Bellator MMA
Monday, 25 June 2012 by

Karo Parisyan: 'I can still do stuff people haven't seen'

Karo "The Heat" Parisyan had his moments over the last two years when he never thought he would return to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but the veteran welterweight has a chance to put those doubts behind him this weekend.

"It crossed my mind many, many times: 'Did I really lose everything? Did I really dig a hole that deep that I can't get out of?' " Parisyan recalls thinking. "But I kept on telling myself, 'I'm still young. I can still do stuff people haven't seen before. I have a big heart and I know I have enough talent to go after people and fight and win.' "

Parisyan's attempt at UFC redemption starts Saturday at UFC 123 (10 p.m. ET, pay-per-view) in Detroit, where he's scheduled to face fellow veteran Dennis "Superman" Hallman. The return of Parisyan surprised many observers, given that UFC President Dana White last year vowed that "The Heat" would never fight for his company again.

He's never fought for a UFC title, yet Parisyan remains one of the company's more memorable fighters from the middle part of the past decade. The Armenian-born product of the U.S. judo circuit remains the only U.S.-based MMA fighter who can consistently throw opponents with hip tosses, arm drags or leg reaps. His 2006 scrap with Diego Sanchez a fight in which Parisyan launched him head over heels with spectacular throws -- was voted one of the 10 best fights in UFC history.

But bouts with panic attacks and a Nevada suspension in March 2009 for using banned painkillers threw Parisyan's life into turmoil. The low point of his career came when UFC fired him a year ago, after he withdrew from a scheduled bout with Dustin Hazelett. White derided Parisyan's explanations as "a laundry list of excuses."

Yet Parisyan recently convinced UFC to give him one more shot after he recorded a win in Australia over a local fighter. Fighting Stances last week spoke to "The Heat" for a few minutes about fighting Hallman and overcoming problems of recent years. Excerpts from the conversation:

Q: Who are you training with these days?

Parisyan: I'm training with old friends. Just my camp, the guys I've known for over 15 years. Wrestling gym in North Hollywood. Glendale there's a boxing gym. Getting my wrestling in, my grappling and sparring in.

In past interviews you've described your training as a bit lackadaisical. What's the difference in your training these days?

Not too much, boss. Nothing too different.

I wake up really early. All of a sudden I'll wake up 6:00-6:30 in the morning. It'll still be dark outside, a lot of times. I'll go for a couple of miles run outside, just open my lungs and get my day going.

And then around 1:00, 1:30, I'll have grappling sessions. I won't have just one guy. I'll have two or three guys jump on me every five minutes for five, six rounds and I'll grapple these guys. I'll do the same thing in sparring.

I didn't train as much as I was supposed to in my career, but lately I've been trying to stay motivated and mentally be clear for the fight. At the same time, try to get my physical shape in different parts.

I was walking around 169 for a second. I'd lost a lot of weight on the scale from not eating as much. Everything was just horrible. I fought in my last fight in Australia, day of the fight I walked in 173, my opponent was 194. I was really small. I still won. I still overpowered my opponents. But that's not the way it's supposed to be.

Now I'm up to 185. I'm bigger and stronger than I was a few years ago.

Speaking of that fight in Australia, that was your first bout in about a year and a half. How much did you feel the effects of the layoff?

People always say, that's ring rust, we'll knock it out in practice, blah blah blah. When it comes down to a fight, when I train, I spar. I spar in a cage, I spar in a ring. I train in a cage. I've done all that stuff.

That ring rust stuff, "Oh, I haven't fought in a long time." If you're training the way that you're fighting, really you shouldn't have any problems in the fight.

Sure, ring rust does exist. I haven't fought in the UFC for over two years. Still, it doesn't really matter for me. I fought recently and during the fight, I don't think rust is going to do anything to me, as such.

Whatever happens, God forbid, if I get hit by lightning, if somehow in this fight I lose, I'm not going to blame anything on ring rust or anything. People can, and that might even be the truth, that ring rust might have an effect on you, but I'm not going to blame anything on such as ring rust.

What was your reaction when you learned Dennis Hallman would be your first opponent back in UFC?

No big deal. Dennis Hallman's been around for a long time. He's a tough guy. He's fought a lot of good guys. He's fought great guys. He's beaten tough guys.

I was supposed to fight Dennis Hallman eight or nine years ago. Right before I got into UFC I was supposed to fight him in King of the Cage, and when I got the UFC offer,I dropped that fight.

It's a comeback fight and he's a tough guy, but I'm actually like buddies with him. When I see him, we talk all the time, we chit-chat. … He's a good guy for me.

Nothing personal, just business. During the fight, I'm going to go after Dennis and try to beat him or (get a) submission. It's a great fight for me.

What did you think of his fight with Ben Saunders? I don't think too many people thought he was going to win that.

Yeah, actually, I didn't think he was going to win that either. But I saw the DVD and he fought a very smart fight.

He took Saunders down. No disrespect to Ben Saunders, he's a great guy and a great fighter, but he's primarily a stand-up guy, right? It was basically a stand-up against a grappler.

Dennis Hallman has a lot of experience, way more experience than Saunders. He was able to clinch, take him down and win the fight with experience and his grappling and his wrestling.

I didn't even who he fought. I didn't know Dennis Hallman had ever fought in UFC. I know he fought Hughes and he fought Trigg and that's the only fights I know. When I got the DVD of his recent fights in UFC, and I saw he fought Saunders and Howard, etc.

He's bringing a lot to the table. Experience, good grappler, etc. But nothing that I haven't seen before.

Hallman is known for his jiujitsu. Historically, you've done pretty well against jiujitsu guys, for the most part. What would you say is your major edge over them?

I think the major edge is, I'm a grappler myself. You can call it jiu-jitsu, whatever you want to call it, submission wrestling, whatever. ... People don't realize that my grappling is pretty fair. I'm pretty good in grappling.

A lot of times I don't really show it during a fight because I choose to punch my opponent and beat him up, and win my fight that way.

Like in my first fight, with Dave Strasser, I came in really good shape for the fight, I came up with a submission and I caught him. I went for submissions on Matt Serra. More than half of the guys I fought, I've gone for submissions.

I'm also a grappler myself. I guarantee you if I have a grappling match with Dennis Hallman, I guarantee I'll beat him. If not by submitting, I'll get him by points.

But Dennis Hallman is a tough guy. He's a very good grappler himself. He's very slick and If you make a mistake, he will capitalize on it.

I don't know what the plan is going to be for this fight. I'm going to throw my hands. I think my hands are a little bit better than Dennis'. I think I'm strong enough; in fact, stronger. I think I have better takedowns and throws. Grappling, I won't say I'm better, but at least we're even on the ground.

Would you say your ground work is underrated?

Yes, it is. People that know me, that have grappled me, they've trained with me -- trust me. Next time you meet somebody and they say that they grappled me or they trained with me (in) jiu-jitsu or submission wrestling or whatever. Ask them how I am, and honestly, they will tell you.

I'm not going to say for myself that I'm good or great. I'm not going to say any of that stuff. But it's a bit underrated because I haven't shown it that much.

Joe Silva always says, "Why don't you go for submissions when you're a great submission guy? Why don't you always go for submissions?" And I always say, "I don't know. I like to punch. I like to throw and stuff."

I don't know, man. But if I see the opportunity, I'm going to go for my submissions. I've submitted very tough guys. I've beaten world-champion jiujitsu guys before with submissions.

Most fans know you for your ability to toss guys without a gi. There have been other judo practitioners in MMA, but none of them have been able to throw guys as consistently as you have. Why do you think that is?

I think a lot of times, these guys when they walk in the cage and fight, they have it in their mind, "This is not a judo match, this is a fight, so I 've got to go out there and swing my hands and I've got to fight this guy."

What they don't understand is that this is a sport. You've got to think of it this way: You are a judo practitioner. If you're a judo guy, you have got to find a way to punch your way into a clinch, or feel their body, feel that wrestling and catch them where they feel weak.

Best thing about me, when I grab my opponent and I clinch with them, it's pretty easy for me to feel their weakness and their strength. I get them to dance. As soon as they start dancing, that's when I catch them.

Judo is a dance. You dance with your partner and he makes a mistake and you catch him, you throw them on their head.

It's very easy for me sometimes to throw opponents. At the same time, sometimes I feel like I'm cheating, sometimes it's so easy, with foot sweeps and all my hip tosses, and all the other arm drags or whatever people think I do.

I think it all comes down to feel. I say that once and I'll always say it. Everything comes down to feel. You have to feel your opponent. Just like boxing, it's timing. Everything is timing and everything comes to that part where you have to feel, where it becomes second nature.

It's like, "How do you do it?" I don't know. It just happens. It's second nature. I feel it. And I feel the judo.

Some judokas in MMA, such as Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, don't use their judo skills much. Do you ever watch them and wonder why they don't tap into those abilities?

I don't know why they don't use it. A lot of times they might do a very simple trip, an inside leg trip or something, which is great.

I like my throws. When my opponents are going back, I can throw them with a technique. When they're coming at me, I can throw them with a technique. So whatever they do, eventually I can catch them with a move. I can catch them with a throw.

It doesn't really concern me how they fight, as long as they're happy with the way they do it. … But don't ever forget where you come from and what's your natural ground. You have to be able to fall back on eventually on what you can do. If I can't punch you or I can't kick you, I've got to clinch with you and try to take you down the way I know how to take you down.

There's roads to judo throws that people have no idea how to get there. I'm able to always get to those roads, get my opponents on the ground somehow, whether it's physical double leg/single leg, or it's a beautiful judo throw, and end up top.

A lot of times the commentator is like, "Oh, that was a nice trip." It makes me really upset when they say, "Oh, that's a nice judo trip."

There is no trip. Trip is when you're running outside with your friend, and your friend sticks a leg out there and trips you. That's a trip.

These are throws. These are judo throws. These are techniques. People have no idea what they're talking about when they start saying these are trips.

These are judo throws. There's a lot that goes in it. There's a lot of respect with it, etc. So I would like people to think of them as throws and not trips.

Your last UFC fight was against Dong Hyun Kim. I thought it was a good fight, but a lot of people thought Kim won. How would you assess your performance there?

I walked out (with) anxiety, on pain medication, drooling, in pain. I hadn't really trained. All of the above that could go wrong was wrong.

"Oh, Karo makes excuses." It's not excuses. You've got a reason and it's the truth. I've always said if you don't want the honest answer, don't give me the question.

I'm just telling you the truth. I was on pain medication. I was really slow. I was really tired of everything. I just didn't care.

I just went out there and I won the fight -- I think I won the fight -- based on experience. It came down to experience.

This guy was supposed to be a great judo guy from Korea. Korean judo is by far amazing compared to American judo, and I was able to throw him twice with judo throws. If that was a judo match, the match was over.

Obviously I was not impressed or even happy with my performance. I got a 'W' under my wing with a boring fight, but I still got the win. The commission turned it to a no-contest or a disqualification, whatever they want to do, but people know I won. My hand got raised up.

You can win by a mile and you can win by a inch, they say, a win's a win. I don't actually believe that. I can dominate a fight and win. And then at the same time, I can barely, by a single hair, win the fight. A win's a win, but still, it's the way you win sometimes.

I wasn't happy with my performance, but I got the win. I thought I won, obviously, because of my throws; because of me pushing the fight and staying composed. … I had more punches and more shots going into it. I put his back into the cage. I physically dominated there. It's the truth.

This guy trained his ass off for me and I trained almost nothing for that fight, and I still beat him.

You just referred to the anxiety that's been hanging over you for the last couple of years. You've spoken in previous interviews about that. How do you deal with those panic attacks these days?

I have a doctor who's talking to the UFC, for me to talk my medication at night time sometimes that I need. Non-narcotic, obviously. It can be an Ativan or a Xanax so whatever it is, just be able to go to sleep so I can continue on with my night and my day.

You recognize it. You're supposed to know what really triggers the panic attack and anxiety, and what anxiety really is. You have to understand it.

I didn't know what it was when I was diagnosed with it. I thought I was a chick, no offense to girls. I thought I was acting like a girl. "Oh, I'm having a panic attack, my heart's blah blah blah." I just didn't even want to say it to people.

But when it hit me before the fight and I thought I was going to almost die, I wanted to put a bullet in my brain.

Your brain is basically on a sprint run. You cannot sit down and just kind of calm yourself down. It's impossible.

That's when I said, "You know what? I have something wrong with me, and I'll never walk out to fight again if I feel like this." Before the Thiago Alves fight, you know? Even before the Dong Hyun Kim fight, I walked out, on pain medication, drooling, anxiety, my heart going through the roof.

I don't know, man. It's a way of life. You have to know it. You have to recognize it. You have to be able to deal with it.

But I cannot let it control me and control my life. People have lost everything because of anxiety and panic attacks. I kind of lost almost everything too, but I still have a good job, so I just have to come back and redeem myself and show everybody that I can fight. I can beat this and I can beat anybody that's standing in front of me.

So for the time being, I don't know what's in store for me in the future. But I can tell you that I'm going to try my best to get up that ladder again, fight, stay composed, stay focused, stay professional and do what I've got to do as an athlete and as a human being.

There's a lot of skepticism out there -- a couple of months ago I saw a headline that asked, "Is Karo Parisyan still a mess?" What would you say to someone who asks, "Why I should give Karo another chance?"

Like I said before in other interviews. … because I didn't kill nobody. I had a serious problem.

When people judge, it's very simple. It's human nature. I'm a hypocrite myself; I can judge in a matter of seconds something too. … But the truth is, you don't judge that simple.

If anybody has had a full-blown panic attack and an anxiety attack and has had pressure to take care of your family and doing all this and doing all that, and all of a sudden everything being taken away from you -- how do you react to that? How?

People have killed themselves having half of the (stuff) that I went through. I'm not being cocky. I'm not being (a jerk). I'm being honest here.

In the past two years I've been through stuff. I've been through hell and I've been back. People don't know what I went through.

"Karo is a mess." I might have been a mess. I might still be a mess in a certain way. But I'm trying to put that leg forward.

I went halfway around the world in Australia. Fought a local town hero. Beat him in his own house, in his own game, and then came back home. That was something to prove. I proved something. … So I took a big step.

You have to understand, people that have panic attacks, they don't want to leave the house. They feel like they're going to die.

Whoever has been through what I'm telling you, with this disease, let's just say, they know exactly what I'm talking about.

And I want them to imagine themselves, that when they're having that anxiety, and they're feeling their heart is going to pop, and their brain is racing, and they cannot sit down -- I want them to think about, at the same time, you have to warm up because they're waiting for you out there, because you've got to walk out and fight a guy that's in a great gym whos going to take your head off in the cage.

Given what you have been through, did you ever reach the point where you thought you missed your window of opportunity?

Yeah, it crossed my mind many, many times: "Did I really lose everything? Did I really dig a hole that deep that I can't get out of? Is it too deep? Am I done?"

But I kept on telling myself, "I'm still young. I can still do stuff people haven't seen before. I have a big heart and I know I have enough talent to go after people and fight and win."

Before you returned to UFC, you had some brief contacts with Strikeforce that led you to call them an "unprofessional" organization, but there are a lot of fighters who are happy with them. What bothered you about them?

Unprofessionalism. Giving me a fight five weeks out. Not returning phone calls. Playing cat and mouse on the phone.

God forbid I drop out of UFC and I have to go see a different organization and that I have to go back to Strikeforce again. But I'm just saying, man, Strikeforce should not even be in the same category as the UFC. They're not in the same universe. It's impossible. I mean, with professionalism and stuff.

They have good fighters. They are a good organization. But they're not close to what the UFC is, as far as being professional and organized. They're not.

They're nice guys. (Strikeforce CEO Scott) Coker is not a bad guy. What he said was, "Oh, me and him had coffee; it didn't work out."

That's pretty much (baloney). We didn't have coffee. We had lunch and he was jumping up and down to sign me. That's what people told me there when I left. He was thrilled and I was happy to sign with them.

But first they came with stupid deals. My friend negotiated the deal, Jay Glazer, great guy. I finally agreed to a deal.

Five and a half weeks left before I had to fight -- Karo's comeback fight, hometown -- they give me a fight five and a half weeks that was a tough guy.

I'm like, "Dude, you guys are nuts. ... It's not like some guy dropped out and you guys are pushing me in there. No, I haven't fought for a year and a half. You've got to give me at least eight weeks to train for a fight. I haven't fought for a long time."

So I didn't even bother with them. So I said, "You know what? Forget it. Screw this. I'm not going to go with you."

So I went and fought in Australia one fight, and harassed (UFC President) Dana (White) until I got my shot.

Who did Strikeforce want you to fight?

He's a Lithuanian guy. He fights in Dream. He has a really good high kick. He knocked (Hayato) Sakurai with a high kick. He fought Nick Diaz in Strikeforce.

Marius Zaromskis?

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I think that was the guy.

I thought that I could beat him, but he's still a tough guy that I need eight weeks to train, whoever I'm fighting. I was like, "I don't need this (stuff). You guys go ahead."

What fighters would you be interested in fighting? Who do you think might be a fun match-up?

There's a bunch at 170. I don't care who I usually fight.

I think Jake Shields might be a good match-up for me, because of how he pushes forward. It would work great the way I like to do my techniques.

I don't care. As long as I'm in shape, you can put whoever you want in front of me.

Do you do a lot of specific game planning for your opponents, or do you prefer to feel your way through as you go along?

I never do game planning. I hardly do it.

Common sense: If I'm fighting Anderson Silva or Thiago Alves, I don't want to stand up with them. I'll stand up if I have to.

But I have no game plans. I never put game plans together. Wherever the fight goes with Dennis Hallman, I'll be comfortable.

Stand-up, I'm comfortable. Clinch, I'm great. On the ground, I'm home. It doesn't matter where it goes, I'll be comfortable, I'll be fine. I will be in shape to push him.

In the past you've worked with some big-name camps, like Randy Couture's gym. Have you ever thought about joining one of the prominent gyms on a long-term basis?

Yeah, but they (Xtreme Couture) are in Vegas. I can't move to Vegas. I don't want to move to Vegas. I live in Northridge, Calif. with my family.

I wish they here. I swear to God I wish they were here. If they were in L.A., I swear to God I will be champion within eight months, just because I can go to training every night and have great guys to push me.

Even for this fight, I wanted to go and train with them, but financially, I wasn't ready to go on a trip, and go and train. It was kind of hard. I was down to that point.

So I put my camp together here with my friends that help me. As long as I'm in good shape, I've got strength and conditioning coming up really good right now.

As long as I'm mentally fit, clean and mentally focused, and conditioned so my heart's beating good, I'm ready to go.

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