It’s not every day that fans come across a 25-year-old veteran MMA fighter with 25 pro fights under his belt in the last five years. It’s even more rare to find that fighter an opponent who is a 7-1 up-and-comer that is five years his elder and, to make it even stranger, is also one of his good friends. However, this weekend at the fourth installment of the World Series of Fighting, fans will experience that very match-up.

Tomorrow night at the Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif., Jared Papazian will step into the cage for the 27th time in his career, but this time the circumstances are unique.

At the ripe young age of six, Papazian, a California native, began training in martial arts. Building on this love of fighting for the next 14 years, he made his pro debut only four months after his 20th birthday, just barely out of his teen years. By 2011, three years and 18 fights later, he won the King of the Cage flyweight championship, and after his first successful defense, he was brought into the UFC.

Papazian’s first UFC fight was on two weeks’ notice, and he impressively hung in there for all three rounds before dropping a majority decision to a red-hot Mike Easton, who was on a six-fight winning streak. His next Octagon appearance was against Dustin Pague, a submission artist fresh off The Ultimate Fighter. Although the Californian lost the fight via submission, it was sort of a “gimme” for Pague by the ref, because, for some reason, Papazian was not allowed to defend his choke using the cage, despite the fact that doing so is not against the official unified rules. His next fight was a “Fight of the Night” performance with Tim Elliott, but, while he did win the bonus, he lost the fight and was subsequently released from the promotion.

Since his departure from the UFC, Papazian has fought twice this year in smaller promotions, picking up one win and one loss. The loss came in May by way of submission, marking the sixth submission defeat in his young career. The 15-10 fighter understands that his submission losses are more of a product of his opponents’ skills, not his own. His last opponent, Brandon Bender, came into the fight 10-0 as a pro MMA fighter, with nine of those wins coming by submission and all but one ending in the first round.

“[Bender] is world-class at jiu-jitsu, and I didn’t really get to use any of my skills in that fight, because it ended really fast,” said Papazian in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I’m going to learn from it and improve. I’ve been working on my wrestling. I’ve been working on my ground game. My ground game is really good, but I’ve been fighting jiu-jitsu black belts.”

Now a blue belt in BJJ and showing dedication toward filling this gap in his game, Papazian was temporarily on the sidelines from MMA, while training for a kickboxing match. That was soon to change, however.

On July 29, the WSOF announced that Joe Murphy suffered a rib injury in training and Papazian accepted the opportunity to fight on just two weeks’ notice, again, only this time it will be against a good friend of his, John Robles.

Robles is a fellow striking-oriented fighter who is 30 years old and has only been competing since 2010. He has racked up a 7-1 record with all but one of his wins coming by some form of knockout. Friends or not, this is a great match-up for Papazian.

“I was offered to fight on the same card against Marlon Moraes. I wanted to take it, but my manager said no, so we turned it down,” Papazian explained. “That was like a month and a half ago, before the show got put together. I got a call two weeks ago and was asked to fight John Robles, so I took it. I feel like me and him are more equal on the ground and better matched.”

Short notice or not, Papazian was already in the gym, so it’s not like he’s coming into the fight cold. He was already cutting weight and getting prepared for battle.

“I was actually scheduled for a Muay Thai fight on Aug. 24. I had to cancel that because, obviously, this is a bigger opportunity,” admitted Papazian. “I was training at Team Alpha Male, getting ready for that fight, working with all those guys. I’ve really been working on getting my cardio up to par.”

For a guy that once tasted UFC action, the choice to step away from a Muay Thai fight for a shot at the WSOF is a no-brainer. That being said, Papazian knows that he needs to show up big so that he can get back on track with a top promotion.

“My goal is not only to beat John Robles, but to beat him in a devastating fashion,” explained the Californian. “Right now, this is a one-fight deal. I feel like WSOF is the next promotion that’s up-and-coming. Since I’ve been here—I checked in today—I feel like I’m back in the UFC again. The way they do everything is just so organized, top notch.”

Papazian entered the UFC and hit a rough patch that caused his bubble to burst. Determined to get back on with a big promotion, he is not about to let that happen again with the World Series of Fighting promotion. Whether he’s fighting his friend or not, he needs this win badly and is ready to finish the fight on his terms.

“I’m very excited. I’m going to win tomorrow. That’s my goal.”

Jared would like to thank Final Round Gear, NEWtrition For Life, DrHarrisonLee.com, Eric Triliegi, his manager Darin Harvey from Fight Tribe, and his coaches Rick O’Kane and Alberto Crane. Follow Papazian on Twitter: @Jackhammer135

Photo: Jared Papazian (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)