FiveOuncesofPain.com had the opportunity to speak with Neil Melanson, a longtime friend and training partner to Karo “The Heat” Parisyan along with being the head Jiu-Jitsu instructor at Xtreme Couture, on the heels of Dana White’s recent announcement that the welterweight crowd pleaser would never fight for the UFC.
This afternoon Dana relayed via his Twitter account that this Saturday evening’s anticipated UFC 106 showdown between Karo and fellow submission specialist Dustin Hazelett had been cancelled, stating, “Pulled out of the fight the day before weigh ins again with a laundry list of excuses!!! Let the press ask karo why! Let him explain”.
When contacted in pursuit of the real story behind the recent situation concerning his close friend, Melanson first spoke with Karo in order to get his blessing for the true facts to come out. As the age old saying goes, “the truth shall set you free”.
“Karo’s had some problems with an addiction to pain medicine due to an injury he sustained a few years ago,” began Melanson, who essentially began training under Karo Parisyan years ago while under the guidance of grappling legend Gokor Chivichyan in L.A., only to evolve to a point with his own grappling where he eventually became the teacher. “Then when he started having these anxiety problems, it didn’t seem like the anxiety pills were helping him. The only thing that was helping him was the pain medication that he had been taking for his injuries. That’s when he just started down that slope.
“It’s just one of those situations where you have two guys that sit down to have a drink, and you have one guy that can go home and he’s fine, and the other guy has to go out and get wasted every single time because he’s an alcoholic. I think that maybe with the pills, that Karo is the second guy. Maybe he’s the guy that can’t take them here and there, or can’t use them effectively. It’s really hard on him.”
According to Neil, Karo had a plan to do things the right way this time around. A plan that, for so many reasons that could be extremely difficult for a person that hasn’t suffered from one form of addiction or another to understand, just didn’t seem to work out the way he had thought it would. That huge invisible monster that is chemical dependency had a plan of it’s own for the tormented Judo specialist that never seemed to take a backwards step during his years spent inside of the UFC’s Octagon fencing.
“He came out and saw me recently for a couple of days, and I still thought he had a little ways to go, but he looked, probably the best I’ve seen him in a year,” explained Melanson. “I was really optimistic about this fight. I was like, ‘This guy is back with it. He seems like he has a really good chance here’. Then I got caught up training Randy [Couture] during that time and he couldn’t make it out. He didn’t make it out to Greg Jackson’s either. I talked to his camp and they said that he was kind of hit or miss. If he showed up he looked pretty good, but for the most part he wouldn’t show up. So he’s had some problems.
“He told me that he was on pain medicine, but he wanted to get off. He had a plan and he was working his way to get off of it. About a month ago he was taking about half the amount that he usually does and he was pretty optimistic. He was really trying to push it. He was going through some withdrawals and he would try to push it as hard as he could to get off the stuff. He really had a plan to be off three weeks prior to the fight and he really wanted to clean up. He really wanted to do this right. It was really important to him and his family. I hadn’t spoken to him for just a little bit, and I guess he tried, but he couldn’t.
“He contacted me and told me about the situation, and I said, ‘Look, just sleep on it and we’ll talk about it tomorrow’. I met with Greg Jackson and we had a little conversation about everything. From there I called Karo and I just told him, ‘Well you’re better off being honest now than piss testing and getting in trouble with the commission’. He did the right thing there and told them. He messed up, but people shouldn’t hate him for it. The guy has a legit problem right now. He did the right thing; he didn’t cheat, he didn’t lie, he didn’t do anything wrong. He just had a problem that he tried to overcome and he couldn’t do it. I think that everybody can sympathize with that. Karo has put on great shows in the past, and I think that he felt a lot of pressure to do that again.”
While it can often be so easy to point the finger at what can be perceived to be the bad guy, often times the “bad guy” is nothing more than a man being tormented by demons and forces seemingly beyond his personal control.
“My heart goes out to him,” said Melanson. “I know he’s suffering right now. With the UFC dropping him, he’s a mess. He’s a complete mess. Just imagine what it’s like to have an addiction problem, and to lose everything like this all in one day. But at the end of the day he still did the right thing by coming clean and not trying to test, or fight, or lie, or anything like that. So before people start hating on him I hope they realize that when push came to shove, he did the right thing.
“He could have disrespected the sport by going out there and fighting. A lot of people try to beat the test somehow. He could have done a lot of things to make the sport look bad. He could have done that because he was greedy, or because he needed money, or whatever it was, but instead he did the right thing and he didn’t make the UFC look like jerks by testing dirty. I know Dana is saying some things right now because he’s really upset about it, but Dana cares about him. Dana has always been really good to him. I know he’s probably pretty upset, and I would be too. He’s pulled out of a couple of fights before, and if you’re a promoter that would piss you off pretty bad.
“Once he gets cleaned up and back on his feet, he’ll probably go out there and compete. If it’s not with the UFC it will be somewhere else. If Karo got clean and worked hard he’d be back in the top five again. He was ranked in the top five for his weight class for over three years. You don’t do that by being a slouch.”
While Karo never needed anyone to help him out inside of the cage during countless wars staged with the likes of Georges St. Pierre, Nick Diaz, Diego Sanchez or Matt Serra, God knows the 27 year old Armenian born mixed martial arts phenom needs help from elsewhere during his current, and most important fight.
Hopefully close friends like Neil Melanson and a tight nit family can give Karo the positive reinforcement and energy it’s going to take for the naturally gifted fighter to return to his old form of one of the most feared 170 pound fighters in the business; and if not that, at least to a place where he can rid himself of the shackles of chemical dependency and allow him to truly live once again.