Andrei Arlovski offered a piece of advice for anyone looking to enter his cage: Beware of dog.
Known as the “Pit Bull,” Arlovski is ready for a war this Saturday night in Las Vegas at the UFC 195 showcase against Stipe Miocic, an opponent he will have to overcome to earn a title shot against UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum.
“Every f------ morning, when I wake up, I remember what I want,” says Arlovski. “I want to be champion again, I have to be champion again, and I remember that every morning.”
The 6’4”, 240-pounder from Belarus currently sits as the second-ranked heavyweight in the world, but needs to overcome Miocic as he attempts to reclaim the title he lost in 2006.
“For me, it’s one step at a time,” says Arlovski. “All my focus is on beating Miocic, and he is no joke. You never underestimate your opponent, and that’s why I have very smart heads in my corner and I am going to follow the game plan.”
Miocic is the third-ranked heavyweight in the world, and the winner of the bout will be in strong position to challenge Werdum.
“You’ll have to ask Dana White about that,” says Arlovski. “But I have a lot of respect for Miocic. He’s a great fighter—he’s tough and there’s no doubt that this is going to be a big test. His last fight against Mark Hunt was a war, and I accept he’s going to give me a hard time. He’s very dangerous.”
Despite extolling all of Miocic’s virtues, Arlovski still believes that, when you tangle with a pit bull, you end up getting bit.
“My punches have gotten longer, I’m moving better, and I promise that I will do everything possible to beat him,” Arlovski says. “Of course I prefer a KO, but it’s most important for me to stick to the game plan, follow the game plan, and get the victory.”
Arlovski was the heavy underdog entering his victories against Antonio Silva and Travis Browne. Despite winning four straight fights, he again finds himself the dark horse (+175, according to Bovada) against Miocic. Despite the outside noise, Arlovski’s focus remains squarely on the cage.
“Five or ten years ago, I used to follow everyone’s negative comments about me,” explains Arlovski. “Now I don’t care. I’m more focused on my workouts and routines. I’ve become smarter, more disciplined and more hungry.”
The seasoned Arlovski (25–10) holds more experience in the cage than Miocic (13–2), as well as a renewed respect for mixed martial arts at the age of 36. Despite not holding the UFC championship belt in a decade, Arlovski has evolved exponentially as a fighter, particularly through his training.
“I train and run harder at 36 than when I was 25,” says Arlovski. “When you’re young, you have a lot of fun with the people around you who kiss your ass. But I know what is important to me. My priorities are my family and my career. As far as the business of MMA, it’s very important to me keep building my own career. I train with great coaches, and that’s why I even brought my boxing coach from Russia with me.
“Five, six years ago, if one of my coaches told me, ‘Do something more,’ I would have said, ‘Go f--- yourself.’ Now I consider myself a smarter man. If someone is trying to help me, I’m going to benefit from listening.”
Arlovski grew up in Eastern Europe, and became a Belarus police officer in 1996. When he enrolled in the police academy, martial arts were a required course.
“I’m 100% in support of the police, and I have a lot of friends in Chicago who are police officers. I’m very happy where I am right now, but I still support police all the time.”
Arlovski now administers a very different kind of law and order in the cage.
“I’m ready to go,” he promises. “I have that f------ fire in my eyes.”
His time as a police officer led to learning the art of sambo and judo, which ultimately brought Arlovski to the UFC. Throughout his career, his most dedicated fan has been his nine-year-old pit bull Maximus, who will not be traveling to Vegas on Saturday.
“Maximus is my gym mate, and he’s with me all the time,” says Arlovski. “He won’t be with me this time, but maybe we’ll bring him in the future.”
The vast majority of heavyweight fighters are unable to kickbox as skillfully as Arlovski, which is an integral component to his violent assault in the cage.
“That’s repetition,” explains Arlovski. ”Repetition every workout with low kicks, high kicks and high-risk kicks.”
Arlovski has tasted victory in his last seven UFC fights, but endured a four-fight post-UFC losing streak from 2009 to 2011 with losses to Fedor Emelianenko, Brett Rogers, Antonio Silva, and Sergei Kharitonov.
“I was so disappointed in myself,” admits Arlovski. “I was depressed, even though they were tough fighters, and especially when I fought Fedor Emelianenko.”
Arlovski fought Emelianenko in 2009 and controlled the opening round. He landed fifteen strikes on Emelianenko, but grew over-aggressive and attempted a flying knee, which Emelianenko countered with an overhand, go-home right hand.
“For three or four minutes, I hurt the f------ guy, but I was an idiot,” says Arlovski. “I jumped with a flying knee and I thought my kick was going to be some type of magic, but it didn’t work. He got me with a right, and it was over. I was so depressed. I was so disappointed, but I consider myself a smarter man after learning from those lessons.”
Arlovski stresses that he will remain disciplined and focused in his journey to reclaim the UFC heavyweight gold. He has also freelanced as an actor, most notably with the Universal Soldier films, but everything outside of fighting is now on hiatus.
“It’s all about my mixed martial arts,” says Arlovski. “I want to be champion again, and I’m going to do everything possible to be champion again. I have a few more years in my career, and I’m ready to go.”
Arlovski would not reveal how he plans to finish Miocic on Saturday, and hinted that viewers may also see his Achilles lock submission maneuver.
“If I follow the game plan against Stipe Miocic,” says Arlovski, “it’s going to be a great night for me.”