Karo Parisyan is tired, you can hear it in his voice. Tired like he’s just waking up from a years-long nightmare in which someone else was living in his body, fighting and making his decisions for him. What makes it all worse is that there was no dream, that Parisyan has been the pilot all along, the reason for his own derailment. Now, frustrated but attaining clarity, he’s just hoping it’s not too late to fix his mistakes.
“My head, at the time – this is the worst time ever,” Parisyan said in a recent conversation with FightLine. “I don’t even know what to say, I’m speechless. I’m known for doing interviews, opening up to people and telling them what the hell’s going on, but it’s not going to change anything if I have five more people feel f***ing sorry for me.
“Man, it’s pretty bad. I don’t even care anymore. Right now, I’m in the worst time of my life… [With] New Year’s coming up, I’m in the worst time financially – but, you know what? It’s gonna be good. I never cry about it, I’m not gonna cry about it. I’m gonna do what I have to do to come back. I’m a grown ass man and enough is enough. For the time being, my head is just with the family. Trying to get by, and trying to have a New Year’s and see what 2012 f***ing brings.”
Once a top welterweight with the potent judo skills to give anyone trouble and the brute physicality of a grappler trained since childhood, the Karo Parisyan that’s competed over the last three years or so has looked only like a shell of the fiery Armenian bruiser that defeated the likes of Nick Diaz, Matt Serra and Chris Lytle.
The 29-year-old has openly struggled with an addiction to prescription painkillers that came about after severely injuring a hamstring. Exacerbated by anxiety issues and waning motivation, Parisyan fell into a hole, showing up at half-speed on his best days. A close split decision over fellow Judoka Dong Hyun-Kim was overturned after Parisyan tested positive for banned painkillers and after he pulled out of a UFC 106-scheduled fight against Dustin Hazelett just two days before the bout, he was released from the UFC. This was all back in 2009, and his problems didn’t stop there.
His addiction now made public, Parisyan was welcomed back to the UFC after taking some time off and picking up a win outside of the promotion. Billed as his comeback, Parisyan was quickly defeated by Dennis Hallman and has since lost two more fights against unheralded competition. If he sat on the precipice before, now Parisyan clings to the ledge with unsure grip. He’s 1-4 with one no contest over his last six, and Parisyan knows that if he wants to turn things around, he’ll have to do a lot more than offer empty promises.
“I know I’ve said this before, several times, ‘Oh, I’m doing this, I’m going to do that, and this and that,’ – but I always fell short and that’s why people stopped believing me. ‘I don’t believe Karo anymore. I don’t believe anything he says. He’s gotta prove it before he says anything.’ I’m a guy like that myself,” he said. “I’d rather see it than hear it. When I see it, I’ll believe it. I guess enough is enough. I’ve got to either come back and really give it my all, or f***ing hang up the gloves and stop embarrassing myself.
“Because, if I give it my all, I know I can get back to the top and be better than before. There are guys that are fighting that have no f***ing business fighting, have no business in the UFC. No disrespect, if you get in the cage I have respect for you, because you walk in that cage. But as far as when you narrow it down to skills and who’s doing what, it can be pathetic. It is what it is.”
But talent and ability have never been Parisyan’s lacking points – his deficiency has been his mindset. He’ll admit that he hasn’t taken his recent fights seriously, that he’s been more motivated to show up and collect a check than to make his mark on the sport. Simply put, he’s burnt out, but he’s had to put food on the table.
If he could have been paid to do it, he would have sat on the shelf, gotten his mind right and hit the scene hard again – which is what he’s attempting to do now – but he’s had to continue slogging forward just to keep the lights on. Parisyan knows that if he’s going to keep this up though, that he’ll have to find more than monetary reasons to step in the cage.
“For the first time in three and a half years, I would have to look at everything in a serious way again. Before, I looked at it in a very serious fashion. It was my lifestyle,” said Parisyan. “This sport was my lifestyle, it wasn’t my job. When it becomes your job, that’s when you start hating it. Who the f*** likes their job? I mean, you can say, ‘I love my job,’ but when it comes down to it, eventually you’re going to be like, ‘Ugh, I don’t want to go to work today.’ When it comes down to a job, I don’t want to do this sh** no more. I’ve just gotta turn it into a lifestyle.
“Back in the day, this sport was a lifestyle for me. I’d wake up in the morning and it’s, ‘Hey, do you wanna go run for seven miles?’ ‘Yeah, let’s go.’ And we’d go run for seven f***in’ miles. Why? Because that’s all we knew how to do, is to train. It was bred into us since we were kids, eight years old – bred. Everyday, training, hurting your opponent, dismantle, hit, hit, break – it was all we did, it was a lifestyle. We did all this stuff because we wanted to, not because we had to. When it started to get to the point where I had to, is when I started not liking it.”
And in spurts, you can hear the fire still burning in Parisyan. When he talks about beating Nick Diaz, or assesses some of the currently top-ranked welters, it’s very clear that the flames of competition are being stoked. A feeling familiar to the lifelong competitor and one that gives him hope, sets a light at the end of the tunnel. Once he can keep that fire tended and consistently burning, that’s when Karo Parisyan’s actions and performances will speak for themselves – he won’t have to tell you that he’s serious about making his comeback, you’ll be able to see it for yourself.
“I might watch a video, or watch a blog, or something, get on YouTube and watch a fight, it could be anything, but it brings back that fire for a second. It’ll bring back that fire,” said Parisyan. “I would like to get there again. I really would. I really gotta want it. I’m working more to that point, where I really want it again. I’m almost there and when I want it and I put my mind to it, I will. Dude, trust me, I’ll get it. You can do anything you want. I’ve always said you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it. That’s where I am, almost. Almost.”