Jared Papazian took a very unique path to mixed martial arts.
It all started when he was on the receiving end of a beatdown, getting jumped outside the movie theater in high school by a classmate and 9 of his friends.
All the pain and humiliation suffered as a result fueled him. "The Jackhammer" signed up for Muay Thai classes, began training the full realm of mixed martial arts, took a liking to it and made his professional debut in 2008 . By the time he was 23 years old, he was already the defending King of the Cage bantamweight champion.
After handing Marvin Garcia the first loss of his career, Papazian started a campaign to join the UFC. He finally got his wish when Ken Stone was injured, getting the call to not only replace him and face Mike Easton, but he was also awarded a tremendous opportunity with a slot on the main card of the first ever UFC on FX event.
The UFC neophyte spoke with MMAmania.com about the beatdown that changed his life, having his UFC dreams answered and what he expects in his fight with Mike Easton tomorrow night.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): After your most recent fight in September, you said, "I'm just waiting for Sean Shelby to call in case somebody gets hurt or something happens." Now I need to know, can you give me some lottery number picks or something because that was spot on what happened.
Jared Papazian: Yeah, I was just waiting for the call and I was training like I had a fight. I was planning on fighting in March and I was waiting and it happened and we got the call that I'm fighting him on a few week's notice and I'm ready to go. I can't wait.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Can you take me through your feelings, like what happened when you got that call, what was going through your head?
Jared Papazian: Oh man I was excited. My manager texted me, "You're in," and I'm like, "I'm in?" He called me right away and what happened is my manager has a really good relationship with Sean Shelby and we had some back and forth. I sent Sean Shelby a tweet regarding, "I'm ready to go, sir. Put me in against Mike Easton," and I"m sure that had a little something to do with it and I asked some people to send a similar message as well, get a little campaign going and also my manager, Darin Harvey who kept pushing for me and wanted to give me a shot and I got a shot.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I want to get into your backstory a little more since this is your introduction to the mainstream MMA fans. From reading up on you, I heard you got into MMA because you got jumped by 10 guys?
Jared Papazian: Yeah, I was in high school and I was on the football team. We were playing and after practice, we all normally take showers and go home but one of the teammates was going through lockers, my locker and trying to jack people and people were saying they'd been jacked before and I confronted him and it proceeded into an argument and he didn't like what I had to say and we got into a fight and he was still mad about what happened in the locker room so he got all his brother's friends and jumped me at one of the movie theaters locally where I live and it was 10 guys. I was 16 at the time and I was with my brother and they threw him into a storage room and locked the door so he couldn't help and then for like 5-6 minutes, I was pretty much just fighting for my life. There was people literally outside the movie theater watching, not doing anything and little punks jumping in and kicking me, punching me while I'm on the ground. That's what happened and some people I went to school with watched it and I was humiliated. I just didn't like that feeling, like, "How did I let this happen?" I thought I could fight but it kinda messed me up mentally when I got jumped by those guys. I decided to train Muay Thai and MMA wasn't that big back then and I didn't realize what it was back then, I just wanted to learn how to fight and here I am today with my UFC debut eight years later.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): That's crazy. Something a little less dark, but you always dye your hair red before your fights. Is there any significance to that?
Jared Papazian: I love being different from everybody and it kind of gives me a little personality, a little pop. It spices things up a little bit and it makes me a little more unique, tells a bit more about who I am as a fighter. I just like being different from everybody else.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your MMA career didn't get off to the best start. You were 4-4 in your first eight fights but you've turned it around and and gone 10-2, winning the King of the Cage bantamweight title and you've earned some significant victories over Abel Cullum among others. What was your turning point?
Jared Papazian: My training. I changed everything. I changed my training, I changed my management. I had horrible management that didn't care about me. I found Darin Harvey, who also manages Manny Gamburyan and Ronda Rousey who I'm sure you've heard of and I met him and we changed our training. We wanted to take things slowly and pick our opponents and work with the promoters and get the right match-ups and we did that and by doing that, I was able to progress in my ground game, Andy Dermenjian helped me progress my wrestling, Rick O'Kane helped my stand-up, everything changed and I've been with Darin for the last 2-3 years. I don't even consider him a manager, I consider him a role model, a mentor, a friend. He's a great person.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): It sounds like you're in a good situation. Now going into this fight, you had a really rough weight cut to make 135 for your last title defense so were there any reservations about making 135 on just two weeks notice in taking this fight?
Jared Papazian: Nope, not at all. For my last fight, it was my own fault. I didn't take the camp really that serious and the week before the fight I was at 145 and I went to my buddy's Armenian wedding. There was food everywhere and I told myself I'm not gonna eat but I ate. I went there at 145 and I came home at 153 and it was just ridiculous. I shouldn't have done that and it was stupid. I was fighting on a Thursday and I was 153 on that Sunday morning. I had to weigh in on Wednesday, cutting 17-18 pounds in four days. It was a bad move by me and I'm more professional on it now. For this camp, I was starting to work towards making the move down to 125 and I've been sitting at 145 for the last two and a half, three weeks so my weight was good and I'm perfect on weight right now. I feel really good right now.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're making your UFC debut against Mike Easton and it's actually on the main card so not only is it the debut, but you'll be seen live on the main card on FX. How big of a deal is that for you with the bonus exposure you're getting?
Jared Papazian: Oh, it's gonna be amazing exposure. I'm not gonna get those UFC jitters and I've fought on the big stage, it's not the UFC, but I'm just gonna treat it like any other big fight. I'm just gonna have fun in there. It's all about having fun and that's all I can do.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Going back to Mike Easton, he's a well rounded guy, trains at a great gym, Alliance MMA, can you talk to me about some of the things you're most concerned about? I saw something about how you were preparing for his leg kicks.
Jared Papazian: His last fight against Byron Bloodworth, he threw a lot of leg kicks and I've been working on that stuff but I'll be ready everywhere. I know he's a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt but if he wants to go to the ground, let's go to the ground and I'll work my wrestling. I'm well-prepared for this guy and he's tough. He's a tough guy. Obviously he's favored to win but I love upsetting people and on January 20th there's gonna be an upset. My hand's gonna be raised and people are gonna know who I am. That's gonna be the real start of my career.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Three of your last four fights have gone five full rounds because they were bantamweight title fights. Do you feel you'll have a huge endurance advantage, that you'll be able to push a harder pace because this is only three rounds, that you'll be able go go harder than him?
Jared Papazian: Yeah, I have a lot of experience going five fives and not a lot of people have that experience. I pretty much did it the whole 2011, all of my fights were pretty much five fives and going back to three fives, I'm not gonna say it's a walk in the park because he's really tough but I'm gonna have that upper hand of experience going the distance and be able to wear him out and hopefully go for the kill when it's there. I'll be ready.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): For the fans that aren't really familiar with your fighting style, from watching you, I saw you're really aggressive both standing and on the ground so can you describe what the fans can expect from you when you step into the cage?
Jared Papazian: Expect fireworks. Expect "Fight of the Night." I'm gonna get a bonus. Most important, I'm gonna win, that's the most important thing and it's gonna be fun. Easton is a tough guy. It seems like he wants to stand and bang and I like to stand and bang. It seems like it's gonna be a stand-up war but I think once I hit him a couple times, he's gonna want to take me down. That's what everyone else wants to do and that's fine. I'll be ready for that but I think this is gonna be an amazing fight and people are gonna like it.
Jared would like to thank his training partners Savant Young, Shawn Yacoubian, Keenan Lewis, Martin Gantt and everyone over at Fight Academy in Pasadena, everyone at Gracie Barra Encino, his trainers Alberto Crane for jiu-jitsu, the previously mentioned O'Kane and Dermenjian, his manager, his sponsors RevGear, Head Rush and Dr. Harrison Lee.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will Papazian shake off the Octagon jitters and pull off the upset against Mike Easton? Will he make a big splash in his Octagon debut on the main stage?