Edmond Tarverdyan won his mixed martial arts match against Phil Nunez with a knockout in his debut fight at the “Chaos in the Casino” event at the Hollywood Park Casino on May 5. Photos by Marlon Miranda.
Inside a gym in the heart of Glendale, a 7-year-old boy is tossed around and kicked to the ground. Any normal kid would be in tears after such punishment, but not this one. Arsen Muradyan rises up, smiles and continues the ﬁght. Remarkably, he trained at the Glendale Fighting Club for the last two years. With aspirations of becoming a professional, Muradyan is wise beyond his years.
“I started taking classes to learn how to defend myself,” said Muradyan. “But the more prepared you are and the more you know about ﬁghting, the less ﬁghting you will ever have to do.”
A mural near the entrance to the gym depicts boxing great Muhammad Ali and Edmond Tarverdyan. The mural’s message: “Nothing is Impossible.” A multiple winner of international and national championships, Tarverdyan, 30, has trained in Full-Contact Karate, Wushu, Kung Fu, Tae-Kwon-Do, Draka and Muay Thai. He is the main instructor at the fight club, where he has taught since he was 16.
“Having studied so many styles I can assess students better and instruct them on what style serves them better for their body type,” said Tarverdyan.
The gym has three types of classes. The kid’s class is for children who are 4 and older. A child is taught at his or her own pace. As the student progresses, the challenges get harder; each class is an hour long.
The fitness program is open to adults of all ages, but the professional ﬁghter’s program is only for those with experience who are ready to move on to the big stage.
“I love our kids program; it helps all the young people stay away from the street and focus their energy in a positive outlet,” said Tarverdyan. “We are not like other gyms who just take money from kids; we prepare them and make them mentally tough. Living life is always a ﬁght and I like my kids to be prepared.”
The success of the program is compelling. On May 22, the Glendale Fighting Club was represented in the PAL National Boxing tournament [National Police Athletics/Activities Leagues Inc.] and California Judo Championship. Four of the club’s boxers and 10 judo students competed.
Edmen Shahbazyan, 14 years old and 138 pounds, won a gold medal in the boxing tournament in his division. Judo students Patrick Bagumyan and Edward Arusutumyan both received gold medals. Other Judo students placed in second and third place.
The gym is not only for kids and pros, but also for adults who flood the gym looking for an escape from the real world. Brothers Sarkis and Edward Manukian visited the gym a couple of times before they signed up. Sarkis, a single parent, says he lives a very stressful life and ﬁnds solace in working out at the gym.
“It is comforting to know I can come to a gym where they understand the person that I am, my heritage and my background,” said Manukian. “Once a week I come and relieve my stress and lose myself in battle.
Edward has been known to have a temper and started taking classes in learning how to be disciplined and ﬁnd a way to control his anger. The brothers consider GFC the best gym around.
“Learning self-control is hard. Thinking you will learn this by ﬁghting might seem absurd at ﬁrst, but believe me, it works,” said Ed Manukian.
Tarverdyan believes that mixed martial arts [MMA] is like no other sport around, where the participants workout and grow as much emotionally as they do physically.
“MMA is great and people shouldn’t be afraid to bring their kids or try it out for themselves,” said Tarverdyan. “It is not only meant to compete or just go out and ﬁght but it’s for getting stronger and physically ﬁt. Unlike basketball – that’s just fun – MMA teaches you to challenge yourself and keep growing as a person.”
At the gym, the pros prepared for their big May 5 event, “Chaos at the Casino,” held at Hollywood Park. The event showcased 12 Armenian fighters, some making their professional debut.
Weeks before the event, GFC held cross-training sessions at their gym with members from the GFC and from the Hye Fighter’s Community. Hye is a promotional entity that showcases Armenian combat sports. “Chaos at the Casino” was Edmond Tarverdyan’s MMA debut.Alfred Keshishyan keeps his distance with solid jabs in his first professional match against Victor Jovel in a Muay Thai competition.
Participating in the historic event were: Ara Muradyan and Sako Chivitchian; boxers Azat Hovhannesyan, and Georgi Karakhanyan and Alfred Keshishyan; and Muay Thai competitors Sevak Ohanjanian and Ando Janoyan. Art Hovhannisyan, Vito Gasparyan, George Amiryan, Roman Mitichyan and Edmond Tarverdyan rounded out the card. The fighters were united and ready to demonstrate their preparation and work ethic in the upcoming challenge. They smiled and laughed, but there is nothing funny about their training; they are serious and nothing but business.
Many of the fighters at the GFC training session were from different sides of the Armenian combat sports spectrum, from Gokor Chivichyan’s Team Hayastan MMA Academy to SK Golden Boys Wrestling Club and Main Event gym. They all came to train at the GFC club to prepare not only for personal wins but to dominate the May event. Armenian pride was at an all-time high and they seem to motivate each other in preparation.
“Some gym’s fighters just come to work out. We all come here and cross train and push each other to better ourselves. We aren’t just workout partners, we are a huge family,” said Tarverdyan.
“Chaos at the Casino” featured three different types of fighting styles. Three fights were fought in Muy Thai (kickboxing) style, two fights featured traditional boxing, and five fights were mixed martial arts. The event was running late with fans flooding the entrance.
The arena was jammed with audience members supporting each fighting camp and group, cheering and shouting every time “their” fighter would come up. The crowd was predominantly Armenian fans giving GFC and Hye a home-court advantage.
Alfred Khashakyan, in his ﬁrst professional ﬁght, dominated Victor Joval and won on a technical knockout midway through the second round. Khashakyan showed good form and didn’t panic when the ﬁght seemed to gravitate toward Joval’s advantage. He stayed level headed and kept pushing forward and never backing down. It was a stunning way to start a career.
“It feels good to have the support I have during the ﬁght; they (fans) have faith in me and I have faith in myself,” said Khashkyan.
The boxing match showcased Georgi Karakanyan, who dominated and humiliated Tatsuro Irie. The fans erupted from the moment he was introduced and didn’t stop until well after the ﬁght was over. Karakanyan has a Roy Jones Jr. swaggered, baiting his opponents and stopping them in their tracks with quick strikes and keeping his opponents off-balance with power shots to the body.
Karakanyan was, at times, toying with Irie. “I trained hard and realized early what he was trying to do in the ring,” said Karakanyan. “He was a good ﬁghter but I got him early and kept giving him body shots to keep him winded and keep him guessing”
Khaskakyan and Karakanyan both received medals after their match for best newcomers in boxing and Muy Thai, respectively. Both achieved their ﬁrst win in their professional debut.Ara Muradyan beat Octavio Morales in mixed martial arts after a notably ferocious fight.
GFC really stood out in the MMA part of the event as all four ﬁghters won decisive victories. Ara Muradyan beat Octavio Morales. Muradyan showed his superior strength on the ground, constantly throwing Morales on the ﬂoor and attacking him viciously and ferociously. Morales was unrecognizable after the ﬁght, his cheek busted open from his right eye and his face swollen. Morales needed help standing up after the ﬁght and was checked out by the medical staff.
Sako Chivichyan defeated Preston Scharf and Roman Mitichyan beat William Sriyapai with a submission. Edmond Tarverdyan won via knockout over Phil Nunez. “It’s a very big deal personally for me,” Chivitchian said. “We’ve got 12 Hye Fighters on the card; it’s going to be a big thing for Glendale and the community.”
The ﬁght started like something out of a Jean Claude Van Damme movie. Minutes before the match, much of the audience chanted “Edmond! Edmond! Edmond!” The introduction to the match lasted longer than the ﬁght itself. Tarverdyan demonstrated his superior skill set by always shifting two steps ahead of his opponent, Phil Nunez. Tarverdyan moved like a crab and confused Nunez with his different strikes. The ﬁght ended when Nunez tried to tackle Tarverdyan and was greeted by a knee to the face. Nunez went down and never got back up.Daniel Hwang upset the Hye Fighter’s dominance when he defeated Sevak Dhanjanian with a technical knockout in the first round.
GFC dominated the event and could back up Tarverdyan’s claim, “We make champions.” This year, the number of Armenian ﬁghters doubled on the card. With a growing contingent of new ﬁghters coming out and professionals representing the Glendale Fighting Club, it is fast becoming the gold standard of success and glory, not only for the Glendale community but also in the greater fighting circles.