“Busy, busy,” is how Edmond Tarverdyan describes the burgeoning summer inside the windowed walls of the Glendale Fighting Club.
He pauses, before continuing his description: “Busy, busy, busy.”
Having piloted and owned the Jewel City corner gym since he was a teenager at Glendale High, Tarverdyan continues to see the GFC blossom as his ever-growing stable of fighters does the same.
Just as the gym and its prominence seem to propagate as time ticks by, it appears as if the busiest summer yet for the Glendale Fighting Club will commence Saturday when “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, the reigning
women’s bantamweight champion and queen of mixed martial arts, defends her title against Alexis Davis in the co-main event of UFC 175 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
It will kick off a summer that will also see GFC trainees and UFC women’s bantamweights Shayna Baszler and Jessamyn Duke take to the octagon, boxer Art Hohvannisyan fight on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” and burgeoning women’s featherweight Marina Shafir headline Chaos at the Casino 5 as one of a handful of GFC combatants on the card.
Indeed, the GFC continues to gain steam and improve upon its standing in the world of combat sports.
“Well, it’s a lot harder to park, that’s the main thing,” joked Rousey, who has trained with Tarverdyan for all nine of her pro fights and the three amateur bouts that began her MMA career, of the atmosphere at the gym. “I love all that energy in the gym and I love that everybody’s on the same page. Everybody has that same passion and tenacity that you’re in there with, there’s no one recreationally in there. After 4 p.m., come in if you want to get in shape. Before that, you better come in for a reason.”
In the immediate future of July and August, there are plenty of reasons penciled in on the schedule — or scribbled across a dry erase board at the GFC. With every fight, Tarverdyan’s gym grows a bit more as the days get a bit busier for everyone involved.
“The way we see it, the way we want it, we always want it to get bigger,” said Sevak Ohanjanian, Tarverdyan’s assistant coach. “We always say to everybody we’re the best gym around and I honestly believe that.”
Currently, the likes of Roufus Sport in Wisconsin, the Blackzilians and American Top Team in Florida, Nova Uniao in Brazil and Jackson Mixed Martial Arts in New Mexico are among the most recognizable and successful gyms in MMA.
“I think a camp is very important,” said top-ranked UFC featherweight Chad Mendes, a member of Team Alpha Male, which is also considered one of the top gyms in the world. “Coming off being a wrestler my whole life, it’s basically like the same thing. It’s a team sport, but it’s also an individual sport.
“It’s definitely a lot easier to get motivated. Especially when you have guys like we do at Team Alpha Male, you’re basically fighting champions every day.”
Though GFC has not garnered the recognition on par as the aforementioned MMA hotbeds, it is rising and, if nothing more, is providing its growing crop of combatants the daily motivation that Mendes speaks of.
“It’s easy to get motivated when you’re in an environment like that,” said Rousey (9-0), who will defend her UFC belt for the fourth time against Davis (16-5). “It’s much harder to get motivated when you’re training somewhere and everyone is there just for fun and you’re trying to be serious and people are trying to talk to you while you’re in the middle of training and they don’t understand, I’m not trying to be a b----, but I’ve got something to prepare for. When everybody’s walking in with that mindset, it’s just easier to do your job.”
It’s a six-day, sometimes non-stop job for Tarverdyan.
Leading into Rousey’s bout Saturday with Davis and Hovhannisyan’s 10-round lightweight main event against Jonathan Maicelo July 11 on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” in Washington, Tarverdyan has alternated Hovhannisyan and Rousey’s sparring everyday.
Meanwhile, Duke is preparing for a UFC Fight Night bout July 16 in New Jersey against Leslie Smith, while Baszler will make her long-awaited UFC debut against Bethe Correia on Aug. 2 at the
for UFC 176.
At this point in Duke and Baszler’s training, Ohanjanian has taken the lead.
“He understands my schedule of training,” said Tarverdyan of Ohanjanian. “He’s been very helpful.”
Ohanjanian, a muay Thai kickboxer who owns a Shodokan second-degree black belt under Tarverdyan, has been at the GFC for eight years.
“The way I look at it, we’re a team,” Ohanjanian said. “Edmond’s the head trainer and I’m basically his right-hand man.
“We’re like a family.”
Hovhannisyan is the longest-tenured GFC trainee and is joined by Gapo Tolmajyan, who had a July boxing match fall through, as the most prominent boxers currently calling the GFC home.
Rousey’s stint as a head coach on the 18th season of “The Ultimate Fighter” was the beginning stages of bringing Rousey and Shafir, Rousey’s longtime best friend, together with Baszler and Duke, who have collectively dubbed themselves “The Four Horsewomen.”
“Every single practice, we’re looking stronger and stronger,” Ohanjanian said of Duke and Baszler. “The girls are looking great.”
Veteran Manny Gamburyan has been a longtime GFC trainee, while others past and current UFC fighters such as Alberto Crane, Jake Ellenberger, Davey Grant, Gegard Moussasi and Jared Papazian have trained under the guise of Tarverdyan. But the GFC seems to be bigger than ever, as things get busier and busier.
A great example will be the Aug. 10 Chaos at the Casino 5 card, put on by George Bastrmajyan’s Lights Out Promotions. Bastrmajyan, who’s been a manager, trainer, cutman and promoter for many a fighter at GFC, currently has five GFC fighters slated for MMA fights on the card. Shafir will take on Nikita Nemjes, while Alfred Kashakyan, Vardan Sholinian and Levon Sargsyan are slated for bouts, as is 115-pound female fighter Jemyma Betrian, a muay Thai champion who will make her MMA debut.
The sixth card in the Chaos series was highlighted by Shafir’s victorious pro debut and a win in the main event for Hohvannisyan, which ended a night that saw Tarverdyan corner six fighters across three sports – boxing, MMA and muay Thai.
So as the likes of “Rowdy” Ronda, “Lionheart,” “The Queen of Spades,” and the “The Supernova from Moldova” gain notoriety and success and are joined by Duke, Gamburyan, Tolmajyan and others under the bright lights of the UFC and televised boxing bouts, it all starts and grows at the Glendale Fighting Club with Tarverdyan leading the way and working away.
“I’ve always worked hard to get to where I am; I’ve always wanted this,” Tarverdyan said. “It’s what keeps me going. I love it. I love fighting. I love seeing my fighters be successful.”