It didn’t look like Karo Parisyan would ever fight in the UFC again.
Dana White had said as much on Twitter after Parisyan withdrew last minute from a UFC 106 bout against Dustin Hazelett last November: “Karo Parisyan has f—ed over the UFC, the fans and his opponent again!!! He will not be fighting saturday or ever again in the UFC!!”
A year later, Parisyan has been granted another chance. He fights Dennis Hallman on Saturday at UFC 123. The preliminary bout is a long ways from Parisyan’s time as a title contender, but it’s also a good distance from his struggles with panic attacks.
“For the last three fights, I’ve walked in cages feeling that I was going to die,” Parisyan said during a recent interview on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “It’s Time” show with Bruce Buffer. “If anybody has gone through a panic attack, a full-blown panic attack with your mind racing where you feel like putting a bullet in your brain just to escape it, it terrifies you. You’re shaking off of it. I’ve walked in and fought Thiago Alves like that. I told myself I will never, ever walk in a cage or do anything where it counts in my life if I’m feeling like this again.”
After success as a young MMA fighter, Parisyan said he began having panic attacks when he had to support a family and the sport became his career. Now, though, he believes he has the issue under control.
“I’m better. I’m in a better place,” Parisyan said. “I feel mentally way better than I was a year and a half ago. I’ve just changed my entire life around.”
In addition to suffering panic attacks, Parisyan was accused of painkiller addiction. He tested positive for painkillers following his January 2009 bout against Dong Hyun Kim, but he said that was not the result of an addiction.
“Listen, I’ve never been addicted to anything as such,” Parisyan said. “Maybe I might have abused it to a certain point, where it kind of gave me a chemical imbalance in my brain and added to my problems and didn’t make anything better.”
Considering Parisyan’s issues, it could be seen as remarkable that for the most part he kept winning in the UFC.
“There have been fights where I’ve been half [in-shape], but I’ve still beaten the guy,” he said. “There have been fights where I haven’t been in shape at all, but I’ve still beaten the guy. … Thank God I do have that competitive [drive], that pride and I do have a big heart.”
Against Hallman, Parisyan plans to be “pure and healthy,” perhaps for the first time in a while. Prefight jitters are unavoidable, though. Parisyan said he just has to overcome them and start climbing back up the ladder again.
“I think I just got to get in there and fight and get that W under my wing,” he said. “Just feel that old Karo back.”