A unique blend of Mixed Martial Arts and a party atmosphere highlighted Respect in the Cage 3 and perhaps in direct conflict with the cliché “party all night long,” 5 of the 7 scheduled bouts ended in less than 63 seconds. In those bouts, a total of 3 minutes and 1 second of cage time was recorded and the rear naked choke was the chosen method of completion in most cases.
In the night’s opening bout, (4-1) made short work of David Barnett, rushing him into a clinch where he easily hopped on his back and secured a standing rear naked choke. The win improves the California Submission Wrestling product’s record to 4-1 while the Inland Empire-based Unbreakable Gym product drops to 1-1.
A featherweight bout followed and served as the 2nd longest and also the most competitive fight on the card. Cooper Gibson came in sporting Mauricio “Shogun” Rua’s replicated shorts, complete with rear side eyes. He brought his best Shogun impression as well, outstriking Chris Mercardo in the first round easily as Millennia MMA product mounted little offense of his own. In the second, Gibson was able to shoot and score a takedown where he quickly got to full mount. But Mercardo slipped away and returned a shot that opened up a chance for a standing rear naked choke of his own. Gibson managed to do a full front flip in attempt to smash his backmounted dominator into the canvas but that only allowed the choke to be sunk deeper and he would have to tap.
A few more bouts would precede the rescheduled main event of the evening. Instead of the originally slated main event between Jared Papazian and Shad Smith, a fight between Riverside Submission and Temple Fitness’ Todd Willingham and Jason Maeders, another Millennia team member, served as the new feature attraction. Maeders would do his gym proud and keep them undefeated for the evening, earning a lopsided unanimous decision to end the night of fights. He was able to outstrike, outwrestle, and generally outwork Willingham the entire fight. He improved to 9-7 with the victory and has now won 5 in a row. His last loss was in 2008 to Toby Imada. Willingham falls to 2-2.
Despite the short bout time and long wait time between bouts, the unique atmosphere created by John Pena’s vision for a night of MMA went off well. After the final winner was announced, the lobby of Pomona’s Fox Theater morphed into a club and all ticketholders were invited to an on-site after party complete with bar and DJ. If entertainment is what you crave, Fox Theater seems to be the place to be every other month.
When Bellator Fighting Championships began releasing the names of those who would populate their 2010 roster, eyebrows began to progressively raise with each passing day’s announced signing. They raised considerably more when the featherweight tournament was confirmed to include one Georgi Karakhanyan.
“Georgi K.” is how he is endearingly referred to by most. “Insane” is how he fights and so it serves as a fitting nickname for someone who has progressed so much in such a compressed period of time. In just over 3 years of professional fighting, he has compiled an otherworldly 12-1 record and has quickly become the subject of future top 10, 145 pound discussions. He hasn’t trained for much longer than that either and he didn’t originally intend on dedicating his future to the sport of MMA.
“I started getting into Brazilian jiu jitsu in April of 2006. It was nothing serious, nothing like ‘oh I was going to become a professional fighter’ or ‘I was going to be in MMA.’ It was basically just to see what Brazilian jiu jitsu was all about,” said Georgi when asked about his trek into MMA. 3 short years may indicate that he was a natural at the Brazilian martial art, but it was hard work and determination that yielded the success story we see today.
“I started a [Brazilian jiu jitsu] class, I was getting tapped too many times. I was getting frustrated so I decided to get better and just train more,” and then came the call from King of thae Cage, “After about 6 months of training, I got offered a fight at King of the Cage and I just took it. I won that fight by guillotine choke which was the only submission I knew and I was good at. After that fight I just made up my mind. I kind of liked that feeling of walking out, the adrenaline and all that, the crowd, so I just decided to see how far I could take it and now I’m here, fighting for Bellator.”
Though Bellator seems to be a leap up in exposure, it isn’t quite a leap in competition. Georgi’s last victory was over an established prospect himself in Albert Rios, who a few short weeks ago took out UFC veteran and Brazilian jiu jitsu specialist, Alberto Crane. That fight was a giant notch in his hopeful future Bellator featherweight belt. His reaction was simple: he showed his growth as a fighter.
“When I fought that fight, I didn’t show lots of my standup ’cause a lot of people were telling me he’s stronger than me, he’s going to outwrestle me, so I was just trying to prove a point, that I could take him down. Actually, when the fight started I was just working on my takedown defense and he couldn’t take me down and I was just trying to prove people wrong, from that fight. That I could defend and I could take Albert Rios down.”
He understands what that accomplishment denotes and recognizes the talent level of his former opponent, “He had a lot of hype behind him because he fought in Affliction. But now, me and Albert are friends. I was actually at the fight last weekend, rooting for him when he was fighting Alberto Crane and he looked really good. That makes me look good!” he reflected with a chuckle.
That inherent humility is further apparent in his recollection of the one loss he has sustained thus far in competition. The Albert Rios fight was the culmination of the after-effects from that loss at the hands of Chris David.
“I’m really happy I lost ’cause I learned a lot. I’m a really humble person, I like to learn. I mean, I still have so much left to learn, I’m going to learn throughout my career so it was a good experience…something that could not get out of my head told me ‘okay you need to work on your wrestling’ so now I’ve been working a lot with Olympic caliber wrestlers and division I wrestlers so it’s good.”
What better way to shore up your weakness than learning from someone who is among the world’s best? So he became a mainstay with a southern California wrestling gym, “I train with SK Golden Boys out of North Hollywood, that’s where I train my wrestling with Martin Barberyan, that’s the Olympic wrestler, Andy Darmenjyan.”
In order to be well-rounded, the modern mixed martial artist needs to focus on every aspect, a fact well known to rising stars. Georgi gets that multiple pronged approach from Rancho Cucamonga’s Millennia MMA gym. And he couldn’t be happier with the tutelage he receives there.
“Training is good there. We have Romie Aram, our MMA instructor and Brazilian jiu jitsu instructor so we have lots of experience, he really helps us a lot. And we have lots of good quality guys, Manny Tapia, Charlie Valencia and the current King of the Cage champion Rick Legere so just training with those guys is really good. It keeps you really sharp and gets your game up there,” but for that extra bit of assistance to improve that game, “I also go to Glendale Fight Club and Gold Coast in Burbank.”
Even when he’s not fighting or training, he has become obsessed with his chosen profession. Said Georgi of those brief periods when he is not training for a specific opponent, “I teach a lot. I work with the kids and I teach a lot of cardio kickboxing classes. Other than that, I just watch lots of fights. I like to learn from professional fighters and professional boxers, muay thai fighters. I just watch lots of fights and just learn.”
When Bellator came calling, Goergi was already committed to fight on January 24th at Called Out MMA 2. Though that organization seems to also be supplanting itself into the big time, a television deal was reached by Bellator and they weren’t thrilled with the idea of him risking his record against another unknown prospect. “You know I had like six fights not happen and I was supposed to fight January 24th at the Called Out against Vince Ortiz but I didn’t get the approval from Bellator ’cause they though he was going to be tough.”
If Georgi had it his way, he would’ve fought that fight anyways. Vince Ortiz was on a 7 fight winning streak at the time and he viewed him as a solid test. He didn’t like being denied such a chance, “It was frustrating because I’m a person that likes to fight a lot…”
For someone who loves to fight, it is not an easy pill to swallow when cancellations occur. It will have been almost a year since he last tasted competition, all through no fault of his own. According to Georgi, Ortiz was not the only opponent who lucked out, “Basically, lots of fights didn’t come through [last year]. I had so many fights lined up. Like Bao Quach broke his hand and there’s lots of them just, I don’t know. It’s frustrating.”
Bao Quach was also recently announced as a competitor in the Bellator tournament and he has his sights on eventually getting that bout with Georgi, “I heard he said he’s got unfinished business so it’s all good.” Not one to mince words, Georgi opted not to comment on the public call out, “I don’t do lots of talking about my opponent. I’m gonna train more than I talk and so we’ll see what happens when we fight.”
This sort of banter between fighters and hype-building exposure is new to the Armenian-American. More exposure is on the way and he isn’t oblivious to what that means. He seemed excited at the prospect of the forthcoming national attention he will get through the burgeoning promotion, “Bellator is a really good organization to fight for and they have a really good deal with NBC, Telemundo, and it’s going to be live on Fox Sports. It’s good exposure for me, to show myself and it’s a great feeling to fight for a good organization right now.”
He truly believes he is ready for whatever lies ahead, including all of the prospective opponents, “The Bellator tournament is stacked with a lot of good and tough fighters so it doesn’t matter to me who the opponent is and I’m not going to call out anyone. I’m just ready for any of those guys.”
The winner of this tournament gets a crack at the current Bellator champ, Joe Soto. Georgi likes his chances. Said he of that possible bout with Soto, “I think I match up really good. I’m an unknown fighter, nobody actually knows about me except my training partners. He might underestimate me or whatever but I think I match up really good. My wrestling’s really good, I think my wrestling is a bit underestimated,” and almost as if he expects to be the man with that shot, he added, “Should be a good fight.”
Although he may not realize it, a lot of people are picking him to win that tournament. When asked what he thought about being the favorite, his combination of humility and confidence shined yet again, “You know…I’m going to keep my head clear. I’m not going to go thinking ‘oh I’m going to win it’ and start listening to all that hype. Basically, to beat those guys, I just need to focus, keep training hard, take it one fight at a time and see how it goes. But I can see myself doing pretty well.”
The advantage of being a relative unknown is that underestimation comes with the territory. Rios may have been surprised by Georgi’s amazing growth as a wrestler and others may be surprised to learn that he has come a long way in his striking. Boasting 8 wins by submission, he expects people to overlook his striking ability, “Hopefully they know what to expect in my submission game but nobody knows my stand up game so that’s really good. Cuz I’m going to do lots of standup in my Bellator fight.”
One of the brightest young stars in MMA is also an obscure talent. That is a dangerous foundation for a career and one that usually results in a burst onto the scene of public visibility. There is little doubt that this kid shows an immeasurable amount of potential and the perfect attitude to become a champion one day. It is really only a matter of time until he realizes the results of what all his hard work in the last 4 years will bring him.
This short introduction is but a speck on the glass of what is to come. On April 8th, the world will begin to know the name Georgi Karakhanyan. A glimpse: his favorite cereal is Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Georgi would like to thank Original Grappler, Nutri Shop out of Riverside, California, and Clinch Gear.