GLENDALE — When Sako Chivitchian lost his first professional mixed martial arts fight on Saturday night in Las Vegas after having also made his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut at "The Ultimate Fighter" Finale, he had troubles clearing his head.
It wasn't due to any punch or kick landed by opponent Kyle Watson — in fact the only blow that has Chivitchian worried is a clash of knees that occurred.
Instead, it was due to the fact that the 26-year-old fighter had put so much time and energy into his time on "The Ultimate Fighter" reality show and training for the subsequent bout with Watson only to come up on the short end of a unanimous decision after a fight in which he knew he didn't perform at his best.
"I don't feel like it was my best performance," said Chivitchian, who fell to 5-1 with his loss to Watson (13-6-1). "I was focused a lot on doing damage in the striking. I wanted to knock him out so much. I kinda put aside my takedowns and wrestling, which was a mistake on my part.
"This was my biggest fight. You have a lot of pressure on you, this is your foot in the door and at the same time you want to put in an exciting performance.
"In the back of my mind, I was just thinking about knocking him out. I was just chasing the striking."
Watson claimed 30-27 scores on two judges' cards and won 29-28 on a third. The News-Press had it 29-28 for Chivitchian, however, giving him the first two rounds, which were decidedly close, but in which the Glendale fighter appeared to have done more damage with his striking.
"I definitely thought it was close. I felt that I did cause more damage, I thought I had the bigger strikes," Chivitchian said. "Anytime you go the judges' hands, you can blow it. This time I came up short."
Chivitchian's striking, while vastly improved, had always taken a backseat to his ground game, which often featured his judo skills, coupled with ground and pound and solid submission skills. But on Saturday, the game plan was to stay standing to refute Watson's jiu jitsu skills. Chivitchian believes he should have done more to mix in his takedowns and ground game. And, as his cornerman Dave Camarillo said on Saturday, did a better job on getting off first with his striking, particularly in a third round that was clearly won by Watson.
Since the loss, Chivitchian has returned from Las Vegas to Southern California, as he had previously been training almost exclusively with the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose after forming a close relationship, along with fellow Glendale fighter Sevak Magakian, with Josh Koscheck. Koscheck, a member of AKA, coached both fighters on the past season of "The Ultimate Fighter," with Chivitchian's success on the show leading to getting him a shot on the live finale on Saturday.
Chivitchian was at the doctor on Wednesday getting an MRI as his knee swelled up after the fight. He guessed that it was caused by a clash of knees with Watson when the two both went for a kick at the same time. Thus, Chivitchian is going day by day to see if there is a problem with his knee and when he can start training again. Ideally, he said he would like to return to the gym next week.
As for his future with the UFC, that remains up in the air. He said he has not heard from the organization, so he is still uncertain as to whether he will get another fight or will get cut. He'd obviously prefer the former.
"I'm hoping the UFC is gonna see the potential in me and give me another chance to show it," Chivitchian said.
Whether that happens or not, Chivitchian said the setback won't set back his drive to push forward with his career.
"It's gonna make me a better fighter," Chivitchian said. "That's the excitement I have in me is knowing I've made it this far, but I have so much more to improve.
"It's gonna motivate me. There's no quit in me."