Nearly 30 fights into his MMA career and with UFC appearances that date back to 2003, it's almost hard to believe veteran welterweight Karo Parisyan (20-8) is just 29 years old.
"The Heat" has struggled to a 2-4 mark over the past four years, but as he preps for a welterweight title fight against UFC veteran John Gunderson at this weekend's ShoFIGHT 20 event in Missouri, Parisyan is brimming with confidence.
With 20 years of judo under his belt, Parisyan is ready again to represent his art in MMA. Parisyan says he's got another seven years left in the sport, and – lest you forget – his judo throws are the best.
"When I walked into the UFC as a 20-year-old kid, I said, 'I'm a judo guy, and watch me do judo,'" Parisyan told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio
). "People started not laughing, but like, 'Yeah, alright. Whatever.'
I started doing specific judo throws. Not just takedowns – throws that are specifically from judo – and it's so hard to do without a gi. You need the uniform. Without a uniform, it's so hard to do it, and I was able to do it."
Parisyan quickly became the most high-profile judoka in the sport, and his signature throws were the centerpiece of his style. Training under judo legends Gokor Chivichyan and Gene LeBell, Parisyan notched victories over the like of Nick Diaz, Drew Fickett, Chris Lytle, Matt Serra and Nick Thompson, among others, and once boasted a 7-1 UFC run.
During that time, Parisyan said some of the world's best fighters approached him to learn the secret to the "gentle way."
"I have world-champion fighters coming up and saying, 'Dude, how do you do this? It's so amazing,'" Parisyan said. "So many judo practitioners, like Olympic champions, when they walked into the ring or cage and tried to do it, they couldn't do it. I don't know why. I always thank God that I have this feel to go for these throws.
"It's not easy. It's very, very hard to launch a man off his feet, especially if he's slippery. Second round, third round, both of you are tired, I'm still able to go for those throws and throw someone."
Lately, it's been fellow Team Hayastan product Ronda Rousey, Strikeforce's 135-pound female champion, who has been waving the judo flag. Her impressive takedown abilities and incredible armbar attack has earned her eight-straight first-round wins as an amateur and pro.
Parisyan sees a proliferation in the number of fighters working judo into their gameplans, but he's hoping to again be the posterboy of the art in MMA.
"Judo, you don't see it every day," Parisyan said. "And judo, when you do it correctly, it's almost like you're cheating. It comes so easy. I think a lot of guys are using throws these days. I'm not going to sit there and say, 'Yeah, I'm doing it. They learned from me.' No. I guess they're seeing it, and they're mixing it up with the wrestling and the takedowns. It's working for a lot of guys. I've seen a lot of people doing a lot of throws these days, and that's pretty cool.
"I don't know. I think I've carried that torch for so long, and I'd like to carry that torch another six or seven years. I think I can."
In recent years, Parisyan has dealt with a myriad of personal problems that includes battles with the abuse of painkillers, as well as depression. But Parisyan said he still has the passion to fight.
Sure, if he was wealthy he wouldn't put his body through the brutal paces of MMA training, but since he does need to make a living, Parisyan can't think of a better way to do it.
"I love the sport," Parisyan said. "I love the glory. I love to throw guys on their head. I love to punch people very now and then. It's part of who I am just because it's been bred into us since we were kids just as an athlete. But if I had a couple million dollars in my account, and I could make that couple of million into $20-30 million in investments, etc., I wouldn't fight.
"What else do I have to prove? All my cards are on the table. Nobody can judge me. No one can doubt me. Give me a freaking break. I've done stuff people had never seen before."
And he hopes to do it yet again. Parisyan and Gunderson serve as the main event of ShoFIGHT 20, which takes place June 16 at O'Reilly Family Event Center on the campus of Drury University in Springfield, Mo. The card airs live on the Fight Network in Canada and on July 1 via pay-per-view in the U.S.
Parisyan hopes it's a return to form, of sorts, as he seeks his first two-fight win streak since 2007. And he thinks it's the launching point for another six or seven years of doing what he does best.
"I think that I've got a good five, six years – at least – seven years in me," Parisyan said. "I keep my head right, keep training and go out there and do what I'm supposed to do: throw people."