Rick Hawn (photo courtesy of Bellator MMA)
The history between Bellator 95 fighters Rick Hawn and Karo Parisyan goes back more than a decade when they were both Judo practitioners looking to make their Olympic dream a reality.
Their careers splintered into two very different directions after that time, however, as Hawn remained focused on Judo until 2008, while Parisyan opted for a career in mixed martial arts that saw him fighting much more experienced competitors when he was only 17 years old.
Hawn eventually made his way to MMA as well, and now, he meets Parisyan in the cage as opposed to the mats where they first met many years ago.
"We were in the same weight class, actually, in the '90s, early 2000s, but we fought at the same weight class: 178 pounds. We fought a couple times, I won both those fights way back when," Hawn told Bleacher Report about his history with Parisyan. "So he was definitely someone I knew of and maybe left judo early to pursue MMA. It was a person that was just another rival, another competitor, I guess."
To look at their records, the assumption would be that Parisyan is the older, grizzled veteran going into his fight with Hawn on Thursday night, but the one-time UFC welterweight contender is only 30 years old, while his opponent will celebrate his 37th birthday later this year.
Fifteen years of fighting MMA has put a ton of wear and tear on Parisyan, however, and despite the fact that he's the younger of the two former Judo stars, he's seen plenty of ups and downs since his first professional bout in 1999.
During those years and fights, Parisyan has often been accused of not taking his training seriously and dedicating the work necessary to match the incredible skill he seemed to possess whenever he stepped foot in a cage.
Parisyan has also struggled mightily with panic attacks that have literally crippled him before fighting, and it's an ongoing battle he continues to fight today.
Hawn's heard all the stories about Parisyan and his mental preparedness going into fights, and he believes that's one area that he trumps his former judo mate in a big way, and it will show on Thursday night.
"It does come down to mental preparation. I've been a professional for many, many years and I know how to prepare. I've trained with the best fighters, the best judo guys. I know what it takes to be the best," said Hawn. "I know how to do that. I do that same thing for MMA. I prepare mentally and physically the best way I can. I've never really seen that from his side, even when he was on back in the day. He did well, but I think mentally I have a huge up on him."
Hawn has watched plenty of tape on Parisyan ahead of their fight this week. He studied the fights where Parisyan was on a short list of the best welterweights in the world, but Hawn has also watched plenty of fights that he's had recently as well.
Over his last seven fights, Parisyan has gone 3-4 with sporadic performances happening over the last three years. When on his game, Parisyan can still be one of the most dangerous fighters at 170 pounds, but it's a mystery when that version will show up.
Hawn isn't sure that version of Parisyan will ever appear again, but he plans on testing the waters on Thursday night.
"He's not the same fighter he was back in the early days in the UFC. He may never be that same fighter again," Hawn said about Parisyan. "I don't think he's back to that point now. I've watched the videos of the last year or so, and I've broken it down a little bit and kind of picked him apart and see what I can exploit."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.