We knew Karo Parisyan was in bad shape. We just had no idea how bad. A fascinating new ESPN story details Karo's decline in detail - and it's steep. Once the top contender for the UFC's welterweight title, Parisyan is now a shambles. At 28, his professional career is all but over, a victim of poor choices and drug dependency. Even in his recent return to action, drugs were on his mind, in his thoughts much more than his opponent or gameplan:
As he lies on the mat, chalk white, his eyes jet black and his heart racing, these are the types of things that are blowing up in his mind. When they become manifold and he panics, he refers to it as "a hamburger patty becoming like the whole cow." As the fight draws near, his first reaction is to ask if there's anything he can take -- a Tylenol 3, a Percocet, a Lortab, anything with codeine in it.
The answer is no.
Those who care about him say no. On fight night he says he doesn't "think" he'll test positive again for pain medication. He can't be sure, though. If somebody had a Lortab, you get the feeling he'd gladly risk a Dong Hyun Kim incident to take away his hell.
It's hard to watch Karo struggle like this, but things could certainly be much worse. His promotion, the UFC, has supported him through his ordeal. They've helped pay for counseling, brought him back when logic dictated that he wasn't ready. Dana White explained it best to MMA Junkie's Dann Stupp:
"A lot of people were asking why I brought him back," White told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) after UFC 123 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in suburban Detroit. "I get in these positions where there are guys like Karo Parisyan who have put on a lot of great fights for me over the past few years. He falls on hard times, and I don't want to sit here and act like a goof and pat myself on the back, but I've done a lot of things for him.
"He was texting and calling me, and I was like, 'I'll give this guy one more chance.'"
All in support of a fighter with self destructive impulses. Could you imagine Don King doing that? The fact is, the UFC wants to see these guys do well. They provide seminars and guidance, helping these young men deal with sudden wealth and fame. But there's only so much you can help someone.
Parisyan had a serious leg injury, one that has changed the trajectory of his career. He never got it taken care of - too expensive. Yet, he's blown through a million dollars like it was monopoly money. When he was fined $32,000 by the Nevada Commission he couldn't pay. He simply didn't have the cash. Yet, he managed to buy a big house and a luxury car for his dad.
Back when I was Karo," he said on Thursday in his hotel room, "I would be in a suite right now. I made $500,000 in 2007 alone, and I made $100,000 on the Kim fight before sponsors. I had an eight-fight contract worth over a million dollars."
Many young fighters like Parisyan think the money will flow in endless waves. It frightens me to see someone like Josh Koscheck, a fighter that has probably earned around $1.5 million in his career, in a $3 million house. I'm glad for his success - I worry about what happens when the checks stop coming for an (almost) 33 year old athlete.
We'll always remember Karo Parisyan as a great fighter. I hope we remember him for something else as well. Excess is dangerous - in spending, in drug use, in training. Taken to its extremes, this sport can humble any man, even someone as tough as Karo. I loved watching Karo fight but I think it's fair to say this - I hope we don't see too many more Karo Parisyans.