Before Ronda, There was Karo Parisyan

Karo Parisyan was supposed to be the next big thing in the UFC.  He was a loud mouthed, polarizing figure with a judo base, almost a pre-cursor to Ronda Rousey, who is now the biggest name in Mixed Martial Arts, right down to their style, brash personality and and training grounds.

Names like Fedor Emelinenko, Shinya Aoki, and Hidehiko Yoshida were utilizing their judo in MMA overseas in the Japanese league known as Pride Fighting Championships in the early 2000’s but it was Karo Parisyan to be first to bring the sudden flips from the clinch position to the American mainstream promotion known as the UFC.

Karo had a promising career ahead of him with notable wins over Nick Diaz, Matt Serra and even being the first one to go the distance with the then-rising-star Geroges St Pierre. After joining the UFC in 2003 and winning 4 of his 5 matches,  his exciting and dynamic penchant for flipping opponents into their heads, rolling kimuras, and magical footsweeps led him to the number one contender in the 170 pound weight class. Unfortuanately, this is where Parisyan’s career began to unravel just as MMA reached the tipping point of exploding popularity in the United States during the mid to late 2000s.

Parisyan’s sixth match in the octagon was be against the formidable ground and pound expert and welterweight kingpin, Matt Hughes.  This would be a life changing and even history changing match but Karo was forced to  pull out of the fight due to a hamstring injury. From here his career started to spiral downwards from problems with pain killers and panic attacks leading to Wins being turned into No Contests and eventually his permanent ban from the UFC.

Six years later in 2012 Karo rejoined his gym where he had been training since he was 10 years old. Hayastan MMA is now a well known academy thanks to Ronda Rousey, but the gym is no stranger to the mixed martial arts scene with trainers Gokor Chivichyan and “Judo” Gene LaBell. Gene had what may have been one of the first mixed martial arts matches in the United States against a well known boxer named Milo Savage.  In 1963, in front of a a 100% pro-boxing crowd in Salt Lake City Milo Savage arrived in in a well greased karate gi and Gene wasn’t allowed to throw punches. Eventually though, Gene seized hold of the boxer tossed him to the canvas and choked the boxer unconscious. (see the video here).

This cross training of combining judo, Sambo, Brazilian jiu jitsu and wrestling has been set deep into the DNA of fighters from Hayastan since the 80s far before cross training was a common practice and Karo is no exception.  He is now refocused on his MMA career and set to fight Phil Baroni tonight at Bellator 122.  We’re hoping to see some highlight reel throws from Karo like the ones below!

What do you think will happen with Karo’s career?  Will he be reinstated into the UFC?

Post in the comments below!


Thanks to for the GIFs!


  1. Karo was a tool and he couldn’t keep it together, judo throws get you nowhere in MMA. The only reason Ronda wins is because the UFC feeds her cans!

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