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Jared Papazian taking time to refine MMA game

Mixed martial arts: Burbank-trained UFC veteran looks to concentrate on jiu jitsu, muay Thai game with a layoff from MMA competition.

May 28, 2013|By Grant Gordon, grant.gordon@latimes.com

BURBANK — Jared Papazian's road back to the Ultimate Fighting Championship took a significant detour.

Thus, the fighter out of Burbank Gracie Barra has decided to take another path.

Following a first-round submission loss to the undefeated Brandon Bender in Woodland Hills on May 11, Papazian came to the decision that he would put off his next mixed martial arts bout in order to become a better all-around MMA fighter.

"I don't want to compete in MMA until my ground game is legit," said Papazian, who fights out of Burbank Gracie Barra. "Everybody knows that I'm really disappointed [with] my ground game."

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Facing a jiu jitsu black belt in Bender (11-0), Papazian knew what was likely coming in their three-round bout, but was ultimately unable to stop the vaunted submission game of his opponent and was submitted for the sixth time in his MMA career.

"It really made me think," said Papazian of the loss. "I made some mistakes."

Thus, a few days after the loss, Papazian decided he would refine his striking skills by taking on muay Thai kickboxing matches, potentially some boxing matches and, perhaps most importantly, would take part in jiu jitsu tournaments. Currently, he already has a muay Thai fight lined up for August and is set to partake in two jiu jitsu tournaments.

"Just gotta work on the jiu jitsu, that's the biggest hole in my game and everybody knows it," Papazian said. "If I fix that, I feel like I'm one of the top contenders in the world."

Papazian's lead trainer at Burbank Gracie Barra, Alberto Crane, is in full agreement with Papazian's decision to take time off from MMA competition to improve his overall MMA game.

"I think it's a great time," said Crane, who's a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt and UFC veteran. "I think it's, for sure, the right decision.

"Honestly, he needs a reset."

A former King of the Cage champion, Papazian, who primarily fights in the 135-pound bantamweight class, has built a 15-10 record (with one no contest) and fought his way into the ranks of the UFC in early 2012. Papazian went 0-3 in the UFC, though his bouts were lauded for their excitement and he was rewarded with a bonus for two of them. Not long after his release from the UFC, Papazian, who made no reservations that he was set on fighting his way back to the UFC, got back to his winning ways with an impressive unanimous decision over Terrion Ware on March 15.

But his hopes of a quick ascent back to the UFC were derailed by the loss to Bender.

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