Bellator 218: “Sanchez vs. Karakhanyan 2” takes place at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla., this weekend (Fri., March 22, 2019), featuring former No. 1-ranked Featherweight contender Emmanuel Sanchez (17-4) stepping into the cage to the familiar sight of Georgi Karakhanyan (28-8-1, 1 NC) in the main event.
Sanchez most recently dropped a close, but unanimous, decision loss against reigning Featherweight champion “Pitbull” Patricio Freire in Tel Aviv. This will be his first fight back since taking the “L” in Israel. And he’ll look to put himself back into 145-pound contention. Karakhanyan, meanwhile, hasn’t been seen in Bellator since a loss to Henry Corrales in Jan. 2018. Since then, he went to Absolute Championship Akhmat in Russia for a couple of bouts, including a bizarre disqualification win over Timur Nagibin that was later ruled a “No Contest” by the promotion.
Karakhanyan recently spoke with MMAmania.com about returning to avenge a fight that he lost via majority decision, even though he was originally set for a different bout altogether.
“Well, I actually took a fight against John ‘Macapa’ (Teixeira), so they called me and I took the fight (and) I signed a contract. Then about two days later they called me (and) they were like, ‘Hey yeah, you’re gonna fight Sanchez. The main event fell apart.’ And that was it, man. I was pretty excited and I couldn’t resist and I said, ‘Yeah just send me the fucking contract. Let’s do this.’”
In summary, Karakhanyan had a fight that hadn’t even been announced yet, and before it was announced, Bellator gave him the chance to fill in for Ashleigh Grimshaw. He’s eager to prove he’s better now than he was two years ago.
“It’s gonna be a little different because we fought in 2017 and I was a totally different fighter. I’m pretty sure he improved and I improved and … it’s just gonna be a little different, you know? I’m going at this with a different approach and I do not want to let this go to the judges.”
It’s fair to say Sanchez improved, too, gaining momentum from that win and took it all the way to a title shot against Patricio Freire. Perhaps a win for Karakhanyan might do the same.
“Yeah, I don’t think too much about the title or anything like that. I’m just — man I’m just happy. I mean even though it’s a short notice fight, I feel like I’ll be ready and I just can’t wait for it.”
Either fight would have been “short notice” if it was at Bellator 218 since we didn’t know Karakhanyan or Teixeira were on it. Was Karakhanyan in camp for “Macapa” this whole time?
“Well, I train year-round so when they called me for ‘Macapa’ it was a still a short notice fight, but I said, ‘Hell yeah let’s do this’ and when things changed two days later I had no problem taking a fight against Sanchez.”
If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready. Karakhanyan is also grateful for the fact that he’s back in the United States after taking his last two bouts overseas.
“You know when I fought there (in Russia) it was a 12-hour difference. By the time the fight night comes I felt sleepy as hell because of the time change, but this is perfect, Oklahoma hell yeah! As long as it’s in (the) United States I’m fucking happy.”
Boomer Sooner. Speaking of Russia, though things got pretty wild after his bout with Timur Nagibin (depending on which source you check some list it as a disqualification win for Karakhanyan and others call it a “No Contest”). I asked Karakhanyan to explain.
“Herb Dean stopped the fight because, because I … well at first I didn’t have time to even look at the glove because I thought he was touching the gloves (to tap out) and Herb Dean stopped the fight. I let it go (the submission). When I let it go, I was talking to Herb Dean, and the motherfucker just punched me while I’m talking to Herb Dean. When I woke up I was wrestling with my corner.”
“You know as far as I know that was my victory (by disqualification). Even though Sherdog changed it, I’m still 29-8-1, so yeah. I honestly think the Russians just put a lot of pressure on Herb Dean (to change it) because he still goes back there and referees for them so, uh, he had to choose their side, but yeah.”
Let it be known for the record that ACB, the organization he fought for in Russia, has its own version of events, disputing much of what Karakhanyan had to say. Nevertheless, for Karakhanyan, he’s just happy to be fighting back in North America and pleased with all of the changes that he’s made since his last Bellator fight with Henry Corrales.
“Yeah, you know after that fight I changed a lot of things. I went with a different conditioning coach, coach Cal, Sam Calavitta. That was a big difference. I train with a lot of different guys that push me to my limit and just pretty much beat me up in the gym.”
Those guys who beat him up in the gym include a list of pretty bad dudes in California at Treigning Lab MMA.
“Sparring with guys like Saad Awad, Juan Archuleta, Cub Swanson, all those guys, TJ (Dillashaw). It’s a good mix. I mean we also go to Indio (California) and spar with all those pro boxers out there so, it’s a good change and with Coach Cal it’s a different training. We’re in there for two to three hours.”
And as luck would have it, Awad will be the Bellator 219 main event seven days later against Brandon Girtz.
“Yeah, yeah that’s crazy! He’s fighting a week later after me, and we’ve been training together for 13 years, and he’s the main event in Pechanga. I’ll be there for sure. I think it’s a good match up for him, too.”
If it’s a good night for them both in back to back main events they can celebrate together, but in the mean time don’t miss a huge rematch for Georgi Karakhanyan at Bellator 218.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Sanchez vs. Karakhanyan 2” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
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