UFC on FX 3: Jared Papazian, Alberto Crane and Grooming a Chip on the Shoulder

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UFC on FX 3: Jared Papazian, Alberto Crane and Grooming a Chip on the Shoulder
Jared Papazian. Photo by Buren Smith

BURBANK, Calif. -- UFC bantamweight Jared "The Jackhammer" Papazian has always had a chip on his shoulder. His coach, former UFC lightweight Alberto Crane, said one has to have that kind of bravado to compete in the world's premier mixed martial arts organization.

But when Papazian and Crane first met, the young Armenian fighter's chip was big enough to raise the skyline in neighboring downtown Los Angeles.

The ego needed to be harnessed, and Crane brought calm to the storm.

"When I first met him, I wasn't that humble," Papazian said of his early encounters with Crane, who will corner him in his UFC on FX 3 fight against Dustin Pague. "He straightened me out."

Crane and Papazian met through Darin Harvey, who now manages Papazian's fight career. Harvey took Papazian under his wing, wanting to ensure the fighter would have more success going forward. This was in large part due to the mismanagement Papazian experienced in the past.

Papazian said his old manager, Dave Kujawski, burned bridges with fight promoters. This negatively affected his career, which saw consecutive losses early on. Bringing Harvey in allowed for the introduction of Crane, and this began the turnaround.

"My ground game was very raw," Papazian said, adding that he never got a lot of one-on-one time with an MMA coach. "I...locked that in with Alberto."

So began the sharpening of a skill set that, while backed with a lot of heart, lacked an extra edge. Harvey referred to his client back then as a kid who had a lot of work to do.

Alberto Crane instructing his students. Photo by Erik Fontanez

"[I] rolled with...and tapped him out a bunch of times," said Harvey, who currently owns a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. "[But] not anymore. Can't catch him."

Harvey can no longer catch the 135-pound fighter because of the schooling Crane has provided The Jackhammer since 2009. It was then that the fighter and manager walked into Crane's San Fernando Valley Gracie Barra school, seeking a coach that would take Papazian to the next level.

But the gym owner was reluctant, worried that some may look to get something for nothing. 

"I basically thought he was trying to get Jared some free training," Crane said of Harvey, laughing about the time he agreed to meet and train with Papazian.

The young fighter earned his training with the jiu-jitsu black belt Crane by agreeing to help out around the gym. Sparring sessions were followed by time with a mop cleaning gym mats.

Years later, Papazian prepares for his second fight in the UFC. It's a bout that he hopes will be just as exciting as his UFC debut, where he and Mike Easton fought for three rounds, and garnered the attention to be considered what many thought was the "UFC Fight of the Night." It's that type of excitement that got him to the big show in the first place.

"I could feel the fire in Jared's heart," Crane said of his student. "He's all...balls and guts. That's him. That's [what got] him to the UFC."

But if you ask Papazian what got him there, it's the help of his manager—a man he looks at as a father figure—and the intense training with his coach. For the bantamweight, training doesn't get much better than what he gets from Crane.

"He's just at another level."

As for that chip on his shoulder, Crane said it's still there. But Papazian learned to get a hold of the ego and apply it towards his career in a positive way.

"He's a lot more grounded now."

 

Follow Erik Fontanez on Twitter: @Erik_Fontanez

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