The MMA Coaching Critic: Edmond ‘The Terrible’ Tarverdyan Part One

Edmond TarverdyanIn light of perhaps the most shocking upset in MMA history coupled with news of Ronda Rousey’s mother openly criticizing her daughter’s head coach, Edmond Tarverdyan – it’s about time someone gives further weight to the “terrible coach” claims. I have decided to look further into three particular accusations made by Ronda’s mother, Dr. AnnMaria De Mars. In a three part series I will examine the following accusations:

  1. Edmond is a terrible coach.
  2. He’s a bad person
  3. He hit the lottery when Ronda walked through his door

She also added that “All I did was say publicly what people have been whispering for years, but no one had the balls to speak up because Edmond is like that gatekeeper to Ronda.” Part 1: Terrible Coaching As die hard MMA fanatics and bettors, you’ve more than likely taken the time to listen to the corners during any given fight. If you’ve never taken much notice before, you’d be surprised at the variance in ability from cornerman to cornerman. The highest quality cornermen in MMA is up for debate, but many would agree that Matt Hume, Greg Jackson and Firas Zahabi are the pick of the litter, while it’s almost unanimous amongst the diehard fans that Edmond Tarverdyan it clearly one of the worse on the MMA scene right now. Ronda Rousey’s mother stating that he is a terrible coach wasn’t an outlandish statement. Essentially she was spot on telling many of us what we already knew. As his star pupil Ronda Rousey remains to be a one round wrecking machine for the most part, MMA fans rarely get to hear Tarverdyan’s corner advice on full display. There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding Tarverdyan over the last couple of years since Rousey came to prominence, and lately he’s attracted fighters like Jake Ellenberger and UFC heavyweight Travis Browne to begin working with him full time. Therefore, to get an accurate description of his ability as a cornerman, one must examine fights outside the realm of Rousey’s dominance. I will examine three historical accounts to determine how bad Edmond is as cornerman/coach, including the most recent Holly Holm bout. UFC 181: Travis Browne versus Brandon Schaub There was a lot of weird animosity going into this fight particularly between Tarverdyan and Schaub. As Tarverdyan made it his mission to belittle Schaub at every turn. As Browne explained, “There’s been a little bit of banter going between our camp and him. When I get to know somebody like coach Edmond and know what kind of a coach he is — not only that, but what kind of a man he is — it makes it personal for me.” Allegedly this stemmed from the fact Schaub had been critical of Browne’s decision to leave Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA to join Tarverdyan at Glendale Fighting Club. Schaub called the move “100 percent a mistake.” I When Edmond was first asked of a Schaub’s fighting skills, he was more than candid. “I think he can’t fight for s—,” he moved on to actually insinuate that Schaub actually wanted to train with him in Glendale. Schaub responded, “That’s absolutely not true..I can’t be bothered by it. I don’t care. That’s like Kimbo Slice’s jiu-jitsu coach making fun of me.” Interestingly enough, Schaub downgraded Edmond’s abilities in favour of giving credit for Ronda’s successes to her mom (who was a judo world champion). “Listen, I don’t know Edmond. He might be the greatest boxing trainer in the world. The credit should be going to Ronda’s mom. If Ronda’s mom was in Travis’ corner, I’d be s—-ing bricks right now. Ronda’s mom is a beast, man. She’s the one that created this monster. Dr. AnnMaria De Mars, not Edmond. To take credit for that is crazy.” This is all happening even before any actual punches had been thrown. Call it personal or bad blood between the two but it was clear leading into the fight that Edmond was going to attempt to enact his revenge on Schaub by living through Browne. When the fight finally took place, Browne won via first round TKO after securing backmount and raining down punches. The most entertaining part of the fight, however, was the corner advice of Browne, particularity the terrible advice shouted out by Edmond. In this case, the reader can be the judge themselves by listening to Edmond as a cornerman below: After listening to that display of fine coaching, how can one not come to the conclusion that he’s nothing more than a cheerleader during fights? Browne, though, had clearly become caught up in the delusion of Edmond being a world class MMA coach, as evidenced by his post-fight comments, “I know how the media likes to twist things, and I’m not knocking Jackson and Winkeljohn because they’re amazing coaches…I’m able to learn from this man, and it’s really made a difference. I look forward to showcasing my skills in my next fight. I did an okay job in this fight, but the next fight is going to be even better.” That fight Browne spoke of was an entertaining, but brutal outing against former roommate, teammate and friend, Andrei Arlovski. Browne debuted an awkward fighting stance and it was a contest where he was clearly out outclassed on the feet en route to a first round TKO loss which knocked him out of title contention. UFC 173: Jake Ellenberger versus Robbie Lawler Ellenberger was one of those fighters who rose quickly through the welterweight ranks. However, coming off a loss to Rory MacDonald, who froze him in place with his jab, he decided to make a permanent camp change to Glendale Fighting Club while departing ties from longtime team Reign and renowned coach Rafael Cordeiro. Ellenberger was an absolute killer from 2010 through 2012, scoring huge knockouts over enduring names like Mike Pyle and Jake Shields and a decision over Diego Sanchez. Against MacDonald and coach Firas Zahabi, however, he seemed paralyzed by the Canadian’s beautiful jab. Unfortunately, things only got worse for “The Juggernaut” in his first fight out of his new gym against Robbie Lawler. This time around, it was as if he had forgotten how to fight completely. Ellenberger LawlerWatching rounds one and two of this match-up, it was clear that Ellenberger’s game plan was to simply stand and trade with Lawler. Something, as a coach I wouldn’t recommend any fighter do for extended periods of time, let alone my worst enemy. Doing so eliminates any chances of exploiting Lawlers weakness in being predominately a counter puncher known for his pure striking ability, power and durability. As an Ellenberger fan, this bout was genuinely sad to watch. As the fight was almost solely a stand-up fight, Lawler dominated Ellenberger from the opening bell before scoring an emphatic TKO due to knees and punches in the third round that Saturday night in Las Vegas. While most fighters will revert back to their basest form when struggling, Ellenberger, a genuinely well-rounded wrestler, only even attempted any takedowns in one of the three rounds. There seemed to be no urgency to get it to the floor and take away Lawler’s weapons. The reasoning behind the madness reared it’s ugly head in between the second and third rounds. Continuing into the third as Edmond implored Ellenberger to “plant his feet and swing” over and over again offering no actual technical advice. It was to the point were Ellenberger tried to turn the fight into a slugfest needing the knockout for a win. Was it a case of to little to late or just bad coaching and game planning? Lawler, knowing what was coming, garnered the knockout by being more technical here and simply negating a one-sided slugfest. Ellenberger planted his feet and began throwing huge hooks looking to finish things, thanks to his corner’s advice, but he, himself got finished as you’d expect when throwing wild punches against Robbie Lawler. Ellenberger not only enlisted Tarverdyan for more work after a TKO loss to Lawler, but went further down the rabbit hole by renting an apartment close to Tarverdyan’s gym in Glendale, California so he could avoid a lengthy commute. Of course, the moment he got finished by Lawler, the immediate assumption was that Tarverdyan’s effect on Ellenberger wasn’t as prolific as he made it out to be. Fighters changing training camps isn’t a new concept in MMA, but when the results don’t follow, coaches and the change of scenery often become the scapegoat. Even after that loss he was stern is declaring “Edmond is one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met.” Ellenberger said in the regards to the Lawler loss that “We didn’t get the result we wanted, but a lot of things were moving in the right direction.” That right direction lead directly into another loss this time at the hands Kelvin Gastelum. Ellenberger most recently was knocked out by Stephen Thompson and has gone 1-3 overall since making the gym transition. UFC 193: Ronda Rousey versus Holly Holm With Ronda Rousey’s first career MMA loss coming at the hands of Holly Holm, there was bound to be some ‘”I told ya so’s” and some finger pointing. Much of the early criticism will be deflected away from Ronda’s performance in favour of the terrible coaching of Edmond – and rightfully so. Many fans pointing to the lack of urgency from Rousey’s cornerman, Tarverdyan, to get the fight to the floor and his description of the first round being absurd. After getting outstruck on her feet in round one, Edmond had this to say this in a nutshell:

“Okay champ, beautiful work..Listen to me: All she wants to do is catch you with that left hand and come on top with the hook.”

Edmond only highlighted what Holm did successfully during the last minute of the first round. However, he offered no technical advice on how to counter it. Instead Rousey was complimented by Tarverdyan for her “beautiful work” in front of a record-setting crowd at Etihad Stadium who had just seen her get lit up on the feet. No worthy advice was passed along to the champion about her flaws in the first frame as she was clearly rocked and bleeding from the mouth. It was a five round fight, but Rousey looked tired already and yet there was no urgency in his advice to get the fight to the canvas which was clearly Rousey’s strong suit and best path to victory. After Holm’s first-round display of powerful counterpunching from the southpaw stance, adjustments needed to be made. It wasn’t as lopsided as many people had perceived, but even UFC commentator and number one Rousey supporter Joe Rogan labelled Tarverdyan’s words of encouragement as “crazy talk.” The corner advice resonated as evidence of terrible coaching on behalf of Edmond, a view widely shared amongst fans on social media after Rousey’s defeat. However, it’s my belief that the terrible coaching that lead to Ronda’s loss to Holm started well before the fight began. Tarverdyan’s coaching ability and overall approach before and after the fight need to be called into question. Like many of Ronda’s fights, the bout was lost before it even started. However, it was Ronda who partially took her eye off the prize. This was also indirectly called into question by Holm’s coach Greg Jackson, who labelled Rousey “predictable” after Saturday’s loss. In addition to being ill-prepared, Rousey appeared out of shape in comparison to her other title defenses. Distractions stemming from impending movie deals, Tarverdyan’s bankruptcy and an unprecedented media tour could have taken their toll, however, it was the questionable gameplan manifested through Edmond that clearly limited Ronda’s chances to win. Kevin Iole, writing for Yahoo Sports, said an inevitable finger-pointing game had begun after Rousey’s sudden and violent loss, but Tarverdyan’s mid-round advice had “zero” to do with the defeat. I disagree. The mid-round advice played up the false confidence that Rousey had reached “elite striker” status. The rhetoric brought forward by Edmond leading into this fight was outlandish, claiming Ronda was knocking down world championship boxers in the gym, having her grace the cover of Ring Magazine, stating she could easily transition to a boxing champion and she could beat a man of equal caliber let alone the constant trolling of Floyd Mayweather. Tarverdyan tried to further the ‘Tyson aura’ of Ronda by giving her a false confidence about her limitless boxing going into the fight, but it backfired. After the loss, he later explained that Rousey simply followed the gameplan set ahead of the fight. He even claimed Holm didn’t get the better of Rousey on the feet. While it wasn’t a completely one-sided first round, it was apparent that Ronda was ill-prepared to fight an elite southpaw striker with the caliber of counterpunching Holm had to offer. As famous boxing trainer Freddie Roach stated afterwards, “it looked like no one ever taught her anything about boxing.” Let’s face it, as important as the matchup between fighters Rousey and Holm was, the subplot of the bout was the coaching battle of Jackson/Winklejohn versus Tarverdyan. It wasn’t the fact alone that Ronda was predictable that played into her loss. She’d been described as one dimensional her entire career. What highlights the terrible game planning of Tarverdyan is the fact that, in his arrogance, he told everyone the plan before the fight started. He essentially laid all his cards face up on the table, touting his ability to predict the fight before the fight even happens:

“Why I had Ronda box from the beginning more instead of kicking was because we know you can box your way into a clinch much easier than kicking your way into a clinch.. We know in boxing, they clinch up also, but nobody is afraid of being taken down. Holly is not gonna try to box with us. Because if Holly is in a boxing distance, then that clinch happens. Holly doesn’t want that to happen. Holly is going to be running. Holly is going to try to keep it at a kicking distance. We’re going to be ready for everything.”

Edmond’s comments leading up the fight didn’t fall upon deaf ears. It was as if he was basking in Rousey’s glory and didn’t care who was listening. Rousey’s gameplan didn’t differ much compared to what he had claimed, which made her all the easier to prepare for. In addition to outlining the entire game plan for Holm before the fight started, he furthered the Tyson aura rhetoric by creating a false sense of security for Ronda. Were Greg Jackson and Coach Mike Winklejohn worried about Ronda’s boxing with Holm being a three-time former boxing champion? Absolutely not.  They probably laughed when Edmond boosted Rousey’s confidence by claiming she would defeat Holm in a straight-up boxing match:

“If the question is, does Ronda need to prove that she’s a boxer? I wish [Holm] does box with us, because Ronda could box. Ronda has knockout punching power in both hands. It doesn’t matter what hand she touches you with — it’s dangerous. She’s proved that with the last fight.”

Jackson, on the other hand, kept essentially quiet in the lead-up of the fight as game planning has proven to be one of the key components to his fighters’ past successes. Holm proceeded to fight perfectly, becoming the first opponent ever to avoid Rousey’s feared clinch attacks and doing a great job of playing matador to Rousey’s rushing bull. Holm’s performance only furthered my belief that Ronda just didn’t just get outclassed by Holm that night. Rather, Edmond Tarverdyan got outcoached terribly and the results speak for themselves. Overall, based on my case study of Tarverdyan’s coaching advice, its evident that I have to agree with Ronda’s mother that he’s a terrible coach. It could only get worse from here as Dr. De Mars claimed:

“I see that with Edmond. People actually do worse (after going to the gym), but he keeps telling them how great they are, how great they are doing, and they stay there. It’s pathetic.”

Written by Betting Bruiser

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