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Interview: Back in the Spotlight, Andrei Arlovski Won’t Stop Until He’s Champion Again

(“It’s a trap when you’re on top of the world. When I was champion, I had people who would go out with me every day of the week. After I had two, three losses, people disappeared.” / Photo via Sherdog)

By Brian J. D’Souza

This Saturday, former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski will make his third appearance under the World Series of Fighting banner when he faces off against briefly-retired UFC/Strikeforce veteran Mike Kyle in the main event of WSOF 5. Arlovski is actually coming in as an injury replacement for Anthony Johnson — the man who broke his jaw (and his four-fight win streak) at WSOF 2 in March.

As he prepares to bounce back into the win column, the Pitbull took some time to speak with us about this weekend’s fight, as well as the highs and lows of a memorable career. Enjoy… What do you think about Mike Kyle as an opponent?
Andrei Arlovski: He’s very quick. Has quick hands. Very quick jab, good right hand. I just have to be ready for his speed. That’s why I train a lot right now with Jon Jones — he’s my main sparring partner. We try to help each other. He’s a hard worker, he’s a good striker, so it’s good to work with him.

CP: Your last fight against Anthony Johnson was a painful one.
AA: Yes, my jaw was broken in the fight. The referee didn’t watch the time [letting the fight continue eight seconds past the five-minute first round] and Johnson broke my jaw in two places. Every punch in my face after that gave me that feeling of putting electricity in my body. Of course, I’m not happy that I lost, but I’m very happy that I shut all the fucking mouths who said I have a weak chin. I was able to fight two more rounds with a broken jaw.

CP: How big of a problem is bad officiating, bad time-keeping, and bad refereeing in MMA?
To be honest with you, I can’t make any comments right now. Maybe later. I’m sorry. I just hope this time, the referee is going to be more professional.

CP: You’ve made an impressive career comeback after losing four straight fights in 2009-2011. How tough was that losing streak for you mentally?
 It was really tough mentally, it was really tough physically. I was asking myself, “What’s wrong? Every time, I do everything right.” I train right, I was on a schedule. You know what my old trainer told me? He said “You need to retire.”

I just gave a call to Greg Jackson, I said “Listen, should I retire or not?” He said, “Absolutely not! Just come to my camp and we’ll start over again.” Greg Jackson supported me a lot, he gave me hope.

I told [Greg] face to face, “I don’t need any favors from you. Do you think I can be champion again?” He said, “Yes.” “Do you think I have potential?” he said, “Yes.” And hearing that was enough for me.

Now I train with Greg Jackson. I have a couple more guys in Chicago, Dino Costeas, he has been my jiu-jitsu trainer from day one.

CP: You worked with Freddie Roach before facing Fedor Emelianenko. Shogun Rua recently worked with Freddie Roach and lost to Chael Sonnen. Do you think Shogun made a mistake, or do you think Roach helped him fine-tune his boxing game?
I definitely learned something from Freddie Roach, training boxing. When I used to train with Freddie Roach, that hurt my relationship with my other trainers. It didn’t really work well for me. I don’t know, it was some experience, and that’s it.

CP: In Belarus, what were some of the problems you experienced growing up?
AA: I didn’t have many problems, except all the kids, all the time bullied me. Because I was a bigger boy, I was bullied. Later, I fought with everyone, all the time, everywhere. At age 16, I went to boys academy, about that time, I started training in Sambo, and became world champion in Sambo, it kind of gave me a way to follow MMA to UFC. Everything happens for a reason.

CP: At one time, you pursued a career in law enforcement. Why did you keep coming back to MMA?
AA: I train hard, I like to fight and more important — I haven’t yet reached my goal. I want to be champion again, and I don’t think it’s impossible to reach my goal.

CP: What’s next after Mike Kyle?
AA: I have no idea. I think back in the day, I was supposed to fight Mike Kyle in the UFC, but it didn’t happen. I just have to beat him.

CP: Wes Sims recently told Jack Brown, “Unfortunately, the fighting life isn’t for everyone. Many people see it as something glamorous, but the truth is that while struggling to make it to the next level, you are literally a day or two away from losing your house.” Is it tough to find stability in a sport with so many extremes?
Definitely, it’s a trap when you’re on top of the world. When I was champion in the UFC, I had a good paycheck. I had people who would go out with me Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday — every day of the week. After I had two, three losses, those people disappeared. I have a few guys around me who have been around me through all my victories and all my losses, I consider them my true friends.

CP: With hindsight, would you have let the same people into your entourage?
To be honest with you, I don’t know how to answer. Definitely, I’m not going to bring again, like, 40 people to Affliction and the UFC shows. Just a few people — coaches and my wife, that’s it.

CP: Tell me a little more about your relationship with Jon Jones. Is he a nice guy?
My personality is kind of weird. I need to take some time to get closer to people. But he’s an essentially nice person.

CP: Do you ever give him advice, considering that you’ve been in sport much longer than he has?
I don’t like to give advice because you have to be responsible for the results. For somebody, it’s going to work, for someone [else], it’s not going to work. To each, his own.

CP: Have you thought about another fight against Tim Sylvia? [Arlovski went 1-2 against Sylvia in the UFC and had a no-contest against Sylvia in August 2012 at ONE FC].
I don’t know if someone is going to be interested in putting on a match between us again. If some fans want to see Arlovski against Sylvia, maybe, I don’t know. I am not really interested in having a rematch with Tim at this time.

CP: Any other final words for our readers?
Thank you to all my fans who have been with me through all my victories and losses and I’ll be back on September 14. See you soon.


Brian J. D’Souza is the author of the recently published book Pound for Pound: The Modern Gladiators of Mixed Martial Arts. You can check out an excerpt right here.

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