Highly touted featherweight prospect Georgi Karakhayan makes his World Series of Fighting debut against UFC-veteran Waylon Lowe this Saturday at WSOF 5 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The talented fighter will be looking to make it eight wins in a row since leaving Bellator MMA in 2011.
MMAFrenzy caught up with the talented fighter (not to mention former soccer player with SPARTAK Moscow) to discuss his upcoming WSOF debut, his transition from soccer to MMA, his vegetarian lifestyle and more in an exclusive interview.
What are your thoughts on opponent Waylon Lowe and are you excited about getting a fight you wanted?
Yeah, at this point I want to fight anyone who has been in the UFC. I want to prove I can compete with the best and Lowe is a tough opponent. I know he is a good wrestler, and I have worked on that so I can grind it out before taking him into deep waters and finishing him.
You have fought with Bellator MMA and you will be fighting for WSOF this Saturday, are you looking to fight in the UFC next?
Right now I am signed with WSOF and I have a contract with them. It is a four-fight/one-year deal and I am happy where I am at. I am just focused on all of the guys they have for me to fight. After I am done with the contract, then I will think of the UFC, Bellator, etc. I am just going to go where the money is good, they take care of me, and they give me the best opponents in the world.
With the one-year/four-fight deal it seems you are looking to stay busy, is that your goal right now?
As a fighter I like to stay busy, I have said in previous interviews that if I could fight twelve times a year, I would do it.
You were a professional soccer player prior to your entry into MMA, how did you make that transition and was it something that had always been on your mind while playing soccer?
No, MMA was never on my mind. You are never going to hear me say, “I was born to be a fighter,” and I know a lot of fighters say that. Soccer is still my passion and it will always be number one for me.
I got into MMA through one of my friends who was doing jiu-jitsu. I started training and then I had my first fight six months later.
How does your soccer background help you in MMA?
I’ll tell you, when I played soccer in Russia the conditioning was brutal. For example, when there is snow out there the trainers don’t give a f— about you if you’re cold and don’t want to run, so that helped me be mentally tough. Fighting to me is very mental, and without that mental toughness I would give in when I am tired or don’t want to go train. Soccer really helped me to where it does not bother me by helping me with my mental toughness.
As a Russian and Armenian fighter there is usually a standard to live up to, does your heritage carry over into the cage? How so?
You know what, when I fight in the cage I try not to think of stuff like that. I try to be smart out there. I used to have a bad habit of getting mad when I got hit and that comes from being Armenian, and, in Russia, you feel like “I have to punch their f—king face!” That anger had to come out of me. If you fight angry/mad, it will be bad for you. So I try to stay a calm and smart fighter now.
You started out as a soccer player going into jiu-jitsu and have really grown sense then, how have you worked on rounding out your game into being a more complete fighter?
No matter what, if I win or lose a fight, I think of stuff like I am still a beginner. Even though I am better at some things, I try not to think about that. I think the day you do start thinking that way is the day someone is going to get you. The way I see MMA is that it is always evolving and that if I miss one practice, I am already behind.
I occasionally specialize but there is not a day I do not work on everything. I know for Lowe I worked a lot of boxing and wrestling.
Was that humility something you had all along or was it something that you learned from being an athlete for so long?
Yeah! I learned that from playing soccer actually. My coaches would tell me to work and train hard and that all the hard work we did would pay off in the game. [In MMA] there are times to be cocky and be humble, and you have to find balance between that. I do not choose to express myself that much but I have to because there is an entertainment aspect. For example you have that Irish kid – Conor McGregor – and he fights at 145, and he blasts all the top fighters. Chael Sonnen is a perfect example because he does it so well but that just is not me.
You are a staunch vegetarian and are outspoke of the benefits of that diet. With all the misconceptions about vegetarians, not just in MMA, what are the benefits that you feel having become a vegetarian?
Being a vegetarian helps me a lot. I recover quicker than I did before and I also feel like I have a lot more energy than when I ate meat. As for the transition, it was very easy. Of course I missed certain things like In-N-Out Burgers or tacos, but I still get things like protein from other things. I am not a huge believer in loading protein like some guys are. If I do eat it I get in brown rice or one of my sponsors, Vega Sport, makes a really good plant-based protein paste I use. The transition really was not bad and it would be something I would encourage others to give a try sometime.
Anything you want to say before Saturday?
I want to thank WSOF of fighting for pairing me up with another former UFC guy and taking care of me. Hopefully I can celebrate my victory with some of the people in New Jersey after the fight.
You can catch Karakhanyan in action this weekend as he takes on Waylon Lowe on the NBC Sports Network main card, be sure to follow the fighter on twitter @GeorgiMMA.
The World Series of Fighting will return to action this Saturday for WSOF 5 at the Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Saturday’s card will see former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski take on Mike Kyle in the main event.