Combat Sports and Armenian Advocacy

This past 4th of July weekend featured the Navasartian Games at Birmingham High School. Every year, many different walks of Armenian life get together and celebrate Independence Day with sports and entertainment.  I was there representing the ANCA-WR, and have to admit I had a blast. There is something to be said about Armenians getting together, partying, and playing sports for four days. The games feature many Armenian businesses from all over California. Each one provided their own One of the many vendors there was a company called “Legio”. The company specializes in clothing for combat sports (boxing and mixed martial arts.) Although there are many companies out there who make clothing for this sport, like Everlast, Affliction, and Tapout, this company makes what I would call inspired clothing for Armenian fighters. What makes it so different? The clothing features images of Armenian icons, and uses the catch-phrase “bred for battle.” Yes, if you were looking for a cool workout shirt which features the Seal of the Republic of Armenia, Vartan Mamigonian, David of Sassoon, or Haik Nahabed, Legio is the company for you. It is interesting how a small company, an event with Armenian athletics, and combat sports can lead to some of the core tenants of Armenian advocacy.

Combat sports are a unique expression of creativity. Armenians from all over the world have been involved in and cheered for boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA). As a nation, we have bred a number of such warriors who have gone on to become world champions and Olympians. This should be expected from a nation of warriors as a whole. Though we have fought in wars regularly over time, wars won with sportsmanship and dedication to physical prowess have been the new battlefields for these warriors.

Some names to remember are Vladimir Yengibarian, the legendary Soviet heavyweight gold medalist, Super Six contestant Arthur Abraham, multiple title holder Vic Darchinian, and Former US Olympian and current WBC Silver Light Middleweight Champion Vanes Martirosyan. Armenians have entered the newly evolving sport of mixed martial arts, with fighters like Manny Gamburyan, who was a contestant on Spike TV’s “Ultimate Fighter 5.” Geghard Mousasi is widely considered one of the best MMA fighters in his weight division, and one of the most popular fighters in Europe. With fighters like Geghard, Manny, and Karo Parisyan being well represented, as well as legends like Grigor Chivichyan, Armenian Fighters have dominated on all levels of this up-and-coming sport.

A lot of these fighters have long been advocates for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide on the international stage. Vanes Martirosyan and Vic Darchinyan famously wore shorts that said “1915” in commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. Darchinyan’s fight against Colombian fighter Yhonny Perez was scheduled in Los Angeles on April 23, 2011, a day before the genocide commemoration day. During the press conference before and after the fight, he was asked about the significance about the numbers on his trunks. Vic was triumphant in his victory, and was quoted saying “I’m the first sportsman in the world to introduce Armenian Genocide to the world. That was a great day for me and not only for me. I think it was a great event for the Armenians. I had interviews with many TV companies and I had a comprehensive speech about the Genocide. The topic has been widely covered in the world.”

Armenian fighters of the modern era have always represented the Armenian people well, wearing their tri-color around their broad shoulders, regardless of their citizenship. Arthur Abraham, Geghard Mousasi, Khoren Gevor fight out of Germany and Denmark. Vanes Martirosyan is a United States Olympian. Vic is a fighter based out of Australia, and alongside Armenia, they have represented their country of residence valiantly. Most of the fighters were born in Armenia, and left the country for better opportunities to fight abroad. Of course, this is representative of our Diaspora as a whole, leaving the homeland, while still remaining part and parcel of everything Armenian. Armenian fans have also responded positively by showing up to the fights and cheering in the Armenian language and sporting the Armenian flag as well.

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