GLENDALE — When Karen Darabedyan takes center stage inside the World Extreme Cagefighting octagon for the second time, second time or not, he said he’ll still have plenty of butterflies leading into his fight.
“I’m always pretty nervous before a fight,” said the Glendale fighter. “I think it brings out the best in me.”
But when Darabedyan faces off with Bart Palaszewski on Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio as part of the live Versus telecast of WEC: Bowles vs. Cruz, he will do so with a major fight under his belt, a full training camp behind him and as a different mixed martial artist.
“It will be different,” said Darabedyan, a Glendale High graduate who boasts a 9-1 record. “It’ll be a better version of myself.”
Perhaps the biggest difference, according to Darabedyan, who took part in a “really good” nine-week training camp, will be his stamina and his mindset.
When he made his debut for the WEC in November, defeating former WEC lightweight kingpin Rob McCullough via split decision, he did so on short notice. Now, however, he wants to showcase his full skillset and the extra tools provided him by his recent training with strength and conditioning coach Leo Frincu.
“My gas tank will be pretty much full, I’ll be able to push the pace,” said Darabedyan, who will be cornered by Frincu, manager Darin Harvey and his boxing coach, Roman Kalantaryan, who he trains with at Glendale’s Main Event Sports Club. “I’m just gonna go in there and give everything I’ve got, so when I get out of the cage I have no regrets.”
Coupled with Palaszewski’s reputation and outlook, it should make for quite an interesting fight.
“I guess it’s kind of weird, but I look at myself first as an entertainer, second as a fighter,” said Palaszewski (33-13), a Poland native who fights out of Illinois. “I’m actually more concerned with the fight itself and putting on a good show.
“I’d rather lose an exciting fight than win a boring one.”
The three-round lightweight (155 pounds) tilt is scheduled to lead off the event, which runs in conjunction with the annual Arnold Sports Festival Weekend. It’s a night filled with big names in the WEC such as former Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight titlist Jens Pulver, former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres and the main event between Brian Bowles and Dominick Cruz for Bowles’ bantamweight title. With his second bout set to be his second televised fight, Darabedyan is looking for a victory to further propel his stock upward.
“This is a must-win situation for me,” said Darabedyan, who’s won seven consecutive fights, including a 5-0 run in 2009. “I have to win to move up.”
For Palaszewski, though his top priority is putting on an entertaining fight, he’s also hoping to maintain some recent momentum.
“I finally just got a little momentum going,” said Palaszewski, who lost a pair of WEC fights before picking up a win in a regional organization and defeating Anthony Pettis via split decision in December in his return to the WEC for a second straight win. “You can’t even really call it a streak at this point.”
Palaszewski is a formidable foe and a veteran to say the least, having fought four previous times in the WEC and multiple times for the now-defunct International Fight League. Over his career, he’s grabbed notable wins against Alex Karalexis, John Gunderson, Ryan Schultz and Ivan Menjivar, while also facing off with name fighters such as Jim Miller, Chris Horodecki, Clay Guida and Gesias Cavalcante.
Like Darabedyan, who’s well-versed in judo, boxing and submission grappling, Palaszewski has built a reputation as a well-rounded fighter. Regarded as an exciting fighter who likes to stand and bang, he’s won 15 fights by knockout, but also has 10 submission victories to his credit.
Thus, neither fighter seems all that preoccupied with where the fight goes.
“I don’t really hope for anything,” said Palaszewski of whether the bout stays standing or goes to the ground. “I just kinda play it by year.
“It’s just gonna go where it’s gonna go.”
Darabedyan surprised many by electing to keep his bout with McCullough, a regarded kickboxer, on the feet. But after besting McCullough with that strategy, he admits his preference is to keep the fight vertical, but truly has no hesitation about taking it to the ground.
“I prefer to stand up and if it does go to the ground, good, I’m comfortable there,” he said. “If my striking’s not going good, for sure I’m gonna change it up.”
But all fights begin standing and with neither in a hurry to go for a takedown, fireworks could come early.
“I’m going in against a very tough guy,” Palaszewski said. “He’s got very crisp boxing. I’ve got good standup, too. I’m sure we’ll clash very well there.
“We both have ground backgrounds. I think we match up very well.”
Nevertheless, Darabedyan enters the bout equally confident and ambitious.
“I’m hungry, I really want to make a mark and tell everybody I’m here and I deserve to be here,” he said. “I feel like I will be able to catch him. Sooner or later, he’ll give me an opening and I’ll capitalize.
“Then again, it’s a fight and anything can happen.”