When Edmen Shahbazyan first sat down with his new manager, he heard something for the first time in his career.
Rather than pitching him on the biggest named opponents that he could face or the potential for endorsement deals on the table if he signed, the 24-year-old middleweight was told that he actually needed to stop worrying about fighting for the moment and just focus on getting better.
“When I went for the first time to meet up with Ali [Abdelaziz], he said one of the main things if he signed me was he’s not giving me a fight for like seven or eight months,” Shahbazyan revealed when speaking to MMA Fighting. “He just wants me to get work and improve and just get better.
“I love that he said that to me. It just shows he’s caring for you to know that you’re going to be properly trained, properly in shape before I take the next fight. I respect that a lot from Ali.”
Signing with Abdelaziz, who manages fighters such as UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, Islam Makhachev, Beneil Dariush and Henry Cejudo, was the first step Shahbazyan took in a total remake surrounding his fighting career.
Considering he was touted as one of the best prospects in the sport after just four fights in the UFC, Shahbazyan then suffered three consecutive losses including a pair of knockouts to Derek Brunson and Nassourdine Imavov.
He went from being hyped as a future title contender to a monumental bust that didn’t pan out and as much as Shahbazyan tried to ignore the noise, it was impossible not to think about the rollercoaster ride he’s been on over the past few years.
“I got signed off The Contender [Series] when I was 20 and had my UFC debut 10 days after turning 21,” Shahbazyan said. “I’ve got lots of time. The MMA community, you know how they are. You don’t do good once or a few times, they’re going to s*** on you, it is what it is. That’s what makes the MMA fans cool, too and unique. I’m young, I’m going to improve.”
In addition to his new manager, Shahbazyan also decided to relocate to Las Vegas where he began working out of the UFC Performance Institute with plans to now call Xtreme Couture his home gym.
While fighters change gyms on a regular basis in MMA, Shahbazyan had only ever really known one coach and one team his entire life after growing up in the Glendale Fighting Club under the watchful eye of Edmond Tarverdyan, who is well known as Ronda Rousey’s long time head trainer. In fact, Tarverdyan and Rousey teamed up to guide Shahbazyan’s career while working with them as coach and manager.
Looking back now, Shahbazyan obviously appreciates everything Rousey and Tarverdyan did for him but he also understood that he had to alter course if he was going to tap into his full potential as an athlete and begin finding success again in the UFC.
“Going off my past two fights, I feel a change was definitely needed and it was long overdue,” Shahbazyan said. “I looked at my options to see where I can be that I feel I can unleash my full potential and I believe Vegas had the best thing. I’m away from distractions. I can concentrate on training. Of course, you have the Strip here if you’re going to get wild but if you stay out of the Strip, for a fighter you can train here, go home and rest, come back to train, go home, rest. It’s a fighter’s life here.
“Of course the gyms, the high level partners to work with. There’s a lot of good guys out here and constantly coming in because of having fights. It’s great. I look at my last few fights and a change was needed so this was the best choice.”
Ultimately, Shahbazyan admits the change in managers and leaving for Las Vegas was just the best choice for his career moving forward, although he has nothing but respect for the people who helped bring him up in the sport.
“I needed to change,” Shahbazyan said. “It was time. It was definitely time for me. It could have been done sooner but now I’m just happy to be here and get the new work in. I have not talked [to them] since I left. From my end, I have a good relationship [with them]. I don’t have any problem. All respect cause I respect what they’ve done for me but on my end, I’m good.”
“I haven’t talked to [Ronda] in say a few months. I don’t have anything against her, respect from my end. As far as my end, I don’t have no ill will.”
With a fresh start in Las Vegas, Shahbazyan is already feeling better than ever but he’s still nowhere close to where he wants to be long term.
He’s spent the past month just getting his body back in shape to hit the ground running once he arrives at Xtreme Couture where he will work with coaches like Eric Nicksick, Dewey Cooper, Jake Shields and Jason Manly.
Shahbazyan doesn’t plan on competing again until the end of 2022 as he follows his manager’s edict that he needs to just focus on improving right now rather than obsessing over an opponent and a date when he will return to the UFC.
It’s all done with a purpose as he plans to come back better than ever before with a renewed vigor that Shahbazyan expects to result in a lot of impressive wins.
“I’m already feeling good,” Shahbazyan said. “I’m getting in better shape. Constantly working and improving, and once I start going to Xtreme [Couture] as well, I’ll get all the good sparring there. You’re going to see Edmen 2.0, no doubt about it.”