ESCANABA, Mich. (WJMN) – A quiet calm, that’s how Josh Parisian describes the feeling of stepping into the Octagon as a present-day gladiator on mixed martial art’s biggest stage.
“I think that has to do with the fight or flight response,” said Parisian. “Like, my body, it wants to not get hurt. Do you know what I mean? It’s trying to tell me, ‘Hey, we shouldn’t do this.’ When flight is no longer on the table, when I only have to fight, then all the nerves go away. Like my body understands, my brain is like ‘Okay, there is no escaping, now we have to fight.”
Fighting wasn’t always a passion for Parisian who grew up in Escanaba. His introduction to the UFC didn’t come until after high school. He first learned about the sport while attending a public speaking course at Bay College.
“A friend, well he’s a friend now, he was sitting next to me, he did his public speaking assignment on mixed martial arts, on the UFC,” said Parisian. “I had never heard of it at that time and I was like wow that’s crazy.”
Parisian’s intrigue only spiked when he found out there was an opportunity to try mixed martial arts first hand.
“I found out he did it at Escanaba High School,” said Parisian. After hours they let him into work with guys and do mits and stuff like that.”
After the first training session, Parisian was hooked.
“I grew up in a very abusive home,” said Parisian. “Very mentally abusive and I didn’t have a lot of confidence. I went up there and it made me feel good about myself.”
Parisian decided he was going to fully commit to the sport. He dropped out of college and moved downstate to begin training.
“I moved downstate to live with my uncle just east of Lansing,” said Parisian. “He gave me a job doing construction and then I drove all the way to Detroit every single day, Romulus actually, to train. I didn’t want to fight I just liked the way it made me feel.”
Parisian trained seven days a week, sharpening his natural gift for combat.
“They were like, you train hard and you’re ready for a fight if you want it,” said Parisian. “So, I took the fight and I won that fight by knockout. I think it just made me feel really good the way everybody was just so happy about it and stuff like that.”
Parisian would go on to win every amateur belt in Michigan, becoming the #1 amateur fighter in the state before becoming a professional.
“I became the number one professional in Michigan and I just kept setting new goals for myself,” said Parisian. “When I started I never was like ‘I’m going be in the UFC.’ I was like ‘I just want to win one fight, that would be crazy.’ Then I won and I was like ‘what if I got a belt?’ then I got a belt. So, my goals have gone up incrementally. Then as I was professional I was winning professional fights. I was like maybe I can go to the UFC.”
Not only did Parisian reach the UFC stage, but he was also able to prove he belonged there, winning his first UFC fight last November.
“My first win under my belt feels amazing,” said Parisian. “I feel like the goal has always been to get to the UFC. Now that I’m there I had to reassess my goals and whatnot. Now I want to be the best in the world. I feel like that wasn’t always my goal. Just get to the UFC because every athlete who is fighting wants to get there and that’s the goal. Once you’re there it’s like ‘okay, what now?’ So, to finally get my first win, it felt like I belonged there. If I went to the UFC and lost all my fights and got cut, I wouldn’t feel as accomplished.”
Despite not living in the U.P. for almost 12 years, Parisian still represents Escanaba every time he walks into the octagon.
“I have a lot of pride from being there,” said Parisian. “I’ve been to a lot of places in the world through fighting, but Escanaba is still my favorite place in the whole world.”
Parisian says he would love to move back to the U.P. after he fights for the final time.
“When I’m done fighting I would love to open up a school there,” said Parisian. “A jujitsu school or maybe a mixed martial arts school or something. I don’t think there is a lot for the younger generation to do and I think that would be huge.”
But until then, Parisian will continue to bring that Yooper toughness to the UFC.
“I love that I’m from Escanaba,” said Parisian. “I love that I’m a Yooper. I think it’s awesome that I’m fighting all these top world champions across the world. They’re very tough guys and I’m fighting to be the baddest man on the planet. I’m trying to win the belt in the UFC. I want that title and it’s just so awesome to me to be from the U.P, from Escanaba and I just think it’s such a cool thing.”