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BOSTON – When heavyweight Arjan Bhullar makes his next octagon walk, he’ll honor his faith by wearing a traditional turban.
It might even have a Reebok logo on it.
Backstage at this past Saturday’s UFC 220, Bhullar (7-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) told reporters that he’s been cleared by the promotion to don the headwear for a fight with Adam Wieczorek (9-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) at UFC on FOX 29, which takes place April 14 at a location to be determined.
“As of right now, that is the plan, and we’ve got the green light for that,” Bhullar said. “It’s going to be a very special moment for all Indians.”
A UFC official confirmed to MMAjunkie that Bhullar will be allowed to wear a turban. The 31-year-old fighter, who is Indian and practices the Sikh faith, said he would color-coordinate his UFC uniform with the headwear.
The promotion’s approval is an encouraging turnaround after Bhullar was told he couldn’t wear a turban just prior to facing Luis Henrique in his octagon debut at UFC 215 this past September. Per the UFC’s athlete outfitting policy, fighters are not allowed to wear clothing other than officially branded Reebok apparel during fight week and on fight night.
Although Bhullar’s headwear is affiliated with his religion and bears no relation to commercial interests, he said there’s a way for the UFC’s official apparel partner to get what it wants: A Reebok turban. He agrees Nike’s recent release of a “pro hijab” is a good example of allowing athletes to represent their faith without interfering with a sports league’s business partners.
“That was a great product, a positive PR campaign, and it was something embraced worldwide,” he said. “Not just by the athletes, but by Muslims. For us, Indians, a turban would be huge. There’s no product like that out there.”
Bhullar, who’s represented by mega-talent agency CAA, said his people are in touch with Reebok to work together on a turban. A UFC official could not immediately confirm the status of a potential product.
“I’m sure once we get our ducks in a row, it would be something to celebrate and push,” Bhullar said.
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