On Friday, March 8, it came to the surprise of many that Bellator MMA announced it had re-signed Georgi Karakhanyan (28-8-1, 1 NC) but also that the promotion had placed the former WSOF featherweight champ up against an old foe in Emmanuel Sanchez (17-4) in the main event of Bellator 218. Originally Sanchez had been booked against Ashleigh Grimshaw (20-10-1, 3 NC), the latter being forced out due to injury according to ESPN’s Chamatkar Sandhu.
In an interview with Fight Night Picks’ Craig Allen on Monday, Karakhanyan said that he had a deal and fight in place before being thrust into this situation less than two weeks away from the event.
“I signed a promotional agreement with them about four weeks ago,” said Karakhanyan. “And then three and a half weeks ago I got a call to fight Macapa, John Macapa.”
“I signed that and then two days later, I get the main event, I guess Grimshaw got injured and, umm, they asked me if I wanted to step in and I could not say no.”
Coming off a two-fight stint that saw the Armenian-American competing for Russian promotion ACA, formerly ACB, Karakhanyan left under bewildering circumstances. In the dying seconds of the first round of his fight with Timur Nagibin (14-3, 1 NC), the man known as “Insane” locked in a guillotine choke and made mention to referee Herb Dean that he felt the Russian tap. Dean stepped in, the horn sounded and both fighters appeared confused before Nagibin landed a gross sucker punch. In the aftermath, Karakhanyan was awarded a disqualification win which was quickly overturned to a no-contest while also being released by the promotion, something the 33-year old still holds mixed feelings about today.
“I did what I had to do over there,” said Karakhanyan. “I gained a lot of Russian and Armenian fans from there and, umm, now that I look back I never want to go back to Russia.”
With ACA in the rearview mirror and a main event rematch on the horizon, Karakhanyan has surrounded himself with some of the highest level training partners in California.
“I mean I was helping Aaron Pico for his last fight with Henry Corrales and sparring with Aaron Pico,” said an enthusiastic Karakhanyan. “Man, it’s f**king, umm, if you’re not on your “A” game you’re gonna get knocked the f**K out.”
“I fought with Juan Archuleta, T.J. Dillashaw, Cub Swanson, Saad Awad. I mean and the good thing about Treigning Lab, all the guys keep it real with each other so if one day I’m not doing good they’ll put me to the side and tell me ‘Today you suck, make sure tomorrow you come and be better’, so it’s good you know?”
With top talents to grind with in the gym, and a championship mindset, Karakhanyan isn’t looking to burst onto the scene and demand gold. A stalled featherweight division due to champ Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (28-4) set to meet lightweight champ Michael Chandler (19-4) at Bellator 221 for the 155 lbs strap has created the need for a Grand Prix tournament at 145 lbs, something Karakhanyan has his sights on.
“I don’t think the title should be in the picture yet,” said Karakhanyan. “I gotta beat a few more guys.”
“After Sanchez, after I beat up Sanchez, I would like to fight a few other guys that I lost to and then from there we’ll see.”
With Bellator 218 around the corner March 22, from Thackerville, Oklahoma, fight fans can look forward to a top heavyweight booking between Valentin Moldavsky (7-1) taking on Hard Knocks 365 product Linton Vassell (19-7) as well as Armenian Hracho Darpinyan (17-8-2) who’s set to square off with English finisher Mike Shipman (13-1).