Few fighters have restored their gym’s reputation in a singular manner quite like 22-year-old Shahbazyan (11-0 UFC, 3-0 MMA), who has become the poster boy for Glendale Fighting Club.
There’s no point sugar-coating this: The gym took a major tumble in esteem after the downfall of Ronda Rousey, a fighter who was a killer on her way up, but proved incapable of adjusting to the quality of competition in her division as its skill level increased. And it’s not as if the gym had a deep bench, either.
But Edmond Tarverdyan’s gym has persisted in the face of withering criticism and a new generation has emerged, led by Armenian-American standout Shahbazyan, who has looked every bit a well-rounded killer as he’s made his way up the middleweight ranks.
He’s gotten better as the spotlight has gotten more intense, too, as he proved with a head-kick KO under the bright lights of New York’s Madison Square Garden last time out at UFC 244.
Now he steps up to his first main event, and his biggest challenge. Brunson (20-7 UFC, 11-5 MMA) might bristle at this phrase, but he’s the gatekeeper at 185 pounds. Beat him, and you’re on the shortlist for a title shot. Fail to take him seriously, and he’ll make you pay.
That’s exactly the type of challenge Shahbazyan should take at this point, and that’s why this main event is eagerly anticipated among those in the know.