It wasn’t long ago that Edmen Shahbazyan was hailed as one of the best prospects in the UFC with the potential to become a champion one day.
That luster got knocked off rather dramatically in his past three fights, however, with the 25-year-old middleweight suffering a trio of losses, including a pair of knockouts in fights against Derek Brunson and Nassourdine Imavov. The last setback, coupled with a change in management, saw Shahbazyan relocate to Las Vegas, where he began training full-time with Xtreme Couture.
The shift also meant Shahbazyan split with UFC Hall of Famer Ronda Rousey, who had served as his manager, as well as head coach Edmond Tarverdyan. While he previously stated there was no bad blood with his former team, Shahbazyan admits now that it was a necessary change to leave there and start somewhere new.
“Back when I was training in Glendale, I feel like my last couple of fights, it was a bit of a toxic feeling and stressful with my surroundings,” Shahbazyan explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I had to get away from that.
“That’s one of the other reasons that I got away from there. Now that I have all this opportunity in front of me, living in Vegas and living on my own, it’s so good for me. I feel free mentally, and physically it’s just been great.”
According to Shahbazyan, the relationship he shared with his former gym eventually deteriorated to the point where he felt it necessary to move on.
“I guess toward the end, just not seeing eye to eye with coaches,” Shahbazyan said. “It was stressful, but I’m happy things played out the way they did.
“Right now, I’m surrounded by high level guys, and it’s all UFC fighters, high-level MMA fighters next to me. Getting work with them is amazing, and it’s pushing me to my limits for sure.”
When he trained with his old team, Shahbazyan said he often was the top dog in the room. While that allowed him to showcase his dominance, he didn’t necessarily have the complimentary pieces to force him to get better. Those deficiencies showed in his past few fights, where he struggled at times, particularly in grappling exchanges with Brunson and Jack Hermansson.
Now, the former Contender Series winner has plenty of people to ensure he’s constantly getting the necessary work to improve, and he expects that will show in the results of his future fights.
“Most importantly, there’s a lot of bodies [at Xtreme Couture],” Shahbazyan said. “A lot of high-level guys, especially around my weight and higher and also a lot of grappling and wrestling rounds we’ve been putting in. Those are the two main things I feel I needed work with and it’s happening here.
“Each round when we’re doing our sparring, each round you get a new guy, you’re working with a new guy and you’re just pushing yourself to your limits. You’re constantly getting pushed and getting better each practice.”
As difficult as it was to lose three fights in a row, Shahbazyan expresses no regrets about accepting any of those matchups, because that’s what led to changes he’s made in recent months. If he had it to do all over again, however, Shahbazyan says he probably would have made the move to Las Vegas earlier in his career.
“If the question is do I wish I was here sooner, yeah, I wish I was here sooner,” Shahbazyan said. “If I got this sooner, it would have been a lot better. The outcome of my last few fights wouldn’t have been the same. But it’s life, it happens. Everything happens for a reason. I’m just blessed to be here right now.”
With his fight scheduled against Dalcha Lugiambula on Saturday, Shabhazyan isn’t putting any expectations on himself or his performance, other than wanting to go out there and win. He is mostly just thankful that he’ll get a chance to set things right and remind the world that he’s still a prospect worth watching.
“It’s definitely a new, fresh start for me,” Shahbazyan said. “I’m going to pick up the momentum fight by fight, improve, and just climb up the rankings slowly. No rush. I’m just happy to be where I’m at.
“The Edmen you’re about to see, I feel so much better it’s crazy. For my last fight, which was a year ago, it’s crazy how much I feel I’ve gotten better. You guys will see. A year ago to now, it’s such a different fighter from where I am now.”