Karo Parisyan file photo: Scott Clark | Sherdog.com
Parisyan hit rock-bottom on Nov. 19, 2009.
On that day, an anxiety-ridden Parisyan hastily withdrew from a
bout against Dustin
Hazelett at UFC 106 in Las Vegas. With only two days left
before the event, the promotion was forced to scrap the featured
welterweight bout from one of its last pay-per-view events of
UFC President Dana White didn’t take the news lightly.
“Karo Parisyan has f---ed over the UFC, the fans and his opponent
again!!! He will not be fighting Saturday or ever again in the
UFC!!” White posted to his million-plus followers on Twitter.
White’s statement, which was quickly chased by rumors that Parisyan
was battling a painkiller addiction, seemed to seal the
Armenian-born fighter’s fate with the promotion. Luckily, not all
things in MMA are final.
Parisyan confirmed his return to the Octagon with MMAFighting.com
on Thursday. He’ll face Dennis
Hallman at UFC
123 on Nov. 20 at the Palace at Auburn Hills outside Detroit,
Mich. -- the first bout of a three-fight contact with the
The 28-year-old fighter -- who debuted for the promotion at UFC 44
in September 2003 as one of its highest decorated judokas -- said
the new deal manifested from multiple conversations he’s had with
White over the last 10 months.
“Somehow I knew I’d get back in, at least I hoped I would,” said
Parisyan. “What Dana said was in the heat of the moment. He felt we
were friends and that I’d backstabbed him. Thank God he changed his
Parisyan said the conversations -- sometimes on the phone,
sometimes via text -- pointed him in the right direction.
“He told me to get a fight under my belt,” said Parisyan, who was
once ranked fifth in the nation in his judo division and has six
junior national titles. “He told me to get my life back on track
and that’s what I did.”
In July, Parisyan nabbed a second-round submission win over
Mortimer at Impact Fighting Championships 1 in Brisbane,
Parisyan, who owns Octagon wins over Nick Diaz and
former titleholder Matt Serra,
denies his cancelled back-to-back UFC fights (he also pulled out of
a fight last-minute against Yoshiyuki
Yoshida at UFC 88 due to a back injury) hinged on an alleged
substance abuse problem.
Those rumors seemed fueled by a nine-month suspension that Parisyan
received from the Nevada State Athletic Commission in March 2009
after he tested positive for the banned painkillers Hydrocodone,
Hydromorphone and Oxymorphone following his split decision win over
Hyun Kim at UFC 94 in January 2009. That decision was
eventually changed to a no-contest and Parisyan was handed a hefty
$32,000 fine, which crippled him financially.
Doubts over Parisyan's stability heightened when Neil Melanson, one
of Parisyan's teammates at Xtreme Couture MMA in Las Vegas,
commented on his alleged dependency with pain medication
directly following the fighter's decision to bow out of the
“My issues had to do with my anxiety problems and panic attacks,”
said Parisyan. “Painkillers were thrown out there, but that wasn’t
it. People made these accusations because I’d been popped for
medication (months before). I’d taken two pain pills the morning of
my fight for a torn hamstring and didn’t think much of it.”
Parisyan said he alerted an NSAC official that he’d taken the
medication after the bout when he was asked for a urine sample.
Parisyan said he was told it wouldn’t be an issue as long as he had
documentation from his physician.
Parisyan didn’t have a prescription for the ingested pills -- later
identified as Percocet -- which the fighter said had been given to
him by a friend. Thinking the pills were the same as what he’d been
prescribed, Parisyan said he was shocked to get the call a month
later telling him that he’d be disciplined for it.
“Every fighter I know takes pain medication like it's M&Ms,”
said Parisyan. “I was the unlucky one who only took it the day of
the fight without even thinking about it.”
Parisyan said he’s sought help for his conflicted psyche, which he
knows will be an ongoing concern for him.
“I spoke to a psychologist and he pointed out that I’ve been
fighting since I was 14 years old,” said Parisyan, “and that I had
this balloon filling in my stomach with all my fight anxiety over
the years. That’s what I’ve been addressing and working on.”
On Monday, Parisyan begins his training camp for his UFC 123 bout
in November. He hopes to split time between Xtreme Couture MMA and
Big John McCarthy’s Ultimate Training Academy in Valencia, Calif.,
which became a haven for him after his abrupt departure from the
UFC. Parisyan said he’s also mended his relationship with Melanson,
who continues to teach at the Las Vegas gym and will likely aid him
in his training camp for the submission-savvy Hallman.
Parisyan wants skeptical fans to allow him the second chance White
and the UFC have given him.
“I think the UFC knows I still have something I can accomplish in
the cage,” said Parisyan. “They know that I can become a contender
again and I will.”
Update: This article was modified to correct the date of UFC 106
to Nov. 21, 2009.