Meet “The Ultimate Fighter 12” cast: Sako Chivitchian, the latest Armenian prospect
by Steven Marrocco on Sep 21, 2010 at 8:30 pm ET
The impulse that drove “The Ultimate Fighter 12” competitor Sako Chivitchyan to the working world also prompted him to risk everything for a career in MMA.
Chivitchyan (5-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC), a native Armenian and longtime Los Angeles resident, had trained from age 9 in judo as nephew to famed trainer Gokor Chivichyan and took his first fight at 15 years old at an underground night club in San Pedro, Calif.
He felt fighting was in his blood.
But at age 19, his outlook changed drastically after he and his friends were jumped by a gang in his home, and he ended up the victim of a gunshot wound to the leg.
Chivitchyan was unsure if he’d be able to train or walk again, let alone pursue a career in fighting. So he went to college and started working in real estate. He would make a good living and make his parents happy. Besides, MMA wasn’t exactly a growth industry in the early 2000s.
“When you do through an experience where your life flashes in front of you, you mature so much more,” Chivitchian told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “You become more responsible, and you know that you don’t have too much time.”
Meanwhile, he watched as MMA began to blossom, and he saw longtime friends and training partners Karo Parisyan, Manny Gamburyan and Roman Mitichyan carve a path in the sport. He knew he could do the same with his judo skills. It became harder and harder to sit idly by.
“The more it grew, the more I thought about it,” he said. “I knew I had to go back. One day, I decided I was going to sacrifice my personal life (and) my financial life, and chase my dream.”
So at 21, Chivitchyan put school and real estate on the backburner and returned to fighting, six years after that first fight.
Chivitchyan returned full-time to the Hayastan Studio in North Hollywood, Calif., and made his professional return in January 2009. By year’s end, he had racked up four victories.
He says his 5-0 record is deceptive because – like many of his teammates – several of his early fights weren’t sanctioned.
Chivitchyan brings one of the most impressive grappling resumes to the set of “TUF 12” – he is an 11-time national champion and won two junior Olympic championships in judo. He admits, though, that his striking game is a work in progress and says he works diligently in Muay Thai and boxing to round out his game.
He chuckles at the hot-blooded reputation his Armenian-American teammates have earned on the reality show. (Gamburyan and Parisyan came inches away from outside-the-cage fights on “The Ultimate Fighter 5” while Mitichyan had a heated confrontation with doctors who told him he couldn’t fight on “The Ultimate Fighter 6.”)
He doesn’t exactly promise to be different when he gets cooped up in the fighter house.
“We all have our switches in our head,” Chivitchyan said. “We’re a small country, and there’s not too many of us. So we’ve always got to back each other up and support each other. We’re a little hot tempered. We have a long history of being pressured our whole life.
“But we have good hearts. We’re all about respect. You respect us, we’ll respect you back. If you don’t respect us, we’ll go crazy on you. That’s it.”
Meet “The Ultimate Fighter 12” cast: Sevak Magakian, the next Armenian badass
by John Morgan on Sep 16, 2010 at 8:25 pm ET
Unlike his longtime training partner Karo Parisyan, Armenian lightweight Sevak Magakian (8-3) rally doesn’t care if you know who he is, bro.
Of course, like fellow teammates Manny Gamburyan and Roman Mitichyan, Magakian does want you to know it’s not advisable to challenge him.
“I told the guys, ‘Everybody be professional,” Magakian told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “‘Don’t do something stupid.’ I scared them off. I said, ‘Don’t you [expletive] with me, or I’m going to [expletive] you guys up. If you do something crazy, I will cut your [expletive] throat right there.'”
Those first few minutes of social interaction are a fairly good indication of what you can expect from Magakian on this season of “The Ultimate Fighter 12.” He’s been training since childhood for this opportunity, and he plans on making the most of it.
“I started doing judo and sambo when I was 5 years old,” Magakian said. “I continued in sambo, and I became a black belt when I was 11 or 12 years old. I did pretty good there. I won a lot of championships, and I beat a lot of good guys.
“I moved down to the U.S. when I was 14 or 15, and I started training with the Hayastan team with Gokor Chivichyan and Manny, Roman and Karo.”
Like his teammates, Magakian remains proud of his Armenian heritage, and he says his ethnicity often forced him to defend his honor on the streets of Southern California.
“I was in trouble all my life,” Magakian admits. “I was always getting in fights.
“Being the Armenian group, some people look at you in a weird way. So you say, ‘What are you looking at?’ and it starts a fight. That’s pretty much it.”
Magakian’s aggression and sense of honor led him into trouble in high school, and it cost him a potential shot at competing in the collegiate ranks.
“There was like two weeks left from graduating, and they kicked me out of high school because I beat up the security guy,” Magakian said. “At the time, you couldn’t use cell phones in school, and he tried to take [my cell phone] away from me.
“He was a big guy, and I just knocked him down and walked straight to the office because I knew they were going to come after me. They expelled me right away.”
Due to his status in the U.S., Magakian also couldn’t compete at an international level, and the hunger for competition left him desiring something more.
“When I came here, I was training with Gokor,” Magakian said. “I did a lot of judo and stuff. I was a California champion, but I couldn’t go to the Olympics or big national things because I wasn’t a citizen, so I saw that Manny and Karo were fighting and Roman was fighting. I was looking at them and I thought, ‘Man, I have the skills. I can do this.’
“I started training with grappling and everything. I worked on my boxing, but I was pretty much a judo guy. It worked pretty good for me. I was like 20 or 21, and I said, ‘I want to fight. I want to try it to see.’ I fought, I beat the guy in probably 40 seconds. All of my wins are first-round submissions.”
Indeed, Magakian’s eight professional wins have come in just 14 minutes and 30 seconds of total work. Sure, he’s had a few losses along the way, too, but he’s confident his opponents respected the challenge he presented in each case.
Magakian insists he’s matured from his hot-tempered street-fighting roots. He’s joined on the show by his current training partner Sako Chivitchian (though he said producers won’t let the two communicate with each other in Armenian), and he’s received loads of instruction from Gamburyan, who made it to the finals of “The Ultimate Fighter 5,” as well as Mitichyan, who made a brief – yet memorable – appearance on “The Ultimate Fighter 6.”
In short, don’t expect Magakian to break his signature intensity until he’s secured his six-figure contract.
“[My teammates] told me to go out there and concentrate,” Magakian said. “Don’t make any friends. … Train as much as you can, and be careful. Eat well and sleep well so you can be ready for your next fight. You never know when you’re going to fight.
“I’m humble and down to earth. I don’t mess with anybody, but if you mess with me, I’m going to [expletive] you up. I’m just trying to be professional.”