What you may know already know about Sevak Magakian – He has 10-3 record, with 80% of his wins coming by submission. He is an even six feet tall, fights at 155 lbs and was on season 12 of the Ultimate Fighter. Ever since he moved the U.S. from Armenia in his early teens, he has trained at Hayastan Academy, with Gokor Chivichyan and Gene LeBell.
You may not know his reputation for being the nicest judo guy to ever enter an octagon. Reading the hype on MMA junkie made me laugh. I’m sure it makes good TV, but the ONLY time I have heard Sevak swear in the last twelve years was for publicity for that show.
When I walked into Hayastan after not having been around for a few years, a young man came up, shook my hand and said,
“How are you, Sensei? Nice to see you again. I’ll bet you don’t remember me do you?”
I told him, I can’t say a bad thing about him. He’s such a good guy. Usually, no matter who you are, some people like you and some people don’t.
“How could I not remember you, Sevak? You were the most polite little judo boy I ever met.”
Not surprisingly, he has grown up to be the nicest young man. When I asked his Hayastan teammate Ronda Rousey (who, being my daughter, happened to be on my speed dial) to give her take on Sevak, she said,
“I can’t say a bad thing about him. He’s such a good guy. Usually, no matter who you are, some people like you and some people don’t. I’ve never met a single person who has a negative thing to say about Sevak, and if I ever did, once I got over the shock, I’d have to conclude the person was mentally ill.”
When Hayastan coach Gene LeBell was asked his take on Sevak’s potential, the first words out of his mouth were,
“He’s such a nice guy!”
Judo Gene then added,
“The first throw he does, if it just knocks the guy down, it’s from Gokor, if he bounces them off the canvas, it’s from me – it’s a running joke we have. I tell him that he needs to do at least one spectacular throw in every fight for his Uncle Gene and no excuses. He had one match where he knocked the guy out. I said, ‘What are you doing stopping fighting? You didn’t give me a spectacular throw yet.’ He said, “But he was unconscious.’ And I said, ‘So what? Pick up him and throw him anyway.’ I think he never knows whether to take me seriously or not.”
Turning serious for a moment, Gene added, Sevak, he’s young, he’s in incredible shape, his judo throws are good, his matwork is good. He has the whole world in front of him.
“Sevak, he’s young, he’s in incredible shape, his judo throws are good, his matwork is good. He has the whole world in front of him.”
Having interviewed his teammates and his coaches, I called Sevak himself and put the question I had been wondering about to him. How can you be the nicest person anyone has ever met and win almost all of your matches by knee bar, arm lock? Do you have a split personality?
“I have natural strength. I don’t feel my own strength. I don’t mean that in a cocky way. I’m breaking things all the time at home. “
I can vouch for this. When taking photos to demonstrate exercises for a section on conditioning in a book I am writing, everyone at Hayastan immediately said,
“Get Sevak! He’ll do it! He’s the best weightlifter of anyone here and of course he’ll say yes. He’s the nicest guy!”
(Are we detecting a pattern yet?)
Back to Sevak ‘s answer … He said,
“This is the third time I’ve broken something on someone. Once it was a leg lock and twice I broke the other guy’s arm. Even when I am trying not to break it, I do.”
During his most recent fight for California Fight Syndicate in Santa Monica on January 28th, he threw Eddie Mendez with a nice judo throw and then very obviously dislocated his opponent’s shoulder with a kimura, all in under a minute into the first round. Not exactly what one thinks of as a “Mr. Nice Guy” move. When asked about this fight, Magakian replied,
“The kimura is my hold. It’s just what I do and everyone who knows me well knows that. When I did the kimura and it popped one, two, before the third one I brought it back even before he tapped. I brought it back even before he tapped, I didn’t want to break it. I hate that pain. Someone did it to me once and from that day, I decided to master that move. Because I know how it feels, and that the third pop is when it is really bad, I didn’t want to do that to someone. “
Although it hasn’t been an easy road for Sevak, he takes it with typical nice guy demeanor.
“I was in judo and sambo when I was five years old in Armenia. When I came here, I joined Gokor’s – and I got my black belt almost right away. I think I was 15 years old. I beat a lot of very good judo players but I couldn’t progress in judo because I was not a citizen. I couldn’t be on any junior teams representing the U.S. I had no chance to go to the Olympics. I’m a citizen now but after having changed to MMA for six or seven years, mixed martial arts is now my life. All of my fights, though, you still see judo throws. Gene LeBell tells me you have to do at least one ippon for me. “
When I asked him why he never mentioned the Ultimate Fighter show, he said modestly,
“I was on Ultimate Fighter Season 12. When I was training at the gym, I got my rib cracked and then fought any way. They were going to send me home, but I said I trained for this, I’m a fighter, I’m going to fight. When I lost my match, it was a disappointment, especially believing that if I was not injured I could have won.”
That wasn’t my question. I pointed out to Sevak that I live in LA and I know the drill. People in “the business” often expect that everyone knows who they are. They’ll drop their latest TV show into a conversation even if it is about breakfast. If you ask them if they had doughnuts this morning they’ll tell you about the doughnuts they bought, “On the way to the TV show that I’m in.”
Sevak just laughed.
“I’ve never been like that. People who know me, know me. I am not going to people and say, ‘Do you know who I am?’ If people come up to me in the street after a fight and tell me you did well, I shake their hand, I say thank you. I have nothing to prove. I’m working my way to UFC. I’m fighting 155 but I’m going to cut to 145. I’m walking around at 159 to 162, so I am really light for my division. At 145, I will be huge.
There was a time, when I was 20 or 21 years old that I didn’t care so much about other people, about breaking legs. As you mature, you develop more respect. You learn to be a man of your word. You appreciate people who support you, whether they’re the people shaking your hand on the street or your coaches like Gokor. I don’t worry about not being able to go to the Olympics in judo or getting injured on the Ultimate Fighter. I believe everything happens for a reason. I just need two more, three more fights to get back in the UFC. I’m focused on the future and not the past.”
Admit it, you think he’s a nice guy, too, don’t you?
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