Former UFC welterweight contender Karo Parisyan has been battling personal demons and waning motivation for the last few years, seeking to find the drive and strength of mind which once carried him near the top of the heap.
The Heat spoke with FightLine just before the holidays, discussing everything from his recent career slump to his UFC 49 scrap with Nick Diaz.
FightLine: First off, you’re last fight was a tough battle with Jordan Smith, I know it went down in September, but are you nursing any injuries from that fight?
Karo Parisyan: No, I’m just feeling like an idiot, that’s all.
FL: Why are you feeling like an idiot?
KP: I’m not taking any of these fights as serious as I’m supposed to. Guys I’m supposed to walk over – not walk over, I don’t want to be disrespectful. Guys I’m supposed to beat, I end up going to a split decision loss or a loss because of a cut – the Ryan Ford fight I’m pretty sure I won, but I shouldn’t have event given him the chance to cut me.
FL: And where’s your head at now with all of that? You talk about how you’ve gone through a lot personally, you’ve lost two very close fights this year, what’s your mindset like right now?
KP: My head, at the time – this is the worst time ever. 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 fucking 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 Christmas and 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, trying to have a Christmas and trying to have a New Year’s and see what 2012 fucking brings.
FL: So what do you hope for in 2012? It sounds like you’re just trying to get by right now, but that maybe you’re looking to rediscover your fire and make a comeback? Am I off base there?
KP: No, you’re pretty much in the ballpark. That’s what I plan on doing. 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. 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 fucking 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 fucking 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.
FL: Well, the welterweight division definitely has fewer getting spun around like pinwheels in your absence, I’ll say that.
Along those lines – and this is in no way meant to be disrespectful towards Nick Diaz, I only use him as an example because you hold a victory over him and he’s doing very well right now – does it motivate you to see someone you beat in the past, like Diaz, being so successful, getting ready to fight for an interim title?
KP: Yeah man, I mean c’mon, look at the guys I’ve beaten. Today, I can hang my gloves – which I’m not – but, today I can hang my gloves and nobody can have anything on me. Nobody. You can’t say shit to me. The guys I’ve beaten, how I’ve beaten them and what I’ve done in the sport. I can go down today as the best Judo guy that ever walked in MMA and one of the most exciting fighters in UFC history.
I mean, c’mon, three of my fights in a row were the best fights of the night, two of those fights were two of the best fights of all time. Can anybody else say that? It’s cocky, it’s arrogant, but I don’t even care anymore.
Looking at Diaz, I mean, Diaz was the best Diaz at the time that I fought him. He was shredded, he was chiseled, he had just knocked out Robbie Lawler – he was the man when I fought him. I beat a good fighter at a good time. And I broke him, he was broken before the fight. Nick Diaz never breaks. And Nick Diaz will say – and if he denies it, it’s bullshit – he can go back and look at the fight himself, he can go back and look what he said before the fight. ‘It’s a bad match up for me.’ His entire camp was telling everybody that Diaz was shitting his pants – everybody knows that, I don’t care. Diaz would shake my hand. He took a picture with me after I beat him, you hear of Nick Diaz doing shit like that? If Nick Diaz loses to you he’s gonna flip you off and say, ‘Fuck you, don’t be scared, homie.’
I don’t look at it as motivating so much as: if this dude can get there, what the fuck am I supposed to do? I think I can get there and be even better, because I have wins over these people. So, I have to just keep building my skill set to get where these guys are.
FL: So what do you think you need to do then, to get to that spot? To show people your true potential and that you’re as good or maybe better than a guy like Nick Diaz or Carlos Condit?
KP: 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. This sport was my lifestyle, it wasn’t my job. When it becomes your job, that’s when you start hating it. Who the fuck 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 shit 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 fuckin’ 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 have to, is when I started not liking it.
FL: So, do you feel that way about fighting now? That you have to do this, that it’s an obligation? Or are you getting to a spot where you’re rediscovering your love and motivation for the sport beyond just making money?
KP: Vaguely. It might be like once a month, maybe five times a month, I don’t know. 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. 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.
FL: That’s good to hear, but that’s the big picture. What’s the next step for you right now?
KP: There’s supposed to be a tournament, a big tournament. The press release hasn’t gone out yet, but it will. There’s supposed to be a sixty-man tournament, five weight classes, in Vegas. I’m signed up for this tournament. I’ve already signed a contract and I’m just begging God every night that this tournament actually goes through and it’s legit. There’s a big payout for every champion, four fights. This is the fight that I’m signed up to fight for. At this point, honestly, I see it like fifty-fifty. I don’t know if it’s gonna work. … It’s supposed to be the end of February, maybe the first couple of days of March. That first fight.
My problem over the last few years has been, before getting a fight, just being able to survive. I don’t make a hundred grand a fight anymore, like I did back when I was in the UFC. These days, you’re only as good as your last fight, so I’ll make ten, fifteen, twenty grand tops. So, in between fights, I get just barely enough money to survive off until I get the other fight. I’ve gotta get my resume up, get a couple of good fights at least, just to show promoters – Dana, whoever’s gonna look at it – a couple of good wins. Then I can go back to normal fights and normal money. Then we can go back to dumping guys like this on their heads again – Condit or Diaz, whoever the guys are – throw these guys on their head, beat these guys. Then I’m back and I make the money. I know I have it in me. I’ve dug a really deep hole. I dug my own grave. But, I’m crawling myself out.
FL: I’m going to change the direction just a little now. Until Ronda Rousey came along, I don’t think I’d seen anyone use Judo in MMA as well as you. I’ve seen footage of the two of you training together and I know she has close ties with some of your trainers. Can you talk a bit about what it means to see her doing so well in representing both the team and Judo? Do you get motivated by seeing a young fighter like her doing so well?
KP: Of course. Ronda is a kid that trained with us for many years at Team Hayastan. The reason why Ronda is so good, is because Ronda was a cute little girl – she’s not little no more – but she was a cute little girl that trained with guys like us. She wasn’t training with other girls. Other girls she would beat up, so she would train with us. She would cry. I would yell at her, ‘Suck your lip up! I don’t want you crying!’ She would suck her lip up and continue on. She would cry so much during practice because we would push her. That’s why she became an animal in the cage and on the mat. She’ll destroy ninety-five percent of the guys I know in my life. It is inspiring, it is motivating, to see all these colleagues and these people that I’ve known come up and make something of themselves. It’s good. I’m really happy for her. I’d say she’s gonna beat anybody that they put her in with, just because I know how good Ronda is. She’s a strong girl. She’s really strong mentally.
FL: Well, now I’ll just open it up to you. Anything you want to say, anyone you want to thank?
KP: I’ll tell you this, and I don’t know who’s going to listen to this interview, but the day I crawl out of this hole man and I cover the last three or four years up and I’m happy, I’ve dealt with all of my problems and I can say I’m happy – let’s just say I’ll remember this interview.