For former UFC bantamweight Jared Papazian, 2016 is a year he’s looking to expand his horizons further beyond MMA. Having already gotten into boxing, Papazian will make his pro Muay Thai debut for the Lion Fight promotion.
The move beyond MMA has been on Papazian’s mind for a long time, but circumstances kept him from making the move until now.
“I reached out to Lion Fight a long time ago, but every time they hit me up, I had a commitment with an MMA show. I was going to take a break from MMA for a whole year, so when they asked me this time, I said I could do it,” Papazian told MMAWeekly.com.
Initially getting into Muay Thai and boxing to expand his striking game for MMA, Papazian’s focus is now more on developing his game rather than just preparing for fighting.
“I’m just taking my time and learning,” said Papazian. “I’m not doing any real hard sparring, really a lot of drilling, and I have a whole new objective in fighting now: learning instead of sparring.
“MMA I would say is harder because you have to multitask. When I was doing boxing, I knew what they could throw with their hands. Now it’s kicks with the punches. In MMA, you have to worry about that and takedowns and all of that, so it’s different.”
Papazian’s Muay Thai debut for Lion Fight will come on Friday night at their show in Temecula, Calif. against fellow first time pro Travis Clay in a main card bout live on AXS TV.
“He’s got a lot of Muay Thai experience, while I have a lot of fighting experience, and I feel my overall fighting experience will play a factor in the fight,” said Papazian of Clay. “I feel I have the upper hand with my hands and he’s going to have the upper hand with the kicks, so it will be a pretty interesting match-up.”
Having moved beyond just being an MMA fighter, Papazian is anticipating staying busy in multiple combat sports in 2016.
“I do have goals for 2016,” said Papazian. “I’ll have this fight with Lion, then fight three times in MMA, go undefeated and get a title with an organization, and get back into the UFC in 2017. I’m really happy with Lion, so I’ll fight for them and MMA as well.”