Vadim Finkelstein made an offer; Andrei Arlovski refused.
It was 2005, the time of Arlovski's reign as UFC heavyweight champion. His talent and ambition had brought him Stateside in April of 2000 after capturing the European crown of Finkelstein's promotion, M-1 Mix Fight, earlier that year. His UFC 28 debut was a success, announcing his presence in the then-struggling company with a submission victory over Aaron Brink.
Arlovski slowly worked his way to the top of the UFC's heavyweight division, persisting through setbacks at UFC 32 and 36 to wrest the interim, and later official, title away from Tim Sylvia at UFC 51. He was living his American dream.
Then, his old boss came calling.
"Vadim contacted me and said, 'I want you to be a member of my team; train with Fedor [Emelianenko],'" Arlovski told MMAWeekly.com in an exclusive video interview.
Back in 2000, he was still green as a fighter, and Emelianenko was unknown to him. Five years later, he was well acquainted with the Russian's talents, as was the rest of the MMA world.
There were rumblings of the UFC trying to acquire Emelianenko in 2005 for a mega-fight -- proof that the free agency mania surrounding him existed long before post-Bodog and Pride days -- which Arlovski took with a grain of salt.
The way he saw it, there was no reason to join Emelianenko's camp. He was at the peak of his career, and wanted to do things his way.
"I said, 'First of all, I have a lot of ambitions, and maybe one day I will fight Fedor and I don't want to be his shadow,' (like) most guys in his heavyweight camp," he continued. "I said, 'no thank you.'"
Just like that, Arlovski went his way, and Emelianenko went his.
In 2006, Arlovski lost his title, and a little bit of his luster, at UFC 59 in a rematch with nemesis Sylvia; he failed to regain it in their rubber match at UFC 61. He rebounded with three solid wins against Marcio Cruz, Fabricio Werdum and Jake O'Brien, but by then, the UFC heavyweight picture had changed dramatically. Unhappy with the numbers in a new contract offering, Arlovski left the organization on cordial terms in June.
"I took a lesson from those fights," he said. "I choose fighting. I change all my life."
Emelianenko continued to dominate his opponents, though many were ill-suited to face him. Affliction scooped up the heavyweight in Spring 2008 after negotiations with the UFC broke down yet another time. His 36-second victory over Sylvia at Affliction's "Banned" did much to resurrect his myth as an unbeatable fighter.
In the end, Arlovski's prediction came true. After initially being scheduled to face top ranked heavyweight Josh Barnett on Oct. 11, Affliction's next show, "Day of Reckoning," was moved to Jan. 24, with Emelianenko taking Barnett's place.
Needless to say, Arlovski is happy with his decision.
"If I try to do something, I try to do the best, and I'm a grown man and I have my vision of life and my personal ambitions," Arlovski said. "I don't want to be (the) shadow of somebody. I don't want to do what somebody wants that I do. I want to do what I want, and that's exactly what I'm doing now."
The Belarusian heavyweight is currently in Los Angeles for a three-week camp with renowned boxing coach Freddie Roach. The two have been working together on and off for seven years, and share a mutual affection. On Christmas, they will log two training sessions. UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva will drop in for some sparring.
Arlovski feels the timing of the Emelianenko fight is right, particularly after Emelianenko's loss last month at the World Sambo Championships. Nothing will be left to chance.
"After his loss in the Sambo tournament, I think he's messed up a little bit," Arlovski said. "He says it's not important, but c'mon, let's be serious. He was unbeatable, like, five years, six years in Sambo, and he's not beatable in MMA. When you lose something, of course it's important. For me, it's really hard to believe that he doesn't care about it. Of course he cares. He's not like 100 percent sure of himself."
That said, he is banking on the hardest fight of his life, one eight years in the making.
"If I think I can beat him because he lost his Sambo, I would be a stupid person," he said. "I want to beat him because of my hard work.
"I have a great opportunity to change everything."