by Danny Acosta ressure-14257
Sept 2 2008

The fight comes natural to Karo Parisyan (Pictures), an Armenian-born
welterweight who started Judo when he was 9 years old and mixed
martial arts when he was 14.

Looking to rebound from his first stoppage loss -- a TKO at the hands
of American Top Team's Thiago Alves (Pictures) -- in seven years,
Parisyan (18-5) will meet Yoshiyuki Yoshida (Pictures) at UFC 88
"Breakthrough" this Saturday at Philips Arena in Atlanta. He declared
himself ready for the Japanese standout mere days before they collide.

"If I get hit by lighting and I lose, God forbid, I don't care,"
Parisyan says. "All I know for this fight is I trained twice as hard
as I did for the Thiago Alves fight. I have to thank Thiago Alves. He
woke me up."

New to the UFC scene but seasoned by plenty of international
experience, Yoshida (10-2) made his Octagon debut in May and choked Jon
Koppenhaver (Pictures) unconscious with an anaconda choke. "Zenko"
will enter the bout on a nine-fight winning streak. Included in
that streak was a TKO victory of Akira Kikuchi (Pictures), the last
man to defeat reigning EliteXC welterweight champion Jake Shields
(Pictures). Despite the obvious risks, Parisyan wants to match skills
with the fourth-degree Judo black belt.

"I think I'm a little better MMA fighter than he is," Parisyan
says. "Anyone can beat me at 170. I know what's going to be on the
table. I'm going to try my best to neutralize everything he does and
beat him up."

Outside the cage, Parisyan (18-5) fights a different battle, one with
which millions are familiar. Panic disorder has become a daily threat
to normalcy.

According to the American Psychological Association, one out of every
75 people suffers from the condition. Parisyan noticed symptoms prior
to his UFC Fight Night 13 bout against Alves in April. It affected
his training, and, at one point, he wanted to go home before the
fight, not for fear of competing but as a coping mechanism for his
anxiety. He succumbed to strikes against the red-hot Brazilian in
the second round. A nine-year veteran, he had been finished only one
other time as a professional.

"I blame the loss because of my training, not being mentally focused
and being burned out from all these years; I didn't blame it on my
panic attacks," Parisyan says. "If people think I blame the loss on
a panic attack -- people say I'm lying -- it really upsets me. People
that actually don't have any idea what we go through can just sit there
and just judge you and say, 'He's just lying. He's bulls--tting. He's
a liar.' It's not right."

Jeff Sherwood/

Parisyan found an ally in the form of MMA coaching guru Greg
Jackson.Panic disorder manifests itself in many ways. Symptoms include
dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, paralyzing terror and feelings
of insanity or oncoming death. They range from mild to severe.

"I thought it was heart problems," Parisyan says. "But when I asked
the doctor what was wrong, he said throughout the years, all the
stress you go through in fighting, working out to fight -- all that
stuff you go through -- it builds up like a bubble, and eventually
it bursts and hits you with panic attacks. That's what they told
me. Twelve years down the line you start burning out, and somehow
you have to repair it."

Despite his refusal to take prescription pills, Parisyan actively
addresses the problem. He stays away from triggers -- small rooms
make him feel claustrophobic -- and has found support in doctors,
friends and family. However, the unpredictable nature of the disorder
makes it nearly impossible to wrangle.

"After the Alves fight, I had moved into a new house," Parisyan
says. "The night before I was going to move, it hit me. At the middle
of the night, 2 a.m., I woke up just breathing crazy. My heartbeat
was going through the roof. My blood pressure was 160 over 120. My
mind was racing. I thought I was having a heart attack; I didn't
know what was going on, and I was afraid to wake anybody up because
I didn't know what it was."

Panic disorder can even distort reality. In a profession that demands
control over one's mind and body, Parisyan finds himself in a daily
struggle with an elusive opponent.

"I think my biggest problem with these panic attacks is I'm not able
sleep," he says. "Sometimes my bed becomes like a casket, like a
dungeon. I can't go in the bed. I have to sleep on a couch sitting
up and stuff."

Even though panic attacks are short and infrequent because the
body cannot handle the dramatic changes over an extended period,
the simplest act can set off Parisyan.

"If I put my head into a pillow and my head sinks into the pillow,
I feel like I'm gonna choke," he says. "All kinds of stuff; it's
unbelievably hard."

Parisyan discovered an ally in revered mixed martial arts coach Greg
Jackson. He traveled to Jackson's academy in Albuquerque, N.M., to
train alongside Rashad Evans (Pictures), Keith Jardine (Pictures)
and others in advance of his fight with Yoshida. When anxiety forced
Parisyan to return to California after only one full day in the gym,
Jackson followed him to the Golden State in support.

"It means a lot," Parisyan says. "He came out for a couple of days
just to see where I'm at, how I'm doing for training, put a game plan
together and went back home."

While fans await the latest additions to his lengthy highlight reel of
Judo throws and rolling kimuras, Parisyan seems anxious to climb back
into the cage again. Supporting five family members, the 26-year-old
has a heavy burden to shoulder every time he competes, and his match
with Yoshida will be no different.

"I have so much at stake," Parisyan says. "I have so much stress on
me. People don't understand how tough it is. I need to be able to
conquer this match. Not sounding selfish at all, [but] I fight for
myself. I fight to prove something to myself, to feel good about
myself when I walk outside."