What can you learn in two weeks with Nate Diaz?
Bellator featherweight Georgi Karakhanyan (28-7-1 MMA, 6-5 BMMA) wanted to find out. He’d always felt a kinship with the UFC star. They shared the same engage-first philosophy on fighting.
Plus, Karakhanyan also smokes pot, so he figured they’d get along.
He called his manager and asked to set up a meeting, which he thought would provide a nice last push in advance of a fight against Henry Corrales (14-3 MMA, 2-3 BMMA) at Bellator 192, which takes place Jan. 20 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., and airs live on Paramount.
In the small world of MMA, it wasn’t hard to make the connection. Soon, Karakhanyan was headed up I-5 for the five-hour drive to Stockton, Calif.
Nobody greeted him at the door. But eventually, he was on the mats with Diaz (19-11 MMA, 14-9 UFC), bouncing between training, cannabis and advice for five hours a day.
Karakhanyan thought he might encounter the same hostile presence Diaz portrays on TV. But looks can be deceiving.
“You think of them like bad, ‘cholo’-talking (expletive) to you, but they’re actually really cool people, man,” he said. “Nate is a cool guy. We have the same opinions about MMA.
“He also taught me some stuff about promoting fights and talking (expletive). I picked up a lot of stuff from him.”
One of the main things, Karakhanyan said, is a philosophy about how to make the most of your MMA career.
“I think some of the fighters don’t open up their mouth,” he said. “I’m a straightforward person, and I’m really honest about a lot of things. But when it’s time to open up your mouth, you’ve got to talk because I feel like this is our career, and you can’t let the promotion control your career. That’s the one thing I learned. You’re pretty much your own brand, and you’ve got to promote yourself your way.”
Diaz is a model for that, of course, though he also got a helping hand from his older brother, Nick, who built the Diaz brand into a needle-moving name in the MMA industry.
Even today, the Diaz brothers remain front-page news as fans speculate on a potential return, and they tease a comeback.
As talented as he is, Karakhanyan hasn’t even come close to that level of recognotion. But he vows that will change soon.
“I’m going to slowly put it into play,” he said. “I don’t want to be changing overnight. I want to slowly adapt into that person that’s branding himself.
“This next four or five years is very important because that’s how long I’m trying to fight, and I want to get as many belts and fight as many top fighters and make as much money as I can.”
To get there, he needs to earn a title shot against the current featherweight champ, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire. Karakhanyan, who lost a TKO to Freire in 2011 and was forced out of a rematch with a knee injury, feels the champ is on the decline and ready to be replaced.
“He’s just holding on to the belt as long as he can,” Karakhanyan said. “And if (Daniel) Weichel and (Emmanuel) Sanchez don’t take his head off, I will come and take his head off. I haven’t seen ‘Pitbull’ perform that well, even though he’s champion.
“I feel like he’s been in too many wars. He’s gets clipped in the jaw and he gets dazed, and once your chin is gone, I don’t care how much heart you have – that’s it. You’re done.”
The fight against Corrales is a nice bridge for Karakhanyan, who’s impressed by his opponent’s deep Bellator resume. He anticipates a firefight where both fighters will duke it out until one is left standing. Of course, he expects that will be him.
You might not hear him go all Diaz just yet if he wins, but that time is coming soon.
- No heavyweight tournament for Bellator 192's Rory MacDonald
- Chael Sonnen won't retire with Bellator tournament win, will leave MMA 'face down and embarrassed'
- MMAjunkie's '2017 Moments of the Year': The 10 storylines that shaped our traffic
Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: What Bellator's Georgi Karakhanyan learned after two weeks with Nate Diaz