MMA and martial arts backgrounds differ from fighter to fighter. They vary from culture, race, upbringing, and many other characteristics that form fighters and combatants.
For WEC lightweight Karen Darabedyan , the path to MMA competition started at a very early age and made its way to the United States from the other side of the world.
“I started my martial arts career when I was five in Armenia. I only did like a year over there and then we moved to the states,” said Darabedyan just before training. “So, I started to do Karate when I was a little kid. I went on to Tae Kwon Do. I got my black belt in Karate then Tae Kwon Do.”
As young as he is, Darabedyan has a number of years worth of training under his belt. With backgrounds in kickboxing, boxing, judo, and grappling, his skill set appears to be very well-rounded and decorated at the same time.
“I did quite well in Judo. I placed in the state a couple times. I placed third in the nation twice. Then, in amateur boxing I did close to 13 amateur bouts…I won like 10 of them by TKO.”
Starting his MMA career out of Gokor Chivichyan’s gym in North Hollywood, CA. “The Technician” comes into WEC 47 with a record of 9-1 with his most recent victory coming against former WEC lightweight champion Rob McCullough.
Though the fight was a close one, Darabedyan was able to edge out the split decision.
The win gave notice to WEC and MMA fans that Karen could be a legitimate contender at the lightweight division. Beating a fighter the quality of McCullough impacted the young Armenian fighter.
“I just felt really good to go in there with a really top notch guy…He’s been around a long time, really experienced. It meant the world to me“
Jitters didn‘t appear to play a role in Darabedyan‘s preparation for the McCullough fight.
“I went in there saying I’m gonna stand up and everybody thought I was crazy,” said Darabedyan. “I felt like I belong there. Beating a guy like Rob, the former champ...it felt really good.”
Now, Darabedyan faces another tough test in MMA veteran Bart Palaszewski (33-13). With 46 fights on his resume, a fighter the likes of Palaszewski brings a lot to the table and doesn’t present a walk in the park.
“He’s experienced and guys like this are pretty hard to break.”
Despite the experience factor, Darabedyan feels confident Palaszewski will be introduced to some things the polish fighter has yet to learn. “I feel like I bring a whole different game; something he hasn’t really seen,” said Darabedyan about his opponent. “I feel like I’ll push him to the edge.”
Exactly how will Karen Darabedyan beat his opponent this Saturday? The Gokor student will likely utilize the same playbook he used against Rob McCullough. “I think I’ll catch him in the stand up...I’ll make him feel really uncomfortable in the stand-up.”
Having done his homework on his opponent, Darabedyan knows what to expect in his WEC 47 bout.
“Stylistically, I feel like he opens up a lot more than I do. Meaning, he drops his hands and I don’t and I’m able to capitalize.”
Capitalizing on openings will be something that is easier said than done but Karen appears primed to take on the task. Openings will surely be ways to score points against Palaszewski, but not necessarily score knockouts since the Polish fighter has only one loss by KO in his entire career.
When in the cage, Darabedyan will have to remember these factors while, at the same time, keeping his focus.
“I see stuff and I’m able to take action right away. That’s my strong point and that’s his weak point.”
Heading into fight night, Darabedyan has some great talent to assist him in his camp. With the help of fighters like Karo Parisyan, Manny Gamburyan, and even StrikeForce light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi helping him, the WEC lightweight is well prepared for his bout this weekend.
“I get grappling and wrestling from Manny. I get great Judo from Karo and when Gegard comes over here and he’s an excellent striker.”
Quite the camp to have all your bases covered.
“We’re all great buddies and he [Mousasi] comes down here once in a while. Just to have my friends do well in the sport gives me a bigger drive to work harder.
In addition to friends, Darabedyan also finds drive from his late father’s memory. The love and support Karen received from his father appears to be the piece of his puzzle that kept him on the right track in life. Thankful for his father’s teachings and sacrifice, Darabedyan now contends in the WEC lightweight division and, with a couple more wins, could set himself up to be in the talks for a title.
Once a title opportunity comes, Karen will have a chance at passing a personal milestone.
“My ultimate goal is to make a name for myself, being a champ...and to be in this sport as long as I can.”
With the teachings of his father, support from family and friends, and personal drive, Karen Darabedyan may become what his coach knows he will be. When asked of what he thinks of his student, Gokor Chivichyan says, “He will be the champion...100%.”
WEC 47 takes place Saturday March 6, 2010 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Ohio.