For those that don’t know, being the person in charge of ensuring arenas are packed with paying fight fans is no easy task. The man I had an exclusive interview with, George Bastmajyan, is not only a promoter for Called Out MMA (one of the more popular, according to recent polls, top notch organizations that has promoted former UFC fighters, such as Vladamir Matyushenko, Alberto Crane, Roman Mitichyan, and Jason Lambert), but also a very talented matchmaker, former professional Muay Thai fighter, and manager to a handful of fighters, including UFC lightweight Roman “The Emperor” Mitichyan. Aside from those titles, he is also a well-known cut man to worldwide recognized fighters, including Olympian Demetrius Andrede, as well as a popular coach at the Glendale Fighting Club. But, wait, there is more….he also owns Lights Out Promotions, a company promoting many Armenian mixed martial arts fighters and professional boxers. All this in just a matter of 10 years, pretty impressive I’d say!
Q: After discussing the wide variety of titles you hold, how does your level of success and notoriety make you feel? Do you get more pleasure from working with other fighters, as opposed to when you were a fighter and training with some of the best in Thailand?
A: As a fighter, I started training pretty late, at the age of 20. However, I set a goal for myself to win a Muay Thai championship in California, and did that in 3 years. I went around to Thailand and saw the business end of it. I met some important people down there, WBA super featherweight champion of the world, at the time, In fact, I helped him sign with an American promoter, came over to the United States, won, and defended his title. In fact, he was the only fighter from Thailand to come to America, defend his title and be successful. I want to see people succeed in their own career. So I take any steps necessary to help them become champions or whatever their goals may be. I go to the extent of getting in the cage and helping my fighters prepare for their fights, holding mitts, grappling, whatever it takes.
Q: You have such a jam packed schedule, yet it hasn’t stopped you from adding more to your plate. I understand you are a manager to longtime professional veterans, as well as up-and-coming fighters. Who are some of these fighters whose careers you look after?
A: I have managed the career of former WBA lightweight champion, Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai, for three of his world championship fights: one was in Japan and the second in the United States. For two and a half years now, I have managed UFC lightweight, Roman “The Emperor” Mitichyan’s career, who is fighting on April 29th. Artyom Hovhannisyan, Gabriel Tolmajyan, and Arthur Bernetsyan’s careers are also managed by me. I look out for their fights. I make sure I pick the right opponent and venue for them. I also promoted and helped Karen Darabedyan get his first fights going, when he fought for Called Out, before he went into contract with WEC.
Q: How did you get started with Called Out MMA and what made you decide to begin Lights Out Promotions?
A: Well, I’ve always been in touch with most local organizations that involved in MMA and boxing, including CXF (with Mike Rush as co-owner and promoter), Respect in the Cage, and other organizations that simply want to put on fights and fighters until they are recognized and called on by WEC, UFC or Strikeforce. Pretty much if anybody is in need of a fighter, I’m one of the people they go to. I’ve got a database of over 700-800 fighters and I am currently preparing the fight card for Called Out 3, which should take place sometime at the end of May.
My partner, Edmond Tarverdyan, president and owner of Glendale Fighting Club, and I, first started as fighters, then decided that we might as well promote our own shows. The first show we did was at the Hollywood Park Casino in May 2004. It was a co-promotion with Dennis Warner and InSyn Productions which was headlined by Edmond fight. We had a sell-out card, so in December we decided to do another one. Even though it was held three days before Christmas, we put five Armenian fighters on the card, (Edmond Tarverdyan, Shawn Yacoubian, Artak Karapetyan, Ando Janoyan, Tina Zakarian), and we sold the place out. Our Armenian Hyefighters are one of our main support groups. They all have Lights Out Promotions logos on their shorts. There is another company, MMA Pro Sports, that I am involved with right now doing really big things. I help them market their product. For example, they are the glove sponsors for Called Out MMA. I am also helping to bring up King of the West, which is an Armenian owned (Roman Kalanteryan, of Main Event Gym, in Glendale) promotional company, as a coordinator and matchmaker for their events. Their next event will be held on May 6th at the Circus in Hollywood and on our card will be three of our Armenian MMA fighters, Sevak Magakian, Haiko Zacoubian (a young, new Hyefighter), and Vacho Avagian. By the way, laugh out loud, I am also in charge of hiring the ring girls. Oh, also, we are having an event on April 23rd, when we will have seven Armenian fighters matched up in the cage, and part of the proceeds will be donated to help Armenia.
Q: What exactly do you look for in fighters and their opponents? Do you choose strictly by weight class, age, height, and fight record, or do you incorporate fighting styles, personality, and what people want to see?
A: In order to put on a show, you need to know how to set the tone. Every single event that I’ve promoted, was the matchmaker or event coordinator for, I knew that my first fight had to be two guys that stood up and beat the living daylights out of each other. You want to get the crowd up. When we have set the right tone at the start of the event, it has always finished a success. My job is to make sure that the audience comes back and watches our show again. Since I deal with the commission directly, I have to ensure things run smoothly.
Q: Finally to my favorite part: You are a cut man. What exactly do you do to a fighter inside the cage?
A: Laughing, I put Vaseline on a fighter’s face and let them go to the fight. In between rounds, if a fighter has a small cut, the doctor doesn’t say much. The fighter comes, sits down, and I get in there. I take my medications, my Vaseline, and get to work. I have to stop the blood and make sure the cut doesn’t get any bigger so the doctor doesn’t come in and say, “I have to stop the fight.” If I don’t stop the cut, it goes to the cards, and the fighter loses by T.K.O. Knock on wood, fortunately, I have been able to stop every cut so far.
Fighters spend weeks, if not months, training with their camp. To many people’s surprise, matchmakers and promoters also spend weeks, if not months, setting up the logistics for the events to actually happen. There is so much more that goes into a fight than what the fans see when they are in attendance at an event. George Bastmajyan is one of those guys that runs around behind the scenes and makes sure all the details that define a shows success are addressed. Next time you are watching a well matched fight, you can thank George for having such a great eye in finding talent and always matching up fighters, pound for pound, to go up against each other in the cage or the ring.