Arjan Bhullar’s embarrassing DQ loss at ONE 166 draws criticism from CEO Chatri Sityodtong: ‘This one is unacceptable’

Arjan Bhullar

Referee Herb Dean disqualified Arjan Bhullar in the final minute of his ONE 166 clash with Greco-Roman Wrestling champion Amir Aliakbari.

Stepping into a potential title eliminator, ‘Singh’ refused to engage for as long as the fight was allowed to continue. Bhullar, who was ONE’s heavyweight world champion just two fights ago, was content to move backward for a majority of the contest, dancing around the cage wall and offering little in the way of offense. The slow pace prompted multiple warnings from Dean that went unacknowledged.

In the second round, patience was beginning to wear thin with Dean issuing not one, but two yellow cards.

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For those unfamiliar, ONE Championship uses a yellow card system to penalize fighters for a number of infractions, including fouls — i.e. low blows, eye pokes — and for stalling, as was the case with Bhullar. Each yellow card serves as a warning, but it also deducts a percentage of the fighter’s total purse. After two yellow cards, the next one issued is a red card which results in a disqualification.

Bhullar was given two yellow cards in the second round, but after continuously failing to engage, Dean broke out the red card with just 45 seconds left in the third and final round, ensuring Arjan Bhullar would lose the contest.

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Following the lackluster showing, ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong held absolutely nothing back, calling Bhullar an “embarrassment” to his home country of India.

“In thousands of fights, I have never been embarrassed,” Sityodtong said in a post-fight press conference. “We’ve had one red card in history. I never speak ill of fighters. I never speak ill of our fighters, ever. Rarely, but this one is unacceptable. I think maybe in the first round he threw one punch. Second round he threw two punches. He ran the whole time and it was very clear he was scared.

“If you want to be a professional fighter, fighting the best in the world at the highest levels… We were live broadcast in India with 1.3 billion people and it’s an embarrassment.”

Arjan Bhullar’s ONE Championship run has been frustrating, to say the least. After KO’ing Brandon Vera to win the ONE heavyweight title in May 2021, ‘Singh’ went more than two years without defending his gold as he sought to secure a more favorable contract. In June, he finally returned for a unification clash with interim titleholder Anatoly Malykhin, who dismantled him with ease.

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Later on in the evening, Malykhin defeated Reinier de Ridder for the ONE middleweight title, making him the first-ever simultaneous three-division champion in MMA history.