

Bhullar said he believed that, lost in the furor around Nurmagomedov and his team’s behaviour, is McGregor’s track record for being involved in controversial incidents.

[McGregor] jumped a cage at a Bellator event, attacked a referee, he smashed a dolly through a bus, he threw bottles into a crowd at the Diaz press conference, where are you going to draw a line? At the end of the day, if you’re going to pick Khabib’s actions at where you draw the line, I think that’s hypocritical. Look at [McGregor’s] history and I’m going to venture a guess that he wasn’t of a sober state in some of those incidents. Whereas for Khabib, it’s real life. He doesn’t push any of those narratives. Look at what he’s about. Everyone before this — he’s been about respect. He hasn’t had any incidents. Again, none of it should be happening, but if you’re going to do something; don’t have a double standard, that’s all I’m saying.”

Arjan Bhullar’s fight with Marcelo Golm at UFC Fight Night: Moncton is on the UFC Fight Pass Prelim card. That action begins at 6:30PM ET on Saturday, October 27th.