MANILA, Philippines -- When Indian wrestling champion and rising heavyweight star Arjan "Singh" Bhullar signed with ONE Championship in 2019, he had but one goal in mind.
This, of course, was to earn the right to challenge longtime ONE heavyweight world champion Brandon "The Truth" Vera for the belt.
After spending the past year trying to make this dream a reality, Bhullar will finally get his chance the next time he steps into the circle. Bhullar officially challenges Vera in the main event of ONE: Dangal, a tape delayed event from the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore that airs on Saturday, 15 May.
For Bhullar, the wait was worth it even as the repeated delays tested his patience.
"I was frustrated as this was the third time that we've signed the contract to fight him. So I was frustrated but you know, the whole world has to adjust because of the pandemic. And we're no different," he explained.
"Many people are losing their lives and livelihood because of this. So, the fact that I can do it now, I'm happy about that. And it is much less a disruption compared to what other people are facing in their lives. I'm happy I'm here, and timing is everything," he added.
Bhullar said he is more than ready to take on his toughest test yet, given how his training has progressed over the past few months.
"Honestly, this camp has been amazing, and the growth I've made over the last year has been amazing - growths I wouldn't have had a year ago, internally, strategically, and I think that is going to make a big difference in this fight," he said.
Against Vera, Bhullar faces one of the most dominant world champions in the promotion.
After building his career initially in North America, Vera left the UFC in 2013, and joined ONE Championship the following year. He captured the inaugural ONE Heavyweight World Title in December 2015, and has since made multiple successful world title defenses.
Known as a fearsome striker, Vera is a nightmare matchup for anybody in the division, including Bhullar. But the Punjab native believes he's coming into this fight with the right strategy, one that will bring him the victory.
"I think my boxing is way better than his and that's a huge hole that I'm looking to exploit. It falls right in line with my grappling range. So, he's going to want a slower pace, at range moving type of fight and we are going to want to be up in his face, pressing him all night and punching him and taking him down," a confident Bhullar said.
ONE: Dangal features a host of Indian martial arts stars, and aims to showcase the very best that India has to offer. Other Indian athletes scheduled for action include atomweight phenom Ritu "The Indian Tigress" Phogat, Gurdarshan "Saint Lion" Mangat, and Roshan Mainam.
Bhullar is excited to lead this all-star cast, and make history. If he can defeat Vera, Bhullar stands to become the first ever mixed martial arts world champion from India.
"Vera, you have to give him credit. He is a very experienced fighter. He has been around for a long time and has faced the best in the sport. He has been the ONE Heavyweight World Champion for many years for a reason. He has finished everyone he's fought. So, he's very dangerous and he is good everywhere," he said.
"I think I've been ready for Vera for a long time. I've been training and learning at a high level for a long time and I'm excited to show that. What he likes to do when he is up against the cage, on the ground - look at his habits. That's the one thing, a lot of his habits and tendencies are the same for all of these years, so we were able to study a lot of that and prepare accordingly."