Karo Parisyan’s toughest challenge ahead isn’t John Gunderson this Saturday. Instead, it’s the battle taking place within his soul.

“I miss the glory,” Parisyan told The MMA Corner. “There’s nothing like getting your hand raised on a grand stage. I want that back. I need it.”

It was 1 p.m. Tuesday when I took out my phone and dialed Parisyan’s number for our scheduled interview. The phone rang to no avail, and after waiting 20 minutes, I decided to give the former UFC welterweight star another ring. Parisyan answered the phone and all I could hear was an unfamiliar genre of music playing in the background. He told me he would call me back, but admittedly, hearing those words from a man with Parisyan’s reputation was far from assuring.

Parisyan (top) delivers ground and pound (Jeff Clark/Sherdog)

After all, this is the same guy that served a nine-month suspension after testing positive for pain killers (Parisyan said he had a prescription for) against Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 94. You know, the same fighter that was released by the UFC for pulling out of his bout with Dustin Hazelett at UFC 106 one day before the weigh-ins due to personal issues. But then again, this is the new Parisyan, right?

The new and improved Parisyan who declared in an interview with Karyn Bryant a few months ago that it’s the first time in three years that “everything’s great.”  That very same Parisyan that’s coming off of an impressive victory against Thomas Denny at WMMA 1 in a “do or die” situation after losing three straight fights. So there was reason to be somewhat optimistic.

As the minutes ticked off the clock, I began to doubt I would ever hear from him again, but something deep down kept telling me that this is (you guessed it) a new Parisyan. After an hour and 10 minutes passed, my phone began to vibrate and Parisyan was on the line.

The second I introduced myself, Parisyan greeted me with “look, I normally never call back for interviews.” After telling me how much he absolutely hated doing media, the interview began.

As he was driving through the streets of Los Angeles, the soon-to-be 30-year-old said that though he still enjoys fighting, he doesn’t fight for the love of the sport any longer. Rather, he fights to get by, to live, which might explain how a fighter of his status went through a losing streak in minor league organizations.

“I wasn’t training, I wasn’t fighting and I wasn’t in the gym,” Parisyan said. “I fought a couple of fights just for the paycheck. My heart wasn’t in it anymore.”

Parisyan’s somber fall from grace might be the most storied in MMA history. Turn back the clocks to 2003, and Parisyan was thought to be the future of the sport.

He made his UFC debut at UFC 44 against Dave Strasser, winning by kimura. From then, Parisyan won eight of his next 10 fights in the UFC with victories over MMA greats Shonie Carter, Nick Diaz, Chris Lytle, Matt Serra and Drew Fickett. And Parisyan’s only blemishes in that streak came against UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre and Diego Sanchez.

But as his personal life started to spiral downward, so did his professional career. Parisyan would go on to lose four of his next six fights before defeating Denny in March. Which begs the question: is it possible that Parisyan may have lost his passion for the sport he centered his life around?

Parisyan (L) connects withe head kick (Marcelo Alonso/Sherdog)

He’s been fighting professionally since 1999, and as Parisyan enters the prime of his life at 29 years old, the mileage may have already dejected the veteran.

“Nobody in this damn sport can say they have been fighting since age 14 like I have. No one can say that, and you know what, you burn out. Once you lose your status, you lose interest because you know you have to work your ass off to get back on top.”

In order to get back on top, Parisyan knows he has to make it back to the UFC. It means the world to him, but before he sets his sights on the largest MMA organization in the world again, he has to go through Gunderson at ShoFIGHT 20 on June 16. Gunderson, who Parisyan truthfully said he knew little about, sports a 33-12 record with 26 of his victories coming by way of submission. With that said, Parisyan couldn’t care less.

“As good as I am in Judo, I’m the same in grappling,” Parisyan said. “I might even go for a submission and submit this kid to prove a point. No disrespect to him, but whatever. If I can’t beat this kid, I shouldn’t be in the UFC right now.”

And though UFC president Dana White has said in the past that Parisyan will never fight in the UFC again following the events surrounding UFC 106, Parisyan has since fought against Dennis Hallman at UFC 123. While his career has been plagued by his personal issues, Parisyan is optimistic about a return to the company after texting back-and-forth with White.

“He says he still wants to work with me,” Parisyan said. “He felt hurt and betrayed by what happened. To me, the UFC has been nothing but great to me, and I’ve been great to them. God willing, I can win this fight and get my contract back.”

The road back to glory for Parisyan has been one filled with anxiety, pain-killer abuse and tough losses, but the light at the end of the tunnel might be inching closer. It’s now up to Parisyan to grab life by the throat, wrestle it into submission and continue his path toward redemption.

Top Photo: Karo Parisyan (Sherdog)

About The Author

Jake Martin

Jake attends Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La., where he studies Mass Communication in print and public relations. He is also the sports editor of his school newspaper, The Nicholls Worth. Jake works at the Concordia Sentinel in Ferriday, La. during the summer.