When I was offered the opportunity to interview UFC welterweight contender Karo Parisyan, I jumped at the chance.
I mean, what can you say about this guy? Hell, you practically don't need to say anything because he'll tell you straight to your face.
Never one to mince words, Karo was extremely candid during our interview, offering his take on the welterweight title picture, his upcoming fight with Thiago Alves, the pressures of taking care of a large family, his judo expertise, his plans for when he one day retires, and of course, the Diaz brothers.
TUF fans will recall the whole "Do you know who I am?" episode. Karo sets the record straight.
Karo Parisyan takes on Thiago Alves at Fight Night 13 on Wednesday, April 2. Until then, enjoy the interview.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): I know in the past you have said that you felt you were deserving of the next welterweight title shot. But apparently, that could now going to Jon Fitch. How do you feel about that?
Karo Parisyan: That's official?
Adam Wagner (MMAmania): Well, no it's not, but during the UFC 82 post-event press conference, UFC President Dana White referred to Jon Fitch's record-tying eight-fight win streak* and said that "he is in line, right now, for a title shot once the whole Serra-St. Pierre thing is figured out."
*Editor's Note: Fitch is the second fighter in UFC history to win eight straight fights in the Octagon, tying Royce Gracie from back in the day.
Karo Parisyan: Okay. Well ... (laughs). It is what it is, bro. I mean, what can I do? I thought I deserved the shot before anybody, but it looks like I gotta prove myself one more time, God willing, with Thiago Alves and then seal the deal with the title shot after that, whether it's Matt Serra, St. Pierre or Jon Fitch.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Do you have any preference? Assuming it is for a title shot, do you care if it's Serra, GSP or Fitch?
Karo Parisyan: No, I don't care at all, actually. I'd like to avenge my loss to GSP; I already have a very dominating win over Matt Serra, but I'd like to fight him (again); and I'd like to fight Jon Fitch just to get the title shot from him. So for every fight, I got a reason. So I don't really care, man. Whoever stands in front of me, I just want that title.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): With such a stacked welterweight division, you seem to be playing the wait game. First we have Serra/GSP at UFC83 in mid-April; and then, assuming Fitch gets a title shot, that likely won't happen until sometime around August. That might put the next available title shot happening sometime toward the end of 2008. Do you find this frustrating, waiting, if it unfolds like this?
Karo Parisyan: Yeah, kinda. I don't know what I'm going to do. I'd probably have to get a fight in between; I just can't sit at home and get fat. I don't know, man. It depends on how this fight goes with Thiago Alves. God willing, if everything goes well and I beat Thiago, and if I have a guaranteed title shot after that, I'm not going to take anymore fights, I'll just wait for my title shot. But if I have to fight somebody else, I will.
So, I don't know what the UFC is going to throw my way. First, again, like I said, I'm taking one fight at a time. I'm thinking about Thiago right now, and not Fitch, Serra or GSP.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well with a win over Thiago, I don't see much of an argument anyone can make for you NOT getting the title shot.
Karo Parisyan: Neither do I.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): You're now 8-2 in the UFC and on a three-fight win streak, and with a win over Thiago, it would be four. You're 18-4 overall, with 13 of your fights ending in decision. Do you think that has hurt your chances of getting a title shot?
Karo Parisyan: No, I think I've changed the myth. I ended that myth — a fight doesn't have to finish in the first or second round to be an exciting fight. Almost all my fights have been exciting. A lot of people don't want to see a one-minute fight that they paid for. I'd like to see a three-round brawl so I can say that it was an awesome fight.
In most of my fights, I've shown people that I have heart and that I go, from bell to bell, 100 miles per hour. And like I said, sometimes I've done a lot of stuff for the crowd. Sometimes, like my last fight, I didn't care about anything; I just cared about winning the fight.
You know, I react on the moment, how I feel and what I think is right. I would like to finish the fight with Thiago — that's my plan — but if it goes to a decision, and, God willing, I get my decision win again, hey a W is still a W, and against a very tough fighter.
If you can beat me, beat me, you know what I mean? But if I beat you in a decision, that means I still have a W over any top fighter.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Thiago is on a four-fight win streak of his own, with his last win over Chris Lytle earning him "Fight of the Night" honors and $55,000 in bonus money. Does that make you any more excited for this fight — knowing that Alves can put on a good show?
Karo Parisyan: Yeah, that means Thiago brings it. Fighters get the best out of Karo Parisyan. You push me, man, I'm going to push more. Thank God I don't really break. I don't really break during fights, even if I'm losing it, I still come back and make it exciting.
The Diego Sanchez fight — perfect example. I got hit in my eyeball. I thought I lost my sight. What did I do? I still came back, thank God, and turned it into the best fight of the year, with one eye. People have to take that in consideration. It's not what you do, it's how you do it, like I've always said.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): That was a great fight, no question. Well, Alves has KO power, but he usually wins via TKO. How do you feel you match-up with Alves, and how have you been training for him? Have you changed anything up?
Karo Parisyan: No. I've done the same training. I worked on a lot of wrestling, ground and pound, my submissions ... even my standup. If for some reason I can't take Thiago down, I'm going to stand with him and bang it out.
I think I have just as good standup as anyone in the division. Thiago is, out of the two of us, the better striker. Pound-for-pound, he's one of the best strikers in the world in the business today. But that doesn't mean that I can't stand in front of him, or even knock him out.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Did you train at Xtreme Couture in Vegas? How long was your camp?
Karo Parisyan: Yeah, I did about three weeks at Randy's gym. It went pretty good. I don't have to do a month or two months to say I'm good — no, I did a really good training camp back home in L.A. As long as I'm in good condition ... I just had a really really good plyometric workout, conditioning, muscle endurance, everything.
Like I've always said, man, God willing, if I'm in shape for a fight, I don't care who I'm fighting, they're in trouble. They're in deep crap, man.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): I'm assuming you're in pretty good shape right now, going into this fight?
Karo Parisyan: Yes, I'm 80 percent in shape. With next week ... before I leave, I should be in pretty good shape. I should be in shape to go five rounds if I had to. Like when I fought Josh Burkman, I was ready to go five rounds, man, I was in tippy-top shape. I wasn't tired at all, I was actually having fun. And I looked at myself, and I was like, you know what, when I'm in shape, it's actually fun, it's easy to fight. So let's do that again, I told myself, and now that's what I'm trying to do.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): So when you say that you're 80 percent, does that mean you've been battling some injuries?
Karo Parisyan: I always have injuries, bro. My left leg, my left thigh, the hamstring tear, it's always been weak. It's really hard for me to bounce back on the same explosive workouts. But I don't know what to say.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well, all professional fighters battle a lot of injuries, making it near impossible to come into a fight at 100 percent.
Karo Parisyan: Exactly. Also, I don't live by myself. I don't have an apartment. It's not like I only worry about Karo Parisyan, you know, I don't train in the morning and that's all I do. Bro, Armenians are different people, culturally. I take care of my whole family, bro. I have five, six people in my family, I have a big house. Everything that I do, I work for my family.
I have more pressure than anything, most of the time. So it's not as easy as people think it is, you know. When I said that I had a personal issue in the last fight, I was meaning that I was buying a house, I couldn't get my training in, I would run 20 minutes a day and call it a workout, because I could not get my training going to another level.
People have to understand, going into a fight, you should never make excuses — if you choose to go into the cage and fight, whatever happens, it happens, you chose it and that's the result. But when you look behind that, there is always all kinds of stuff going on in a fighter's life.
Fighting is your reward. The hard part is training and cutting weight. With all the bull crap before the fight, by the time you step in that cage, you're drained.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): It's been said that you are the first UFC fighter to have successfully adapted his judo style to the Octagon. You're also, what, a four-time International Judo Champion?
Karo Parisyan: Four-time international, seven-time junior national, two-time senior bronze, I've won 10 or 15 California states, silver at the Pan-Am Games, I've won everything in the country. It's very hard to adapt Judo to mixed martial arts, when you can't grip a guy and you can't throw him. Thank God I am one of those guys that has been able to do that, and I'm blessed, you know? I'm just trying to keep that going, man, that's what's made my career.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Do you think that your Judo is the best in the UFC?
Karo Parisyan: (Laughs) What do you think, bro?
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): (Laughs) I think it is, I just wanted to hear you say it.
Karo Parisyan: How about this, let me ask you a question: Do you think it's the best in mixed martial arts, period?
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Honestly, yeah, I do.
Karo Parisyan: Thank you. There's the answer to that.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Some of your fans might not know this, but you've also been featured in a few movies, correct?
Karo Parisyan: Yeah, I've done a bunch of stuff. I stopped the acting stuff when I got hard-core into fighting, but yeah, I've done movies with Steven Seagal, DMX, I've done a bunch of stunts on movies. Shit, I've even done some modeling, dude. Just on the side, just to look cute.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Would you like to continue pursuing a film career?
Karo Parisyan: Sure, yeah, when I retire, I would like to. Certain things I can do. I can act, I do stunts, I got a lot of people in the business to hook me up. It's definitely a road I'm looking at after retiring, as well as having a couple of gyms around the country.
I'd like to open up a franchise with Karo Parisyan-style training, with throwing and all that stuff, because there are 10,000 strikers out there, there're 10,000 grapplers, but there's only one ... you know, I don't want to say I'm talking about myself, but I'm pretty much the only one who can throw people in the business. People want to learn that, but it's hard to learn. But I think I can teach it. And if I can, then I can open up a revolution in mixed martial arts, as far as judo.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): How many fights do you have remaining on your current contract?
Karo Parisyan: I got like three more left.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Your cousin, TUF5 Runner-Up Manny Gamburyan, is also featured on the Fight Night 13 card vs. Jeff Cox. How do you see this match-up?
Karo Parisyan: I think that's like a gift for Manny, man. That's hands down, Manny's gonna maul him. I mean, seriously, who's Jeff Cox? Never heard of him? They asked him what his strength is, and he said his training and coaching? Jesus Christ. I mean, I don't know, but I think that Manny
doesn't have his hands full at all. I think it's going to be a first round win for Manny Gamburyan.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): With such a talented family, do you have any other family members who we need to have on our radar?
Karo Parisyan: Bro, I got family all around the fricking country and the world, but as far as competing, it's only Manny at this point.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Do you guys train together?
Karo Parisyan: I haven't trained with him for this fight at all.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Fans of The Ultimate Fighter saw your disagreement with Nate Diaz. You also hold a win over his brother Nick. Is there any bad blood between you and the Diaz brothers?
Karo Parisyan: No, listen dude, I never had anything against Nick Diaz. When I fought Nick Diaz, I had nothing against him. Actually, I'm surprised my dad even likes Nick Diaz. He's a gutsy kid. Even after the fight, I was the only guy that he wasn't trying to get all rowdy, because I'm sorry, I'm not like the other guys he's fought — not as far as talent, just that somebody outside of the mixed martial arts world, I look at stuff very different.
If somebody's gonna try to mess with me, I take care of stuff in a different way. I actually came up, (Nick) looked at me, he said, "Did I do that to your nose?" I was like, "Yeah. Did I do that to your face?" We were just talking. People started taking pictures of us. I never had anything against Nick Diaz.
Even Nate Diaz. But Nate started running his mouth, and he was being disrespectful. I made him understand, yo, we're on national television, don't disrespect. I'm telling you.
And everybody made a fuss about me saying, "Do you know who I am?" Listen, man, English is my second language. Sometimes stuff comes out very wrong. When I say, "Do you know who I am?", that doesn't mean, "Hey yo, do you know who I am? I'm Karo Parisyan." Duh. Obviously they know who I am. I never meant, "I'm Karo Parisyan, I'm this and that." No, bro. God forbid, tomorrow I could be below zero, as far as a fighter. I know the reality.
But when I say, "Do you know who I am?" I mean like, do you know who I am outside of the mixed martial arts circuit? Do you know who I am on the streets, where I come from, what's my background? You can't disrespect me just like that. You know what I mean, you don't know who I am. That's how I said that. I didn't mean like, "Oh you know who I am, I'm Karo, I can kick your butt."
People say I'm trying to bully. Dude, I don't give a shit who you are. You could be 400 pounds, the baddest mofo on this planet. You do something wrong toward me, I'm going to step up and try to fight you — do anything I can to try to make you understand that you're wrong and I'm right.
People have to understand, this American shit they have — this bullying — what are we talking about? I wasn't even going to punch Nate Diaz, I was going to slap him. I wasn't even going to punch him. You know what, people have to understand that crap, it's a different culture, it's a different mentality.
I have no disrespect toward any fighter or anybody. You know, you going to respect me, I'm going to respect you. You put your one arm around me, I'll put my both arms around you. Simple as that.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): The headliner for Fight Night 13 is a lightweight match-up between Kenny Florian and Joe Lauzon. Who do you like in that fight?
Karo Parisyan: Well I like Joe, I like Kenny. I'm good buddies with both of them, actually. I think Kenny's got a little more experience on Joe Lauzon. Joe is one of those kids that can pull off a win from anywhere. He's a tough kid and he comes out to fight, balls out. I think Kenny might have the upper hand on Joe, just because of his experience and all the guys he's fought, but at the same time if Joe Lauzon wins, don't be surprised, because he's a tough kid.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well Karo, I really appreciate your candor during this interview. Lastly, would you like to thank any sponsors, and do you have any parting words for your fans?
Karo Parisyan: Yeah, I'd like to thank AutoMaxLeasing.com. He's one of my good friends, he's one of my sponsors, and he's the best in the business as far as cars go. So thanks to AutoMax.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well thanks again, Karo, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. And good luck in your upcoming fight against Thiago Alves.
Karo Parisyan: No problem, brother. Thanks a lot, I really appreciate that.