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Future of sports in the SCV: Road back goes through the SCV

Former UFC star Parisyan is training locally as he hopes for a return to the elite of MMA

Posted: July 24, 2010 10:17 p.m.
Updated: July 25, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Karo Parisyan has been to the top and fallen back down.

The fighter’s elite-level judo mixed with stunning submissions garnered praise and admiration, even the World Extreme Cagefighting welterweight championship belt.

Parisyan attained top-contender status in the UFC, but his fast-paced lifestyle and years of physical punishment eventually caught up with him in the form of anxiety and panic attacks.

His fall from grace was softened only by rumors and hearsay, resulting in a nearly two-year long layoff.

Now the former mixed martial arts star is looking to work his way back into prominence and help guide his new teammates at Big John McCarthy's Ultimate Training Academy along the way.

“The past is the past,” says Parisyan, who has spent time coaching at Sidekicks Fight Academy in Canyon Country. “I’ve always lived as if today’s a gift and tomorrow’s a mystery.”

The embattled fighter started out his career with a six-fight winning streak. He currently boasts a professional record of 19-5-0 with one no-contest.

But the no-contest came with a heavy cost and sent the 170-pound fighter reeling.

After earning a split-decision victory over Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 94 on Jan. 31, 2009, Parisyan tested positive for banned pain killers.

The California State Athletic Commission overturned the victory and handed down a nine-month suspension.

During the longest layoff of his career, the once-crowd favorite watched friends fall by the wayside.

He describes his anxiety as a balloon that over years of fighting filled to the breaking point.

When it burst, the sound was deafening.

McCarthy didn’t turn his back on him. Nor did BJMUTA head coach Brian Peterson, both of whom Parisyan has known for quite some time.

Several years ago, the Armenian-born fighter was training with Jeremy Jackson, a product of Peterson and a former contestant on the UFC-branded reality show, “The Ultimate Fighter.”

It didn’t take long before Peterson, a grappling expert, began working more closely with the former Junior National champion and Olympic Trials participant in judo.

“He helped me out for my Chris Lytle fight and for Matt Serra,” Parisyan says of Peterson.

Parisyan’s body of work reads like a who’s who of MMA.

He beat both Lytle and Serra, the latter of whom is a former UFC welterweight champion. Parisyan has also recorded victories over Nick Diaz, Nick Thompson and Ryo Chonan. On May 21, 2005, he defeated Shonie Carter for the WEC title.

Parisyan’s losses have only come against former UFC champions and top contenders.

He lost twice to former champ Sean Sherk, and once to Thiago Alves, Diego Sanchez and current UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, who many consider to be the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

Three of those losses were decisions, including his bout with St-Pierre.

Parisyan says he will split time between Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, Nev. and BJMUTA, but according to Peterson, “he’s with us.”

“He brings that experience. ‘Well, I’ve been there, this is what you can expect, this is what is going to go down and this is what you need to do,’” says McCarthy of Parisyan’s contributions to the BJMUTA fight team. “That experience, that knowledge base is invaluable to younger guys.”

One of those guys is 27-year-old lightweight Vinc Pichel.

 “He’s just like any one of us,” says the 155-pounder. “You still get a little star-struck, but then you warm up to him. Having him here was a big deal for me because I’ve never had a chance to train with anyone in the UFC or anything like that.”

Dave Webber, a 26-year-old welterweight from Saugus has also seen benefits from training with Parisyan.

“It really feels good to set yourself up against top-caliber guys like that and see where we are,” Webber says. “Fortunately, we do find out that we are a pretty solid group of guys here and I think we train just as hard as any of the top guys out there. … Hopefully we will attract the upper-echelon fighters that want to come in here and train with our guys. It is only going to make us better.”

But Parisyan’s benefit is not a one-way street.

“I think what the younger guys do for Karo is they bring enthusiasm that sometimes you lose as time goes on,” McCarthy says.

After training with the BJMUTA fight team, Parisyan flew to Brisbane, Australia to fight Ben Mortimer at Impact FC I on July 10.
It was his first bout since UFC 94 and the first international fight of his MMA career.

The comeback was officially underway.

“The last two years, it has been hell for me, obviously,” Parisyan says. “First, all the crazy rumors and the crazy problems I’ve had with all the crap with the suspension … the anxiety crap and panic attacks and everything that was heaped on me, it was all out of left field.”

Midway through the second round, Parisyan submitted Mortimer with a rear-naked choke.

Peterson was in Parisyan’s corner for the fight.

The win could prove to be the jumping-off point that the fighter needs to return to the UFC, despite the promotion’s president Dana White’s threats of banning him after he pulled out of his fight with Dustin Hazelett at UFC 106.

“Last time I talked to Dana, he said, ‘Get one fight under your belt and we’ll go from there,’” Parisyan says. “He told me, ‘I’ll bring you back for sure.’ Me and Dana were friends before. I showed him a lot of loyalty and respect ever since I was in the UFC and he has returned that for me.”

The future is wide open for Parisyan and if he does return to the UFC one day, don’t expect him to forget about the people that helped him get there.

“When they push me, I get in better training and become a better fighter,” he says of his new teammates. “I just hope I can step into the UFC octagon after my next couple fights and thank them from the octagon.”


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