Armenian Karate Champion Beats Muay Thai Legend From Thailand

by Haig Boyadjian

INGLEWOOD (Asbarez)–Varazdat Mihranyan–Armenia’s 21-year-old current IFCKF World Karate Champion shocked the world Saturday–January 20th after beating Muay Thai legend Samart. The Mihranyan-Samart bout was the main event in an evening of Muay Thai combat presented by Sidekick Promotions in association with IN SYNC Productions and Bob Chaney–held at the Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood.

There were also four other professional matches throughout the evening–each equally exciting. However–the most thrilling fight for Armenian fans was Mihranyan’s incredible match against Thailand’s ‘Fighter of the Year,’ Samart.

Samart had come out of retirement to fight for the first time on American soil. Aside from being Thailand’s champion–Samart is also a motion picture and singing icon in his homeland. His defeat by Mihranyan is a major upset in the Muay Thai community.

Varazdat–fighting out of Yerevan–Armenia–has been training since 1988 under the famous Armenian martial arts master Gor Vartanian–who is head of the International Full-Contact Karate Federation (IFCKF) throughout Armenia.

The IFCKF has branches throughout the former Soviet Union. There is also a division in Holland–and a sizeable studio in Los Angeles–which is run by Vartanian’s partner–Ken Karen Arutyunyan. In Armenia alone there are approximately 4,000 students training in the various chapters of the IFCKF.

One of these students–Varazdat Mihranyan–became the IFCKF World Champion. Mihranyan’s style of fighting deals more with grappling and throws–versus Samart’s strictly Muay Thai training. It is amazing how Varazdat managed to beat Samart considering the fact that it was a Muay Thai kickboxing match–which restricted ground fighting. However–in an interview with Asbarez two days before the fight–Mihranyan was confident he would win even if he had to change his style of fighting to accommodate the rules and regulations of this particular tournament.

Mihranyan credits Bruce Lee movies and other karate films for arousing an interest to train in the martial arts at an early age. Yet when asked who his idol was he answered Mike Tyson. It is strange that he would consider a boxer his hero–considering the fact that he is a martial artist. Varazdat said it didn’t matter; Mike Tyson was his idol regardless of his area of specialization.

In response to a question on how he feels when fighting in the ring–whether it’s fear–rage–anticipation–courage…–The champion said he has different feelings during each fight. However–he avoids anger since it prevents most fighters from focusing on their technique. Varazdat said his goal throughout every match is winning–and he must be in the right state of mind to be able to do so.

Varazdat–fighting out of Armenia–said he worries about his relatives and friends back home. He has already been in the US for the past six months training under Arutyunyan. The longest he had ever stayed in this country was just over a month in 1995–1996–and again in 1999. Mihranyan said he naturally feels more comfortable in his country. Being a famous champion has made his life easier in Armenia where the large portion of the population faces severe hardships. In a way–Varazdat feels guilty for being in the US–uncertain about his loved ones back home. He said he might stay a while longer–but plans on returning to Armenia no matter what.

A major issue in recent years has been the condition of sportsmen in Armenia. It is alarming to see so many of Armenia’s most talented athletes leaving the country to represent other countries willing to better compensate them. Many athletes of Armenian origin represented other countries in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney this past summer. Varazdat said he finds the current exodus from the country to be a huge tragedy. However–he can understand their motivations–since present conditions in Armenia do no allow adequate compensation or new equipment and facilities for these sportsmen. "How can anyone blame them–it’s all about survival. What are they expected to do when they aren’t even awarded a pen in recognition of their efforts. It is sad indeed–but look at me here in Los Angeles–in a sense I am doing the same thing–and many might be shocked by this too," said Mihranyan.

Varazdat said most athletes in the world take pride in competing for their own countries of origin or birth. It is no different in the case of Armenia’s athletes. For Mihranyan–there is something special in seeing the Armenian flag raised after one of his victories. "Obviously those same emotions cannot be duplicated when another country’s flag is hoisted in front of you," he added. However–he does not completely blame the government for its inabilities–realizing the difficult conditions that exist in Armenia today. Mihranyan feels many are leaving Armenia because they can no longer support their families. "It’s either leave or take up something other than a career in sports," he believes.

When asked what his perceptions of the Armenian community in Los Angeles were–Varazdat said he feels less appreciated here than in Armenia. He added–"no matter what part of Armenia you’re in–you are honored and respected by the people as a sportsmen. The community here has not always been as warm or interested." However–he realizes not all Armenia’s living in LA are as fortunate as others. The champion made it a point to wish success to all those Armenia’s struggling to make a living in this country.

All Armenia’s must take pride in sportsmen like Varazdat Mihranyan–who serve as a second set of Armenia’s ambassadors to the international community. These athletes represent Armenia and Armenia’s around the world. It’s time to embrace them throughout the Diaspora–especially if conditions in Armenia are not desirable.

Varazdat’s victory at the Hollywood Park Casino last Saturday–was a triumph for all Armenia’s. Look out for Varazdat Mihranyan’s next fight; you’re bound to be in for a great match. Just ask the Armenian fans who were there cheering him on in Armenian during his match! (For more information–you may contact Mihranyan’s manager and trainer in Los Angeles–Ken Karen Arutyunyan of the USA IFCKF–at 818-765-3595).

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