Blagoi Ivanov

 

By: Jonathan King The Clinch Report

Photos By: John Walsh The Clinch Report

 

Bellator MMA’s roster of fighters is a diverse group of young talent, coupled with a few older lions who are looking for to either return to form, win a world title, or too  prove to themselves that they can still mix it up with the best. Three fighters that we will focus on tonight are Blagoi Ivanov, Karo Parisyan, and Vladimir Matyushenko.

On the Cusp of Immortality

Two years ago, Blagoi Ivanov was at the start of a very promising Bellator MMA career. He came to the company on the heels of defeating MMA Legend Fedor Emelianenko in the World Sambo Championships. Everything was going according to plan. Until armed thugs confronted Ivanov and a group of friends in his homeland of Bulgaria, at a nightclub. During the melee, Ivanov was stabbed under the armpit with a 12 inch blade. The wound pierced his heart, and lungs. Emergency surgery was performed to save the young fighters life, but then infections set in. Ivanov was placed into a medically induced coma, where he lay near death for over 80 days, in the dark.

When he awoke, he was a shell of his former self. The once strapping heavyweight was closer to a welterweight in size, and walking and breathing became his new hurdles. His career was effectively over as a fighter, however someone forgot to tell him. He spoke with Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebeney and promised that he would return. After one year of intense training, Ivanov began to put on the weight he slept off, and slowly but surely began regaining his facilities.

Since his return, Ivanov appeared to not have missed a step. He has remained undefeated. His latest win at Bellator 116 over former UFC fighter Lavar Johnson, came via a slick Americana late in the first round that forced ‘Big’ to tap. The win has earned Ivanov a place in the Heavyweight Tournament Finals where he will face former Title holder Alexander Volkov for a shot at the World Title. In two years Ivanov has been in places not many have gone before. He keeps defying the odds at every turn, he is a champion in life, and soon may have the belt to match.

Return to Form

From 2002-2008 Karo Parisyan was one of the worlds top welterweight fighters. He was fighting all over the world, and was on the verge of a title shot. During this run, the young judoka was considered one of the sports most talented fighters. With wins over Nick Diaz, Josh Burkman, Ryo Chonan, Former Champion Matt Serra, and Chris Lytle, Parisyan seemed set to have a long successful career. Then the wheels fell off!

Parisyan spoke with us before his fight with Rick Hawn, and told us how his life spun out of control. Substances that initially were designed to heal the nagging injuries a fighter must deal with, became part of his every-day routine. He was cut from the UFC, and seemed to be another case of wasted talent.

Like a real champion, Parisyan woke up one day and realized what he was losing. He sought help and slowly began to find himself again. He also started to feel that fire in his belly, that once labeled him ‘The Heat’. Taking some fights on the regional circuit may be difficult for a fighter who once fought at the top, however it was that same humility that led Parisyan back into the light.

After a few fights with mixed results, ‘The Heat’ began to churn into an inferno again. With his weight in check, and his problems in his rear view mirror, Parisyan was given a second chance with Bellator. His first fight against Rick Hawn was a difficult task, however Parisyan attacked from the opening bell. His hands looked up to speed, his movement was working and then he got caught. Hawn won the fight but it was obvious to everyone in attendance that Parisyan was on his way back.

His next fight was equally difficult. At Bellator 116 Parisyan was paired with AKA’s Ron Kesslar who is coming off a big win over War Machine. On paper the match pitted judoka v wrestler. However its was Parisyan’s hands that made the difference. late in the second round, Parisyan dropped Kesslar with a series of punches and was able to finish with impressive ground and pound.

The win solidified Parisyan’s chances for being selected in the next welterweight tournament. Parisyan, at one time could have been one of the best in the world. In fact he was one of the best. However real champions are not made they are built. In Parisyan’s case he is rebuilt. This version, the 2.0 version is much more humble and intelligent. Like the phoenix before him, ‘The Heat’ has risen from the fire and the future looks very bright!

Farewell to A Legend

Vladimir Matyushenko has fought everywhere, and in every major organization. ‘The Janitor’ has long been one of the top light heavyweight fighters in the world. The former IFL Champion, fought in the UFC, Bellator, IFL, IFC, and Affliction and many other organizations around the world. With a record of  27-8, Matyushenko has shared the cage with a ‘who’s who’ of the MMA elite.

At Bellator 116, Matyushenko lost to Joey Beltran via North South choke late in the 3rd round. The legend left his gloves in the cage signifying his retirement. Like a wrestler leaving his shoes on the mat, ‘The Janitor’ said goodbye to the world of fighting but will remain relevant in MMA as one of the best wrestling coaches alive. Vladimir is living the American dream. He came to this country speaking only the language of a wrestler, now he is revered as legend. Matyushenko will continue as the head wrestling coach at Dynamix MMA in Santa Monica where he will be an amazing influence on all fighters young and old for many years to come.

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