At Bellator 182 in Verona, New York this Friday, former World Series of Fighting featherweight champion and Bellator featherweight tournament semi-finalist Georgi Karakhanyan will look to get back in the win column. Opposite the thirty-two year old in the cage that night will be Daniel Pineda, and in a featherweight division that has seemingly revolved around Daniel Mason-Straus and Patrício Freire almost exclusively of late, a big couple of wins could put Karakhanyan right back into contention.
The march back starts Friday, and the Armenian, born in Russia but now fighting out of California, spoke to Cageside Press ahead of Bellator 182 about getting his start in the sport, Bellator’s featherweight division, the fight against Pineda, and even a little Mayweather-McGregor (Karakhanyan successfully tried his hand at boxing several years back).
So what got Georgi Karakhanyan into the fight game, given he started out in an entirely different sport (and went quite far with it)?
“The fight game was never a dream of mine” he told Cageside Press. “I never thought I was going to be a fighter. My passion and my love was for soccer, but when I went to Mexico and played there for six months, and I came back and I stopped playing – just working full time and going to school – a friend of mine who was doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu asked me to try it out, which I did. After trying it out the first time, I went and bought myself, I don’t know if you remember Full Contact Fighter, the brand? I went and bought some sweaters, some shirts because I thought it was so cool.”
“Ever since, I started with jiu-jitsu and I took it from there” Karakhanyan continued. “I had my first professional fight after six months of training, and just kept fighting.”
Despite deciding that fighting was where his heart was really at, was the fighter able to take anything from his soccer days with him to the fight game?
“I still do some of the speed work that you do in the soccer workouts” he explained. “Some of the suicide sprints, some of the different exercises that help you with agility and explosiveness, so I took a lot of stuff from soccer. Of course the kicks, the knees, they’re all coming from soccer.”
Karakhanyan moved stateside at an early age, and once joked that people back home were a little more like Fedor [Emelianenko, known as stoic at almost all times]. “I think Russia’s missing Vitamin D, you know the sun, that’s why they’re not smiling” he said with a laugh. “That was my first thing when I came here to the States, everyone was so nice, everyone was like ‘Hi, how was your day?’ even the strangers. In Russia, if someone comes to you and says ‘Hi, how was your day?’ it’s not normal. We don’t do stuff like that. It took me some time to get used to it.”
“I remember the first few years I was in school I had that European style of dressing, and people were like ‘man, why are you wearing those tight pants?’ I had to get used to life here in California, in the States. I adjust to different environments really fast, so it wasn’t a big problem for me. Now I’m that person that asks people ‘Hey, how was your day?’ and I’m smiling.”
His current run with Bellator MMA happens to be Georgi Karakhanyan’s second with the Viacom owned promotion. Beginning in 2010 and finishing the following year, he went 2-2 in four fights with the company, in the Bjorn Rebney era. His losses came to top names Joe Warren and Patricio Freire, who would both go on to become Bellator featherweight champions. Karakhanyan’s path took him outside the promotion, and saw him win gold both in the WSOF and Tachi Palace Fights at 145lbs, with stops in DREAM, Legacy, and BAMMA along the way.
Now back under the “new” era of Scott Coker, what does Karakhanyan see as the difference between Rebney and Coker? “Bjorn was always cool with me, I heard a lot of criticism of him but he was always cool with me” Karakhanyan said. “He’d call me, check up. Same thing with Scott Coker, he’s a cool person, a good person, when I text him to ask him something he always responds back.”
Continuing on, he suggested that “the main difference with Scott Coker” is that “he has that blueprint from Strikeforce, and he’s doing very big things with Bellator. He’s doing kickboxing shows, signing former UFC fighters, going to different countries, it’s big things. Bjorn had his thing where he was doing the tournaments, now Scott Coker is doing all these different shows which is awesome.”
Speaking of tournaments, were Bellator to host a one-night tournament for featherweights, would Karakhanyan be interested? Absolutely. “One hundred percent, man” he told us. “My last fight was in January, I’ve been begging Bellator to keep me busy but now I fight in August, after August, if they have something like that coming up, I mean of course. I love fighting, and fighting twice in one night and making two paydays, that’s perfect for me.”
On page two, we discuss Georgi Karakhanyan’s pairing with Daniel Pineda at Bellator 182, the promotion’s featherweight title picture, and this weekend’s Mayweather-McGregor boxing superfight.