Magazine Sep/Oct 2012 The Coach’s Clinic

01 September 2012, 14:00
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The Coach’s Clinic

Over the last year and a half, a stable of professional boxing and mixed martial arts champions have risen through the ranks of their respective sports with one familiar man guiding them to glory. Edmond Tarverdyan is the trainer behind some of today’s most elite fighters. He is a perfectionist in his craft, an esteemed coach in fighting circles and an owner of a well-regarded fighting club that has churned out pro after pro. At 30 years old, he is an on-again off-again combatant who prefers being a brother figure to his fighters more than giving whippings like a father.

The sounds of pop-whap, pop-whap, pop- whap echoes off the walls like a Fourth of July fireworks show. The musky air inside is as thick as the summer afternoon outside.

Today, Ronda Rousey, Manny Gamburyan and Art Hovhannisyan are taking turns with Tarverdyan, perfecting the craft of striking. The coach relentlessly tutors – the fighters in the ring, as well as the ones watching them from the canvas – until his athletes are physically, mentally and emotionally prepared. For the first two hours of the training session Tarverdyan works with Rousey, attempting to perfect her striking technique inside of the ring. Rousey, who lately has been the alpha dog of Tarverdyan’s testosterone-filled Glendale Fighting Club gym, is training with unbelievable vigor. Meanwhile, the Showtime crew films the entire process for an all-access show leading up to her fight against Sarah Kaufman. “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey is currently the undefeated champion in Strikeforce’s women’s bantamweight division. Sporting a 6-0 record – with all victories coming by way of a first round arm bar submission – the 2008 Olympics judo bronze medalist has elevated herself to a rock star status. 

In a span of a handful of days, she graced the cover of ESPN The Magazine Body Issue, put Michael Phelps on blast for isolating himself in the 2008 Games from fellow athletes, challenged Kim Kardashian to a fight for being a bad role model, and then hosted the television show TMZ.

But all that was on her free time. Right now, she is working, and she smells of sweat perfume. This particular morning, she and her coach work cohesively as Rousey paces around the ring and Tarverdyan provides instructions. Both are in sync, and it’s a seemingly a perfect teacher-student union. It is also one that may have not existed if it was not for Rousey’s persistence.

Tarverdyan had no intention of working with Rousey because after all, she is, well…a woman. But then, Tarverdyan saw YouTube clips of her fights in the 2008 Olympics and became familiar with her intense training habits. He knew he had a special athlete on his hands, woman or not.

“Edmond is a perfectionist, and I am stubborn,” she confesses. “I would be lying if I said we didn’t butt heads.” Tarverdyan agrees. “It’s a good thing to be a perfectionist, but it can also drive you crazy.”

“Being a girl, I’m not exactly common place in most gyms,” Rousey says. “Women fighters are traditionally not as profitable as guys. A lot of coaches won’t waste their time. I think a lot of athletes have this idea that a trainer should be lucky to work with them. You have to prove yourself to get the best people to work with you. I had to prove myself; that’s because he’s a good coach. He’s not just going to work with anybody. He doesn’t want to put his time and energy into somebody who is not going to do the work.” On August 18, all the hard work paid off as Rousey defeated Sarah Kaufman in 54 seconds. The first person she thanked in her post- fight interview Edmond.

Back to training day at GFC, after Rousey, Tarverdyan steps into the ring to work with Gamburyan, who is preparing for his UFC on Fox 4 fight against Michihiro Omigawa. Gamburyan is on a three-fight losing streak and has not won since April 24, 2010 when he knocked out Mike Brown in the biggest victory of his career. His training crew is a bit more anxious as they work on Gamburyan’s defense techniques. Which is not surprising, as four consecutive losses in the Ultimate Fighting Championship is usually your ticket out to another job.

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