Some people are destined to live with aggressive circumstances underscoring their daily existence. Aggression is a fuel, renewable like ethanol, that comes from one’s environment and which can lead you to success or disaster.
Karo Parisyan is the picture of success through aggression and it has danced before his eyes like aging celebrities on reality television. This tale has taken many forms but none as unique as that experienced by “The Heat”. This is a fight tale.
“I’ve seen stuff when I was 5, 6 years old that people haven’t seen in a lifetime,” Parisyan said. “You ever seen the movie, ‘A Bronx Tale’? That is what Armenia is like. At age 15 and 16 everybody is a gangster, it’s a mob-related mentality, real machismo style.”
Armenia’s surname should be ‘aggressive’ by the previous explanation and this posturing has laid the foundation for Parisyan’s view on life. A landlocked country of mountains considered Eurasia, Armenians have had to fight for freedom of religion and the stigma of second-class citizenship from foreign rulers. World War I brought the genocide of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders that to this day has never been admitted to by the offending nation. This past flows through the blood of Parisyan and offers an insight into the comparison to Chazz Palminteri’s 1960’s visage of the Bronx. At age 6, the Parisyan family moved from Armenia to sunny Los Angeles, but new challenges daunted the picture-perfect American dream.
“It was very rough growing up in California,” Parisyan said. “We stayed in a one-bedroom apartment all six of us. I was 6 years old and we were in the country for two or three months and I was hit by a car. My father worked real hard seven days a week to take care of us. If we went to a party he would stay up all night, go home, watch me for a while and still go to work.”
At age nine, Karo Parisyan began training in the martial arts — judo and karate to be specific. It wasn’t so much a calling as it was an outlet to release his growing adolescent destructiveness. This was the classic point from the movie when Calogero begins dabbling in small illegalities to satisfy his own wanton draw to malignance. Instead of finding his own Sonny and the gang to transfer his energy into the criminal, Parisyan found his release studying the disciplines of martial arts.
“I was a very rough kid,” he said. “I used to beat up on pillows and my sisters but then I started training (martial arts) at 9 years old. I like physical sports, I like that crap. I had it inside me.”
True to machismo style, Parisyan’s introduction to his trademark Judo specialty came by way of a challenge. His cousin was training Judo during this time and taunted the novice martial artist with a simple threat, “I can beat you up.” Obviously up to the challenge, the judo techniques used made an indelible impression on the younger cousin and Parisyan added the discipline to his karate training regime. It was at this time that he met a mentor and life-changing trainer in “Judo” Gene LeBell, a martial arts legend.
“(Gene) was more of a mentor, a great man,” Parisyan said. “I learned a lot from him because he is an innovator. He’s the man when it comes to martial arts.”
LeBell, a former American judo champion, is a legendary west coast martial arts instructor, among other noteworthy titles. You can add stunt performer, stunt coordinator and professional wrestler to his resume and round that out with his work on over 350 films, TV shows and as author of a number of books.
Parisyan’s style developed under the Hayastan Grappling System, a style blended by Gokor Chivichyan and LeBell, which includes adapted elements of Judo, Sambo, catch wrestling, freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, and Muay Thai. After showcasing a grown-up attitude and work method when it came to training in his teenage years, his handlers thought it was a great time to give the young Parisyan a taste of real competition.
“I was 14 and they took me to Mexico to fight,” he said. “I took on the top guy in Mexico, he was 23 (years old) and his record was 10-0. We went five rounds and everyone saw I was a tough kid.”
This was the beginning, but quickly after Parisyan entered professional mixed martial arts competition, going on a six-fight win streak from the outset. His first loss was to Sean Sherk, followed by another disappointing rematch that left Parisyan with another loss. A four-fight win streak followed with a decision loss to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 46.
A who’s who of the MMA elite followed, and Parisyan chalked up consecutive decision wins over Shonie Carter, Nick Diaz, Chris Lytle and current UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra. This was rounded out with a first-round submission win by strikes over Nick Thompson before a loss to Diego Sanchez.
After consecutive decision wins over Drew Fickett, Josh Burkman and Ryo Chonan, Parisyan is on an invigorated run.
But, Wednesday at UFC Fight Night live on Spike TV, Parisyan finds himself matched up against a hungry opponent in Thiago Aves, who is on a four-fight win streak. With his last win over hard-nosed Chris Lytle via a doctor stoppage gaining Fight of the Night honors, Alves can gain much from a win over Parisyan.
“Thiago is a great fighter, great stand up, but compared to my style he is one dimensional,” Parisyan said. “My punches will cut the distance and if I have to I’ll stand up with him.”
Training three weeks at the Xtreme Couture gym in Las Vegas and mainly at his hometown gym of Sidekicks Valencia, where he is an instructor, Parisyan is focused on this fight. His thoughts linger a bit toward what life could be like after this battle, as his professional record in the UFC is littered with top names — a feat deserving of a title shot.
“I always have to prove to the people that I am worthy but the ball doesn’t always bounce the way you want it to,” he said. “God willing I will get a shot after this or fight one more person then get my shot.”
When it is all said and done Parisyan has six Junior National belts to his credit, and competed in the Olympic Judo trials for the 2004 games in Athens. He has had a tremendous run, highlighted by a burgeoning fan base that has his name at the top of the radar for MMA supporters. The boy that drove past the fork in the road and went straight learned the same lesson that Calogero did: Aggression, when put in perspective, can yield positive rewards, and a select few even make history.
“All said and done,” Parisyan said, “I want to be remembered as the only guy who started Judo in MMA, faced the top five guys in the world and became a champion.”