Arjan Bhullar made a successful debut at UFC 215, taking home a big victory over Luis Henrique.
Despite the victory, many questioned the absence of WWE Champion Jinder Mahal, who was rumored to walk Bhullar to the cage. Mahal, WWE's first Indian Champion, and Bhullar, UFC's first Indian fighter, both spoke about their friendship in the weeks leading up to the bout.
According to Bhullar, Hurricane Irma is to blame for Mahal being unable to make the trip up to Edmonton for the fights.
"He gave me a call, he's caught in the hurricane," Bhullar told reporters (after being asked by Ariel Helwani) after his win. "He lives in Tampa, Florida, and he's like 'You know what, brother? I've got four different properties down here, got my dog down here. I haven't been able to make peace and leave this. So he decided to bunker down there. The Maharaja got grounded. I'm thinking of him. I told him stay safe, we'll see him in the future. He'll come out on top."
Many thought that Mahal and Bhullar's friendship was manufactured for a recent photo shoot that the two combatants did together. However, Bhullar says that the two have known each other for a dozen years, and their ethnic, religious and occupational common interests have drawn the two together since they've reached success in their respective fields.
"Jinder is a Punjabi Indian just like me," said Bhullar. "We're brothers, we've known each other for about ten or twelve years. I was on the University wrestling team at that time, he was still trying to break in on the regional scene. Look where we're at now. We laugh about it sometimes. He's on the top of the food chain where he is. Wrestling has a huge history in India. It's the unofficial national sport in the country. The founders of our religion practiced it, and it's the biggest market for the WWE. To do that cross promotion, aside from our personal relationship, was a no-brainer for me."
Mahal is set to defend his WWE Championship against Shinsuke Nakamura next month.
You can see MMA Fighting's video of the interview with Bhullar below, and Fightful's coverage of UFC 215 at this link.