Andrei Arlovski trying to prove himself all over again in second UFC stint
JUN 11, 2014 9:00a ET
Andrei Arlovski is a former UFC heavyweight champion with a glowing record in the organization. He only has one loss in his last eight fights. The phrase "MMA legend" gets tossed around too often these days, but it wouldn't be crazy to put "The Pitbull" in that category.
Arlovski doesn't necessarily agree. And if he did, he won't say it.
When Arlovski makes his return at UFC 174 on Saturday against Brendan Schaub, in his mind it'll be like starting from square one. Schaub is No. 14 in the UFC's official heavyweight rankings. Arlovski doesn't feel like he can be spoken about in the same class.
"I'm probably not top 20, 25," he said Friday at a media brunch before UFC Fight Night in Albuquerque. … "It's a fact. I'm not top 20, probably."
Arlovski's logic is sound. He hasn't fought in the UFC, the pinnacle organization in MMA, since 2008. Despite a 10-4 record in the UFC and going 7-3 (1 NC) since then, Arlovski's level of competition has not been top notch recently, outside of a unanimous decision loss to Anthony Johnson last year in World Series of Fighting.
“I'm probably not top 20, 25. … It's a fact. I'm not top 20, probably.”
He doesn't feel like he should be ranked anywhere at the moment.
"I have to prove it," Arlovski said.
That might seem like a tall order for a 35-year-old. But Arlovski summoned the names Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell, two men who fought into their 40s, as examples of his future plans. He hasn't thought much about the future after Schaub, but this won't be a one-off. You'll see Arlovski fighting after UFC 174, win or lose.
"I'm still young," he said. "I still have a lot of energy inside."
Most importantly, Arlovski has a healthy mindset. Without going into details, Arlovski said he went through "personal problems" following a loss to Fedor Emelianenko at Affliction: Day of Reckoning in 2009. Traning at Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA in Albuquerque has breathed life into his career, Arlovski said, and it probably should have happened before he lost three in a row in Strikeforce.
"If I might train with Greg Jackson right after the Emelienanko fight, it might be a different story right now, but everything happens for a reason, I guess," Arlovski said.
One has to wonder what would have happened if he stayed in the UFC in 2008 instead of bolting to EliteXC after a contract dispute. Arlovski had won five in a row and was very much in the heavyweight title conversation. Then he went and knocked out Roy Nelson in EliteXC.
Arlovski isn't looking in the rear-view mirror, though. He just plans on taking the missteps he has made in the past and learning from them.
"I think I'm a smart person," Arlovski said. "From every life experience, fighting experience, I took the right lessons."
We probably won't see a new Arlovski on Saturday. He's likely to be the same impressive boxer with knockout power and good defensive wrestling. Schaub is obviously a tough foe. But no matter what happens in that bout, Arlovski probably has a place in the UFC's relatively thin heavyweight division. He's determined to prove that all over again.
"I don’t have a plan for the next few months," Arlovski said. "I'm focused right now on my fight with Brendan Schaub. It's up to UFC and other people what's next for me."