LAS VEGAS – Karo Parisyan fights with a chip on his shoulder, but it's hardly a surprise. The Armenian-born welterweight lives his life that way.
Parisyan's father got him into fighting as a way to keep him from beating up on his sisters. By the time he was 14, he traveled to Mexico to make his professional mixed martial arts debut against a 23-year-old.
High school freshmen tend to be intimidated by sophomores, let alone by professional fighters, but Parisyan scoffed at the thought he was worried.
"If I was worried, it was about him," he says of that nonsanctioned bout against Daniel Lopez.
Parisyan faces a much tougher test Saturday in UFC 71 when he meets Josh Burkman in a key welterweight bout here at the MGM Grand Garden.
The judo expert hopes to parlay a win over Burkman into a shot at welterweight champion Matt Serra. Parisyan is the last man to have beaten Serra and can't understand UFC president Dana White's reluctance to make the rematch.
Serra will meet former champion Matt Hughes later this year after he and Hughes serve as coaches for the next season of "The Ultimate Fighter," the UFC's reality show that airs on Spike TV.
Parisyan said he can't understand why White would have chosen Hughes over him. Hughes already has served as a coach on the reality show, Parisyan noted.
"You're giving Matt Hughes a title shot – I can't stand Matt," Parisyan said. "He's a new coach, but I don't want to see Matt Hughes as a coach. I saw him the first time. He was (expletive). Two, I'm not saying I'm great, but I'm not a baloney sandwich either, though.
"I think I should be a coach on the show to build up my title fight with Matt Serra. I was his last loss, and it makes more sense. I should get that title shot before Matt Hughes. But they gave it to Hughes. There are so many things that are out of your hands; you just have to roll with it."
White, who is one of the few in the UFC more blunt than Parisyan, wasn't particularly interested in getting into a feud with one of his top young stars.
He noted there will be many opportunities for Parisyan to coach on the reality show. But White also took a subtle dig at Parisyan, who is 16-4 and has significant wins over Serra, Nick Diaz, Drew Fickett, Shonie Carter and Chris Lytle.
White compared Parisyan to former welterweight boxing contender Oba Carr, who was 54-6-1 in a career that ended in 2002 but was most notable for losing every time he got a big shot. Carr was beaten by Felix Trinidad, Ike Quartey and Oscar De La Hoya at a time when all three were unbeaten and a win would have vaulted Carr to stardom.
Parisyan has won his share, though, and he's been one of the sport's most entertaining fighters in the process. There are few judo experts who have become as proficient in MMA as Parisyan, who competed in the 2004 Olympic Trials in judo.
Pawel Nastula (1996) and Hidehiko Yoshida (1992) won gold medals in judo and became MMA fighters, but neither uses his judo as much in his fights as Parisyan.
"I love dumping guys on their heads," he said.
The unified MMA rules, which the UFC uses, do not permit a gi to be worn in competition, as is the case in judo. Being able to grab the gi is a critical element in making throws, and few use that strategy in MMA.
But Parisyan has been able to adapt his judo to MMA. One of the most memorable fights of 2006 was his close loss to Diego Sanchez in Las Vegas, when Parisyan twice sent Sanchez shooting through the air like a pass from Peyton Manning.
"I did judo without a gi every now and then to try to incorporate the throws off the punches and the clinches, and somehow it works for me," Parisyan said. "I've been given this question maybe a thousand times, and I answer it the same way: I don't know how I do it."
Burkman has worked with light heavyweight Thierry Sokodjou, who has a judo background, but Parisyan has an advantage in many of his fights because it's difficult to prepare to be thrown because so few can do it.
Frequently, a throw is a fight-ender.
"Judo has its own art, and it's very hard to adapt without a gi," Parisyan said. "I need to grip you to throw you, but somehow it comes down to feel. When I have a clinch with my opponents, I'm so accurate with the throws most of the time, and I'm so fast that they don't know where I'm coming from.
"Somehow I launch them. It's a lot of leverage and movement."
Parisyan, though, bristles at being pigeonholed. He's not a one-dimensional fighter, he says, and though he's proud of his ability to throw an opponent, he gruffly points out it's only one of his skills.
Anyone who doubts his overall game should pay attention to his fight with Burkman, he said.
Burkman is a wrestler and says his slams are the antidote to Parisyan's throws.
"If I slam him, he probably won't be throwing anybody," Burkman said, grinning.
Parisyan doesn't smile, at least when he's talking about fighting. And he called out a group of photographers to make certain they don't miss the moment on Saturday.
"Have your cameras ready," Parisyan said. "I want you to get it when I dump him on his head. You always get the picture after the guy's on his back, but I'm telling you I'm going to throw him and I want you to have the camera ready to get that picture when I dump him on his head."
- Karo Parisyan
- Matt Hughes
- Matt Serra
- Josh Burkman