If all goes according to plan, Andrei "The Pitbull" Arlovski (15-5) might have a new nickname in store come January. How’s "The Emperor Slayer" sound? Now riding a five-fight win streak and set to challenge for the WAMMA title, Arlovski’s career is on the up and up to say the least.
It’s worth noting that Arlovski, once considered fairly unbeatable himself during his reign atop the UFC’s heavyweight division, hasn’t lost to a fighter who wasn’t named "Tim Sylvia" since March 2002. That’s six-and-a-half years and 11 wins over some of the best heavyweights in mixed martial arts, including Fabricio Werdum (11-4-1), Tim Sylvia (24-5) (the first time) Paul Buentello (26-10) and Vladimir Matyushenko (21-3).
Arlovski recently added two more KO’s to his fighter resume, battering "Big" Ben Rothwell (29-6) in the third round at Affliction: "Banned" in July and knocking out Roy "Big Country" Nelson (13-3) in the second round under the EliteXC banner on October 4. The first fight snapped Rothwell’s 13-fight win streak, while the second fight makes Arlovski the only man to ever finish Nelson in his 16-fight career.
He’s now set to face off against the man many claim is unbeatable, Fedor "The Last Emperor" Emelianenko (28-1). The two Sambo Masters of Sport will go head to head at Affliction: "Day of Reckoning" on Saturday, January 24, 2009, at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
The superfight is also expected to feature such stars as Josh Barnett, Vitor Belfort, Matt Lindland, Renato "Babalu" Sobral, Chris Horodecki, Dan Lauzon, Vladimir Matyushenko and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, as well as Ozzy "The Prince of F-n’ Darkness" Osbourne, who will be on hand as the musical guest.
We recently caught up with Arlovski to discuss his upcoming fight with Fedor, how his infamously prolonged UFC contract dispute affected him and if there’s any cultural rivalry between him (a Belorussian) and Fedor (a Russian).
NOTE: If you haven’t already, you might want to check out Arlovski’s Web site, www.arlovski.com. The site is, at least from this writer’s perspective, unlike anything else in the MMA community. More than just a fighter’s personal blog, it’s a full-fledged social networking site that’s translated into 25 different languages and currently sees more traffic than both Randy "The Natural" Couture and Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell’s Web sites. They frequently sponsor a variety of contests and recently flew a contest winner from North Carolina out to Chicago to spend a day with "The Pitbull." Not too shabby. Not too shabby indeed.
Let’s get after it.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): After eight years and 14 fights, what are your feelings on leaving the UFC?
Andrei Arlovski: I was kind of sad when I left the UFC (implying that eight years is a long time), but I then had the opportunity with Affliction, so, so far I am good. Affliction has the best, I would say, 10 best heavyweights. And right now I have the opportunity to fight Fedor on January 24, so all is good.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Was one of the reasons that you had a contract dispute with the UFC their lack of competition in the heavyweight division?
Andrei Arlovski: That too and I have some other reasons.
[Note: To clarify, Arlovski was implying that there were multiple reasons for not being able to come to terms with the UFC. The fact that Affliction was, at the same time, drawing in a lot of top heavyweight talent made the decision to sign with Affliction an attractive option. I do not think that he was trying to imply that the UFC’s heavyweight roster was lacking.]
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): With the way the UFC handled your contract negotiation — with not letting you fight for a year, and then when you finally did, putting you on the undercard against Jake O’Brien, rather than featuring you against a top contender — did you feel that that was disrespectful?
Andrei Arlovski: I don’t think so. It was discussed before I fought at that UFC, and Dana White discussed what’s good for business. It was good for them, so I am (fine). Of course I was kind of disappointed to not fight for months — it was a hard time for me — but otherwise everything was good.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Dana White has said that losing you "hurt" the UFC. He obviously didn’t want you to leave, at least according to that statement. Do you ever think that a return to the UFC could be possible at some point down the road?
Andrei Arlovski: I have a great relationship with the UFC and Dana White and the Fertittas, and he told me, "When you are ready, you are welcome," you know. Maybe one day, I don’t know. (When I left the UFC), everything changed according to this world that I know, and after all the fights … I (still) have a great relationship with the UFC.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): You’ve had two recent fights now outside the UFC, both of them ending in KOs. Are you getting more comfortable outside of the Octagon?
Andrei Arlovski: There’s not really a big difference if I am fighting inside the Octagon or in a ring, because I do all my sparring in a ring, so I’m really comfortable. Some complain about fighting in a cage or in a ring, but there’s not really a difference for me, because I do a lot of sparring for my boxing, and all the time I’m sparring in the ring, so I’m pretty comfortable.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): What’s it like working with Freddie Roach?
Andrei Arlovski: Great. Yes, I see him about three or four times per year. I will spend a few weeks with Freddie Roach (at the Wildcard Boxing Club) in L.A. But I am still training MMA with another great boxing trainer, Mike Garcia in Chicago. They’re both great. They have different (lessons) for me. So the time that I spend training with (Freddie) I learn something, and every single time when I step in the ring and I look out at Mike in Chicago, he teaches me something new.
I think I’m pretty lucky because I have the best trainers in my camp: Dino Costeas, jiu-jitsu, he’s been with me from day one, almost eight years; my wrestling coaches, Sean Bormet and John Kading — Sean Bormet was a wrestling coach for the last Olympic games — Freddie Roach and Mike Garcia. Great trainers.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): It was reported that you were interested in competing in boxing as well as MMA. Has there been any movement there?
Andrei Arlovski: Right now I am focused on the fight on January 24, so we’ll see after that.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): You most recently defeated Roy Nelson via KO. How pleased were you with your performance overall?
Andrei Arlovski: First of all, I don’t like taking fights on short notice — it was short notice, two weeks before the fight. But as far as my game plan, one of my trainers told me, "You have to move a lot in the first round." But actually I didn’t move a lot in the first round. In the second round, I had to use more of my boxing, my wrestling, my jiu-jitsu.
But actually, I wasn’t happy about the fight, I wasn’t happy with my performance, but I got the victory and I knocked him out. I am happy about that. But after the fight, I watched my fight many, many times, and I understood that I have a lot of work, everywhere, but especially wrestling and jiu-jitsu.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): You’re now set to face Fedor Emelianenko — widely considered the best heavyweight on the planet. How do you feel about that?
Andrei Arlovski: Well, I’m very happy that they call him the best fighter on the planet, so it’s good for me. Everybody is, "Oh, Fedor, Fedor." And it’s okay, it’s fine with me. He deserves it. He’s a great fighter who has fought many, many great fighters.
Yeah, it’s great. I think it’s a great opportunity for me. And we’ll find out on January 24 who’s better, the Belarusian or the Russian.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Is there any cultural rivalry that exists since between the two of you, just because he’s Russian, and you’re Belarusian?
Andrei Arlovski: If you do want to be the best fighter, you have to fight the best fighter. We’ll see January 24 who will be the best fighter. It’s a great opportunity for me. I’ve waited for this fight for a long time, so finally I got it.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): He is tremendous on the ground and has extremely dangerous submissions, armbars, etc. Would you prefer to keep this fight standing as long as possible to avoid a submission?
Andrei Arlovski: Yeah, but ground game is not everything. You have to at least (be) a good striker and kickboxer or Muay Thai striker. We’ll see, we’ll see. Of course I have a game plan. I have a lot of input from all my trainers. We’ll see. I spend a lot of time on wrestling and jiu-jitsu. Yeah, I’ll be ready for him.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Since leaving the UFC, you’ve fought twice in three months. Going forward, how many times per year would you like to fight?
Andrei Arlovski: At least three or four. You know, every fighter likes about a month between. Yeah, three or four times I think is very good for me.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well, Andrei, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us and I know that you have a ton of fans who frequent MMAmania.com. Lastly, would you like to thank any sponsors or do you have any parting words for your fans?
Andrei Arlovski: Thanks to MMAmania.com for the interview, and thanks to all my fans for the support. You should check out my Web site, www.arlovski.com.
Special thanks to Keith Gelman, Andrei Arlovski’s marketing agent, for helping to set up this interview.