After a successful run at Fight Island, the UFC will continue its operations at the Apex Center in Las Vegas. Sandwiched between Fight Island and UFC 252 is UFC on ESPN+ 31. A middleweight scrap between Edmen Shahbazyan and Derek Brunson will headline the event.
The undefeated Shahbazyan is an exciting prospect that holds a lot of promise for the future. A Dana White Contender Series product, Shahbazyan fought thrice last year. He won all three contests via stoppages in the very first round. As he embarks on his quest to break into the Top-10 of the 185-pounds rankings, the competition is getting stiffer with every fight.
Ahead of his fight with Derek Brunson, here are five things you must know about one of UFC’s most promising future stars.
Edmen is one of the youngest fighters on the UFC roster. However, that doesn’t make him the least experienced. As a teenager, it wasn’t uncommon for him to train with one of the pioneers of women’s MMA, Ronda Roussey. The former Olympic bronze medalist trained at the Glendale Fighting Club in Los Angeles. Shahbazyan also attended the same gym.
The former UFC women’s bantamweight champ, while talking to Dana White, said that Shahbazyan was her training partner when he was 15. She would practice her painted armbars on him. Rousey alluded to Shahbazyan as her “throwing dummy” while they were at the gym. Having learned the armbar from someone who has made the most use of it makes it a potent weapon in Shahbazyan’s arsenal.
Rousey’s promotion, One Fight Management, is the one that looks over Edmen. Ronda went on Instagram live along with Dana White, to announce Shahbazyan’s next outing.
When Edmen entered Glendale Fighting Club, he did so along with his elder brother, Leon Shehbazyan. A professional fighter himself, Leon competes at 170-pounds. The 24-year old has amassed a professional record of 7-2, with most of his fights happening under the banner of CFX and Gladiators Challenge.
The elder Shahbazyan had a shot to earn a UFC contract similar to his younger brother. However, he lost his fight on Contender Series last year against Philip Rowe. Since then, Leon has not competed professionally. Given his age, there is still a very healthy chance that the two brothers could compete together in the UFC.
When Edmen Shahbazyan entered Glendale Fighting Club for the first time, Anderson Silva ruled the UFC middleweight division. The Brazilian was pushing the audience to the edge of their seats with pin-point accuracy and lightning-fast counters. However, for the ten-year-old Edmen, the eventual goal was not even remotely close to chasing the title that Silva had. He was just a chubby kid who wanted to lose weight.
“I was, I was a fat kid. I was training karate and I would go swimming right after and I would go to lose weight,” Shahbazyan said while talking to The Orange County Register. “We started doing it more and fell in love with the sport. We started competing, and from there on, the rest is history.”
Sevak Ohanjanian, the first coach of the Shahbazyan brothers recalls Edmen as a short and shy kid who wouldn’t talk much. While Edmen dealt away with the chubby part, the shy aspect is still a part of his personality. Edmen’s head coach, Edmond Tarverdyan, praises his protege for not getting caught up with the hype.
Edmen enrolled in Glendale High School. However, after just two years, he made a significant decision to transfer crosstown to Hoover High. The only reason for the move was that Hoover High had a wrestling program.
Regardless, his move didn’t exactly pay off as he missed his entire junior season and most of his senior season due to injuries. The injuries, however, couldn’t stop him from reaching the CIF State Championships in 2015.
Shahbazyan is often described as a new brand of a mixed martial artist who has trained specifically for the sport. This is in sharp contrast to fighters like Ronda who were already trained in one discipline before taking up MMA.
One of the biggest testaments to Shahbazyan’s success is the fact that the divisional champ, Israel Adesanya, was impressed by his performance. The only common string between the UFC records of the two fighters is Shahbazyan’s last opponent Brad Tavares. While Adesanya defeated Tavares by a unanimous decision, it took Shahbazyan less than half-a-round to get the job done.
“I saw his fight,” Adesanya said during an appearance on the “JRE MME Show” last year in November. “I didn’t know who he was until (my manager) told me. Then I rewatched his fight. He hit Brad Tavares with the head kick and that kind of got my attention, like, ‘Oh (expletive), who is this kid?’ At 185, he’s 22. He’s on the come-up. I played with Brad for five rounds. He starched him in one round. I’m not taking that lightly.”
“I look at that kid – eventually when he comes up I’m sure I’ll see him at some point,” Adesanya added.
Shahbazyan still has a long way to go before he gets near UFC gold. For a fight with Adesanya, he will have to hope that the Kiwi stays at the top while he gets there. As of now, Edmen will have all the focus in the world upon defeating Derek Brunson this weekend.
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