Jared Papazian, 23, has won eight of his last nine bouts. | Photo: Dave Mandel
When up-and-coming bantamweight Jared Papazian talks about how he is not a fan of current UFC champion Dominick Cruz and his confounding style, he does so not out of disrespect but in the hope that it will draw some attention from decision makers at Zuffa LLC headquarters.
“I’ve never met [Cruz], but to be a champion, you have to do more,” the Los Angeles-based Papazian told Sherdog.com. “You have to be more exciting, and Cruz isn’t that. He’s kind of boring, to be honest. He just fights to win fights, not to be exciting or go for the kill. Nobody’s figured him out yet, so, obviously, he’s doing something right, but I feel that, as a champion, you have to do more.”
The 23-year-old Papazian has won three straight fights and eight of his last nine dating back to March 2010. In June, he defeated Abel Cullum to become King of the Cage bantamweight champion.
“I’ve made tremendous progress over the last year,” said Papazian, who trains out of the same camp that spawned “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 finalist and former WEC featherweight title contender Manny Gamburyan. “Cutting to 135 was a good move for me. I started my career at 155 but have worked my way down to 135. I’m starting to make a name for myself, and I feel like, if I keep going, I'm going to be successful.”
Papazian’s start in mixed martial arts came as a result of being on the wrong end of a high school fight.
“In high school, I played baseball and football,” he said. “After football practice one day, I saw one of my teammates going through a locker, and I confronted him. We got into a fight, and I won. About a month later, my brother and I were at the mall and that guy’s older brother and some of his friends -- who were 17 and 18 years old -- jumped us. They locked my brother in a storage room, so I was a 15-year-old kid fighting for my life against these 17- and 18-year-old guys. The crowd just watched and nobody helped me.
“After that, I was really embarrassed,” Papazian added. “A lot of people saw me get beat up, so I decided to do something about it. I went to a muay Thai gym by my house and fell in love with the sport and stuck with it. I love the sport and love to compete.”
Papazian, a cousin of UFC veteran War Machine, made his professional MMA debut in June 2008 with a unanimous decision victory over Josh Chaves, but he was just 4-4 through his first eight professional fights. A closer look reveals a lot of on-the-job training, as two of the losses came to recognizable names in Bellator Fighting Championships veteran Karen Darabedyan and Art Arciniega, a mainstay on California’s MMA circuit. Since the pedestrian start to his career, Papazian is 12-2, with 1 no-contest. A pupil of former Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Alberto Crane and judo guru Gokor Chivichyan, Papazian has also trained with “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 6 winner Mac Danzig.
“I like getting to train at different gyms,” he said. “I get to train with different sets of guys who have all kinds of styles. Depending on what kind of fight I have coming up, it allows me to prepare well.”
Even though he holds the KOTC bantamweight crown, Papazian is not bound to any one promotion and has a fight scheduled for Jan. 13 against the well-traveled Bao Quach under the BAMMA USA banner.
“I’m a free agent, so the UFC could call me tomorrow and I could sign with them,” said Papazian. “I’m on a good streak, and I want to keep fighting big names and people who are trying to make a name for themselves. I’d like a fight with [Tachi Palace Fights bantamweight champion] Ulysses Gomez, if that’s possible. Beating guys like Quach and Gomez would get me to the UFC level.”
Not lacking for confidence, Papazian believes he would have had more success than some of the recent UFC newcomers who have been called into duty on short notice.
“I think I could’ve done better than some of these guys they’ve been bringing in as late replacements,” Papazian said. “I was disappointed in [Alex] Soto’s performance against Michael McDonald [at UFC 139]. I saw that fight and just knew I could do better than he did.”
Papazian, who has talked of dropping to flyweight, said competing in the UFC remains his ultimate goal.
“I’m ready to step up the level of competition,” said Papazian. “Maybe if the UFC likes what they see from the Quach fight, they’ll sign me. I do know my management has been speaking to [UFC matchmaker] Sean Shelby and I’m on their radar.”
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