Screams, suicide attempts and locked doors made West Hills Hospital indelible for Silvia Babaeghian. This is what she remembers during her time at this behavioral and mental health hospital.
“I was definitely scared because there were kids that had schizophrenia, you had depressed kids, angry kids, emotionally unstable kids and unfortunately, I fit in right with them at that time,” Babaeghian said.
Fortunately for the 22-year-old, mixed martial arts (MMA) changed her life by teaching her discipline and courage.
“As soon as I started training, I quit all the stuff that I was doing and it was a really great life change for me,” Babaeghian said. “That’s why I love it so much and I feel like I would still be doing drugs and alcohol if I wouldn’t have found MMA.”
The local MMA fighter began training with the Reno Academy of Combat last year and fought her first amateur fight in the 135-pound weight class April 2013.
Even though she dominated most of the fight, her inexperience led her to drop her guard with eight seconds remaining, which allowed her opponent the opportunity for a knockout kick.
Babaeghian’s next fight is today at 7 p.m. at the Reno Events Center and her next opponent is Aspen Ladd, who is undefeated (5-0).
“I’m going to be a lot more centered and in absolute peace,” Babaeghian said. “I’m going to have mental clarity and calmness. I aim to not worry about my opponent, instead I can direct all that energy into how well I know I’m going to do.”
The confidence she expresses today, belies her difficult past.
Babaeghian’s early childhood consisted of never having birthday parties and not celebrating most of the family oriented holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter due to her mother becoming a Jehovah Witness. This translated into rough teenage years because of the disconnect she had with the strict religion, its beliefs and its identity in society.
When she was 14-years-old, she was depressed and made numerous suicidal attempts by trying to overdose with over-the-counter drugs.
“I was having a lot of health problems, so I figured if I took a lot of Tylenol or Advil it would make me die,” Babaeghian said.
Her parents noticed that she looked pale and fatigued. They took her to their family doctor to see if he could figure out what was wrong with her but to no avail.
“I just kind of broke down and told him I was trying to end my life everyday by taking a ton of pills and in that moment right there, I had to go to the hospital so that they could get all that stuff out of my body,” Babaeghian said in a frustrated voice. “And that same night like at four in the morning, that’s when I went into the rehab facility and I remember that day too because it was on Valentines Day.”
During two dark months at the rehab facility, a male employee changed her beliefs in God, which developed a new sense of light in her life.
“He would talk to me about praying and to just be opened minded about the idea of God,” said Babaeghian. “And sure enough, I somehow started to believe in God which was really weird and it was a foreign feeling to me because I grew up a Jehovah Witness and it was such a strict religion for me that learning about God was not fun anymore and I hated going to church. But when I did find him the second time around, I definitely learned that I can have my own beliefs in God.”
More Obstacles Awaited
As time passed, her depression alleviated. Babaeghian, only 19 at the time, seemed to live well until she began abusing drugs and alcohol.
“I started hanging out with the wrong people and people I thought at the time were my friends,” Babaeghian said. “I started going crazy with the drinking, I was smoking a lot of weed, doing a lot of ecstasy but at one point I decided this wasn’t the life for me so I got into MMA.”
With so much uncertainty in her life, a young man who cared about Babaeghian invited her to watch MMA fights in Reno and that night, Babaeghian’s life took a 360-degree turn. Babaeghian was so amazed to see a woman fight, that six days later, she joined an MMA gym in Reno.
Babaeghian is now a supervisor at Discoveries Preschool in Sparks Nevada. Most of the children she oversees attended her first fight alongside their parents to show support.
“MMA has taught me to have more patience because when I go to practice every night and I get punched in the face, I have nothing to be mad about after that,” Babaeghian said chuckling. “So I’m pretty patient with the kids and I always tell them to never give up in life and to follow their dreams.”
Unfortunately, Babaeghian’s mother doesn’t like her “little princess” fighting because of the brutality of the sport, so she vowed never to attend a fight. Babaeghian’s father, Jack Babaeghian, thinks differently about his daughter’s passion.
“I like the idea of it but my wife doesn’t like it and doesn’t like talking about it,” Jack said. “It’s fun to watch and even though my wife won’t go to the fight, we respect our daughter’s decision.”
Babaeghian’s coach Rick Collup said her tenacious attitude and drive to put the work in will take her far in the sport and possibly reach the highest level but it will depend on Babaeghian.
“Rick is not only my coach but my best friend which is perfect because that means I trust him and listen to his advice in and out of the gym,” Babaeghian said. “I had no idea that walking into this gym and finding that coach alongside his family and all the people in there would change my life.”
Babaeghian is inspired by Ronda Rousey, who is the first woman’s UFC MMA fighter and current UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion. She hopes to possibly one day reach that level.
“I’m not trying to make a career out of MMA right now because I do it to impress myself and be proud of myself,” Babaeghian said. “But my brother always tells me to reach for the stars and I believe nothing is impossible, so if I get to the pro level, I would not stop it from happening.”