With a sterling 20-3-1 record, a six-fight win streak and a recent high-profile victory over DREAM champion Hiroyuki Takaya, featherweight Georgi Karakhanyan is ready to hear some offers.
The 27-year-old Armenian-American fighter has never looked so good to potential suitors. And though he's talking to a few organizations – including Bellator MMA, as well as GLORY for both MMA and kickboxing bouts – he's certainly open to a UFC deal, as well.
The spike in interest is largely due to the Takaya win, which followed Karakhanyan's Tachi Palace Fights title victory over Isaac DeJesus and a successful defense over Micah Miller.
The Takaya victory came at DREAM.18 back in December. Karakhanyan headed to Japan and took on the promotion's champ. But the fact that the title wasn't on the line was the first sign that the organization hoped he lose, he said.
He believes the second sign came soon after he arrived in Japan, especially after officials got a look at his rather large physique.
"When I got there, I don't think they thought I could actually make the weight class," he told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio
). "They were just following me with the scale. 'Can you step on the scale? Can you step on the scale?' I was like, 'Just leave me alone, motherf---er. This is my thing. Let me do my thing, and I'll make 143.'"
In fact, he did make weight. He then went on to defeat Takaya, who was on a 5-1 run (with victories over the likes of Joachim Hansen, Bibiano Fernandes and Takeshi Inoue), via split decision to upset the Japanese veteran in his home country.
Karakhanyan, a two-time Bellator tournament entrant, left with his first Japanese win. But he was hoping to have something else in his suitcase.
"The thing that bothered me was that I wanted to leave the fight with the belt, but the guy didn't put the belt on the line," he said. "It wasn't for a belt. I think he got scared to put up the belt.
"But overall, the whole Saitama (Super) Arena and the fans everything, it was crazy. It was nothing I ever experienced. It was great times."
This week, Karakhanyan is in London cornering teammate Cub Swanson for his UFC on FUEL TV 7 co-headliner. Like Karakhanyan, Swanson also is having trouble getting a belt. With UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo ready to take on a former lightweight (Anthony Pettis) for the third time in four fights, the rest of the 145-pounders are simply trying to prove worthy.
Swanson has that opportunity when he meets Dustin Poirier on Saturday. So Swanson's advice to his training partner is to focus on the task at hand.
"He has a tough fight ahead of him," he said. "Ideally he should just focus on that fight, just dominate the fight, win with one of his crazy knockouts, and then after that, focus on what's next."
But could Swanson soon have company in the division? Karakhanyan is a hot property right now, and with plans to chat with UFC matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby in London, the door could open for a UFC deal.
Still, with Bellator and GLORY already interested, and with the featherweight division quickly taking a foothold with organizations worldwide, he's not going to jump at the first offer.
"I'm going there hopefully to see if we can talk," Karakhanyan said. "But I've got some other offers from other organizations. I'm just hoping 2013 is going to be a great year."