Andrei Arlovski last fought in the Octagon in March 2008. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder Andrei Arlovski needs no introduction.
Arlovski ruled the division during what some might call a transitional time in MMA, just before the emergence of alpha predators like Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos and Fabricio Werdum. However, the Belarusian has maintained his status as a household name, as he bounced back from a string of defeats that had many calling for his retirement.
Now 35, Arlovski returns to the Octagon for the first time in more than six years at UFC 174 on Saturday, when he meets “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 finalist Brendan Schaub at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Schaub claimed to be looking forward to testing himself against a fighter as accomplished as Arlovski, who held the UFC’s undisputed heavyweight crown from Aug. 12, 2005 to April 15, 2006.
In this exclusive interview with Sherdog.com, Arlovski discussed some of the topics surrounding his current position in MMA and his return to the UFC, including the work he has put in with the Jackson-Wink MMA camp in Albuquerque, N.M.
ON SCHAUB: “All I can say is that my preparations for this fight went well. I trained hard. My main sparring partners were Ruslan Magomedov and the U.S. national Golden Gloves champion, Jonathan [Hamm]. Jon Jones also promised to come over, so it’s all good. I’m working with Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn, as well as with Ali Bagautinov’s coach. I’m well-aware of Schaub’s jiu-jitsu skills and that he can go for the takedown, but at the same time, I think it’s more of a standup work because he’s also a good striker. I believe he was a state champion in Colorado; he has a strong jab [and a] good cross, so I really have to pay attention and keep my hands up. I’m taking him seriously, yet I know I will win this fight.”
ON HIS FUTURE IN THE UFC: “First things first, I’m standing in line for a big fight. Whether it’s a title fight or just a top-name opponent, I want big fights. Nobody cares about my resume and the fact that some time ago I was the champion. I need to prove myself again and pave my way to the title. [The] UFC has the best heavyweight division in the world of mixed martial arts, and as everyone knows, if you want to be the best, you got to fight the best. There’s now a different landscape in the heavyweight division, so I have to adjust accordingly in order to compete with the best.”
ON PROVING ‘GLASS CHIN’ CRITICS WRONG: “I don’t have to prove anything. I’m fighting for myself, my fans and my family. I think I’m above this whole concept of proving something, especially to all those morons who said ‘Oh, he has a glass chin,’ ‘Andrei Arlovski should retire’ and so on. When I fought Anthony Johnson, some idiot of a referee literally fell asleep on the clock, which cost me a broken jaw in two places. I continued to fight for two rounds. That alone puts me in the position where I don’t have to prove anything. At this stage of my career, I’m fighting for myself and anyone who supports me, win or lose. I want to be a champion again and will work hard to achieve my goals.”
ON HIS LOSS TO FEDOR EMELIANENKO: “I have my own opinion on this fight. I think I just gave him a gift. Everyone knows that flying knees are not in my arsenal, but then I got overconfident and did that stupid flying knee. That was a foolish mistake. I lost a few more fights after facing Emelianenko and found myself on a four-fight losing streak, but I made my conclusions and that’s the end of it. I’m an athlete, and all those defeats, [including] this experience with Fedor Emelianenko, are what made me who I am today.”
ON RUSSIAN FIGHTERS FROM DAGESTAN, CHECHEN REPUBLIC: “They are great fighters. Ali Bagautinov is fighting for the title; Rustam Khabilov just fought Benson Henderson; Ruslan Magomedov won in Berlin; [and] Khabib Nurmagomedov might fight soon for the title. I think it’s in their blood. They are true warriors. It’s very interesting to train and spar with them because those guys have tons of heart. They have a very impressive wrestling tradition, one of the best in the world. I think it was just a matter of time for fighters from Kavkaz republics to make their breakthrough.”
ON MMA IN BELARUS: “To be honest, I’m not interested in Belarusian MMA. I’ve been representing this country for 15 years, and all I got is one ticket to a hockey match. That’s when I realized exactly where I stand. So yeah, it is what it is. The answer to your question is no, I’m not following the MMA scene in Belarus.”
ON NEVER BEING TOO OLD TO FIGHT: “To begin with, 35 years old is a peak age for a heavyweight fighter. As long as I feel that I can work my ass off in the gym, make sacrifices and fight hard, I will not retire. I still have this fire burning inside of me, so I’m not even thinking about retirement. This is a new beginning for me in the UFC, and I will make the most out of it.”