More than just another fighter training center, at a time when one seems to be springing up on every other corner, the Glendale Fighting Club has transcended that status and become a hub of activity and a touchstone of significance in the fighting scene, both near and far.
The modest yet sparklingly clean and well-outfitted corner shop situated among rows of car dealerships on Brand Blvd. serves as the base of operations for two longtime friends, Edmond Tarverdyan and George Bastrmajyan, who together comprise one of the fastest rising grass-roots enterprises in training, management and promotions in the current landscape of combat sports.
"I really don't have to go after fighters, people just come to us now," says Bastrmajyan, who co-founded Lights Out Promotions with Tarverdyan in 2004. "Everything's coming together. Right now, the sky is the limit."
For GFC proprietor Tarverdyan, a highly respected and sought-after trainer in boxing and striking technique with a client list that includes established, as well as, up-and-coming names in boxing and mixed martial arts, and his partner Bastrmajyan, who manages and coordinates promotions for much of the same talent, success didn't come overnight.
At the ripe old age of 29, Tarverdyan has been studying martial arts since he was 7 and has been training others for more than half of his life. He's also basking in retirement from a professional Muay Thai kickboxing career that netted him a slew of world title belts.
His journey began in his hometown of Kirovakan, Armenia, where he first began to study karate and boxing with his brother Raymond and his uncle Zhorzik.
"In Armenia, martial arts was so popular because of Bruce Lee," Tarverdyan says. "Everybody either did karate or anything like that."
By 8, Tarverdyan had arrived in Glendale with his family and by his teenage years was working with renowned amateur trainer Ken Harutyunyan.
"Any stand-up fighting, we did pretty much everything," Tarverdyan said. "When I was 16, I wanted to get more serious, into something where there was a professional league and there was nothing except Muay Thai.
"The good thing about our gyms is that we always had the martial arts programs and boxing, as well, so we always did both. No ground fighting because UFC back then wasn't that big and we never thought it would be that big."
While Tarverdyan claims to never have seen the explosion of MMA coming, his expertise honed in various fighting styles from boxing to karate to sanshou to tae kwon do and Muay Thai over a fighting career that traversed the globe laid the groundwork for the interdisciplinary proficiency that makes him such a valuable trainer in boxing and MMA today.
In 1998, Harutyunyan passed on to Tarverdyan the day-to-day operations of his gym on the corner of Maple Street and Glendale Avenue and Tarverdyan's teaching career began to flourish alongside his career as a competitor.
"I had to change everything around under my brother's name because I [couldn't] own a business legally when I was 16." says Tarverdyan, a former World Boxing Council Muay Thai champion. "It was cool. I started working with the kids and training myself, competing. All of a sudden, I got like 40-50 kids within a month and I had to do more classes."
Bastrmajyan's life became interwoven with martial arts in the wake of the murder of his best friend when he was 17.
"I honestly didn't know what to do, I was confused," Bastrmajyan, 31, says. "I was with my friend all the time."
Looking to fill the void in his life, Bastrmajyan got into Muay Thai with the help and training of a friend and began to notice Tarverdyan's name and picture in fight posters and publications.
When he eventually needed a new place to train in 1999, he sought out Tarverdyan at his gym on Maple, which had since expanded to include the neighboring space.
"Actually it was called Ed's Karate," Bastrmajyan says. "The sign was so small, he couldn't fit anything else on there."
The two hit it off and formed a tight relationship, with Tarverdyan guiding Bastrmajyan through his own career from local smoker shows to his pro debut, and Bastrmajyan becoming a right-hand man in the gym's operations.
Not long after, Bastrmajyan spent a month in Thailand studying Muay Thai at its point of origin. He brought back some established fighters to work with Tarverdyan and so started the duo's handling of pro fighters as a team.