With a highlight KO win over Bao Quach at Bellator 13, Georgi Karakhanyan certainly got the attention of every competitor in the Bellator Featherweight tournament. It was a explosive start to Bellator’s second season as Karakhanyan joined the likes of Toby Imada, Yahir Reyes and Nick Pace to mark his place in Bellator KO folklore. Behind ever fighter there is a story and Georgi is no different. He shared his back history with us as well as other struggles he had to go through to reach where he is today.
Marcos: For those who don’t know, tell us your background and what you did before you started fighting?
GK: I was born in Russia, but I am Armenian. I started doing karate at age five or six, it wasn’t anything serious but I stayed with it. I then started playing soccer and after soccer I got into Jui-Jitsu. I never had the idea of becoming a fighter but after six months of doing Jui-Jitsu I had my first pro fight and from then on out, I’ve been fighting.
Marcos: When exactly did you come to the United States?
GK: I moved here when I was 11. My family came to Riverside and that’s pretty much where I have grown up is in Riverside.
Marcos: How hard of a transition what that for you, did you struggle with it?
GK: No It wasn’t really a struggle, I liked it here in the US more than over there. Everyone was really cold over there (Russia) and here even if you don’t know anyone they still say hi and bye to you.
Marcos: Where did you start your BJJ training?
GK: I started in Riverside at a place called United Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under black belt Rommel Dunbar.
Marcos: Was he the one that said you should fight?
GK: He had some connections with Terry from King of the Cage and he had like two guys on one of his shows fight and he asked me if I would want to get on the show and I was like sure why not. All I did in that fight was use my Jui-Jitsu, that’s all I did.
Marcos: Would you say you have had a difficult up-bringing?
GK: You know I’ve had a normal life. My family wasn’t really rich but also not really poor, just really in the middle. I’ve had some struggles but it was nothing major, just a normal life pretty much playing soccer every day while growing up.
Marcos: How much was soccer part of your life and why did you stop?
GK: Yea I played professional for the San Diego Soccers, out of San Diego,CA. Umm, I look at it this way. If I was a really good soccer player I would be playing in Spain for someone like Real Madrid or Barcelona or in England for the major teams. That and there wasn’t a lot of money here so I couldn’t really make a living, so It was really something I just gave up on.
Marcos: So you sound like your a big soccer fan, who are some of your favorite soccer teams?
GK: My favorite team is Barcelona, and I always cheer for Argentina because of Lionel Messi.
Marcos: How did professional soccer prepare you for what your doing now?
GK: It helped me mostly with conditioning. When I was playing I had to run a lot and we did a lot of conditioning so when I train for fights conditioning is not a problem.
Marcos: Did you ever imagine when you started out that you would be picked up by a major fight organization like Bellator?
GK: Well lately I have been training really hard and waiting for something to come up. I was actually in talks with the WEC but this offer from Bellator was really good and the potential exposure I could get from the tournament. It was just a good deal overall so I jumped on it.
Marcos: You made it to the big leagues fairly quick when compared to other fighters who have been fighting for years, why do you think you have made it to a major organization as fast as you did?
GK: Man ::pauses:: wow that’s a hard question, I don’t know. I have no clue, ummm, wow, I really don’t know.
Marcos: With fighting as a profession how hard was it starting out? Did you have side jobs and were you lucky enough to be able to live at home and have the earnings from fighting as extra income?
GK: Yea I had a full time job, I was working and I had a full time job up until my fourth or fifth fight. I’m actually still working now, well I’m teaching but its more in line with my career.
Marcos: Tell me a bit more about that first job you had?
GK: ::laughs:: Umm its was a telecomm company so we built cell sites. I started as labor so I would wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning, go to the job site and there would be times were we would have to work 17 hour days just to climb the towers. After 7 months I got promoted to project coordinator and was moved into the office, so I was in there just fucking around.
Marcos: You must of been happy that you didn’t have to dig trenches anymore
GK: Oh man it was fucking heaven! It was heaven, especially in the summer.
Marcos: So you dug trenches and still had to go train right?
GK: Yea and then I would come home. Sometimes I would miss practices because of how late I would work and I would get home and just eat and sleep. A lot of the times though I would go straight from work to train.
Marcos: So where is this teaching job at?
GK: I teach at USKO a karate school in Riverside. I have been teaching there for two years. I help out the little kids and teach kids jiu-jitsu, kids karate and cardio kickboxing.
Marcos: Is your home base for training still at Millennia MMA in Rancho Cucamonga?
GK: Yea its still Millennia, but what I do is I go to North Hollywood and do my wrestling at SK Golden Boys and I also go to Gokor’s gym a lot but I still come to Millennia. I bounce around so yea..
Marcos: What’s your schedule like when you are in training camp?
GK: I’ll wake up around 9, then go to Millenia and go spar and do technique. Then I’ll do conditioning which is either cross fit or plyometrics. Ill get home and rest and then do some mitt work at USKO. When we are done I’ll teach and after that I will grapple some more or do mma and then the next day I will either do the same but go to SK Golden Boys or Gokor’s.
Marcos: How did you get introduced to Gokor and all of them up in North Hollywood?
GK: Actually through Myspace. This guy named Araz, he is the owner of HYE fighters and George Bastmajyan they invited me to a boxing event. I got to meet everyone and I met Karen Darabedyan (WEC fighter) and I just started to train with everyone there.
Marcos: What do your parents think about you fighting?
GK: Actually my dad supports me a lot but my mom never goes to my fights. she just stays home and prays, but they are very supportive.
Marcos: How did they react when you told them you were going to fight?
GK: I told my dad after my first fight because he didn’t know. I called him and I told him that I fought and he was pretty mad but they still support what I am doing.
Marcos: Is it still a struggle income wise to be a fighter or are you doing ok?
GK: I think Bellator is going to help me a lot but having a job on the side that’s inline with my career has helped also. Sometimes I might get injured or not have a fight come up, like last year I only fought one time, which sucked so its good to have a side job.
Marcos: Do you feel there is more pressure on you now that you have signed with Bellator?
GK: No, no, I don’t feel pressure. I’m just going to go there and fight. I know its going to be live and televised, but I don’t feel any pressure.
Marcos: What motivates you to keep on going and to keep fighting?
GK: I guess the challenge, to see how good I am and how far I can go. Everyone says this but I do it for the competition and to see who out there is better than me
Marcos: Finally, what do you want to do with your mma career, what are you goals?
GK: I just want to build a good name for myself and be a very well rounded fighter and hopefully open up a gym some day in Riverside Ca, where i can teach kids, law enforcement and just be successful.