Bhullar explains the importance of the turban in his Sikh faith
Undefeated UFC heavyweight Arjan Bhullar, the league’s first fighter of South Indian extraction, and the first Sikh, was prohibited from wearing a turban during his Octagon walkout for his successful debut vs. Luis Henrique on September 9. Although when competing internationally in wrestling Bhullar represents his nation of birth, Canada, he also wants to represent 1.3 billion people as the UFC’s first Punjabi fighter.
Bhullar said the UFC had reacted with sympathy but said wearing a turban would be a violation of the Reebok apparel deal. Now the fighter reports that he will be able to walk out with the headwear when he faces Adam Wieczorek on April 14 at UFC on FOX 29.
Bhullar explains that a way around the previous prohibition is a Reebok turban, similar to Nike’s pro hijab, as seen below adorning German boxer Zeina Nassar.
The fighter has partnered with the National Sikh Campaign (NSC) to use his position to increase awareness and education about the Sikh faith.
“It’s important for me to wear my turban into the ring,” he said. “Around the world, people do not know what Sikhs stands for and what our turbans stand for. We believe in equality of gender, caste, race. Throughout history, we have been fighting for that and the turban signals readiness to protect those values. It’s important for me to represent where I come from and what my people are all about. I want to light a fire and break down barriers for my community and ultimately inspire Indians across the globe.”
While the turban is an item of fashion, as Bhullar explains, it is also a central part of being a Sikh. The world’s fifth largest faith developed during the 15th through 18th centuries in South Asia, when the turban was worn only by society’s elite. However, Sikhism is an egalitarian faith, and mandated that all believers wear the turban as a sign of equality. Keeping the head covered in public or in religious spaces is also a sign of respect.
And respect is what mixed martial arts is supposed to be about, so the turban fits.