Andrei Arlovski, despite being a 6-foot-4, 240-pound wrecking machine, is known to be a spirited jokester within the walls of the Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Whether it’s pulling faces behind other fighter’s backs during interviews or front kicking flyweight teammate John Dodson all the way across the team’s training cage – Arlovski rarely leaves an opportunity to stage a prank unused.
Up high in the Panorama room of Rotterdam’s Mainport Hotel, though, at Friday’s media day promoting the city’s first ever UFC show on Sunday night, the former heavyweight champion was in no mood to joke around.
“It’s straight business for me here,” Arlovski said, his face showing no hints whatsoever that he might be lying about his motivation to cross the pond and compete in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs. Arlovski.
Being swarmed by reporters as he was asked the same questions over and over while having camera flashes glaring into his eyes every few seconds, Arlovski seemed like the walk to the cage can’t come soon enough.
It’s business indeed for him, but business comes with a strange touch this time around. Arlovski and his opponent, former K-1 and Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem, have both been preparing for their fights at Jackson-Winkeljohn for years.
For their next fight, though, they had to split the facility because they’ll be up against each other. Arlovski says fighting Overeem isn’t bothering him because they’re not friends, yet he’s convinced that Overeem asked the UFC to make this fight happen, going as far as saying that the Dutchman has been “begging” the powers that be to make his wish come true.
Needless to say, that has rubbed Arlovski the wrong way.
“It’s what I have heard, people were saying it. I think it’s 99.9 percent true.”
Fight Night Rotterdam prefight videos to watch: Overeem vs Arlovski Unstoppable preview | Must-see KO: Struve takes down Morecraft | Free fight: Arlovski vs Ian Freeman | Free fight: Overeem vs. Brock Lesnar | Great submission! Nelson chokes out Thatch
Twenty minutes later, sitting on the same chair that Arlovski had just been enduring his questioning on and with just as many reporters gathering around him, Overeem brought up his side of the story.
“The Reem” stated that the UFC had offered him to headline in Rotterdam against Arlovski because no other opponent was available for the May 8 card. No controversy at all. No ill will, no emotions. Just straight business.
Business, though, comes with a different touch than normal for him as well. Overeem, too, couldn’t resist firing at least a few shots in the direction of his teammate turned opponent when asked if it’s bothering him that his own coaches will be cornering against him on Sunday night.
“Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn are with him because he needs to be cornered,” Overeem said. “I have lots of coaches all around the world; he only has Greg and Mike to corner him, and so they had to do it.”
To Arlovski, that’s not accurate. In his mind, Overeem is trying to make a bad situation look better by denying a simple truth that Arlovski is the number one priority in the gym, leaving Overeem no choice but to search for fight night support elsewhere.
“All (the) first coaches in the team are in my corner, so I’m good. I’m in great hands. I wanted to be cornered by them, so I will be cornered by them. I’m not going to change anything (for him).”
Not for a guy that he doesn’t have any connection with whatsoever.
“No friendship, not any relationship.”
But what about after the fight? History has shown that even with the fiercest feuds, two rivals often discover newfound respect for each other after getting locked into the cage together.
That seems to be Alistair Overeem’s mindset, who recently told UFC.com that he’d be up for “a cup of coffee” with Arlovski after they get done with business at the Rotterdam Ahoy.
“The Pit Bull,” however, isn’t keen on warming up to a guy he doesn’t have any emotion towards but that he keeps getting asked about anyway.
“No, no,” insisted Arlovski when asked about the coffee offer. “I’m not going to be friends with him, for sure. From my side, nothing is going to change.”
What he does hope will change after Sunday night, though, is his position in the UFC’s heavyweight rankings. After winning four straight bouts since his return to the Octagon in 2014, Arlovski stumbled right when he was about to hit the big time again, getting knocked out by Stipe Miocic in January at UFC 195. Miocic will fight for the title six days after UFC Rotterdam.
For Arlovski, the road to redeem himself will begin on May 8. And given that Overeem himself is within reach of a title shot, a win over him could catapult Arlovski right back to where he was before he ran into Miocic.
That’s not what’s on his mind with just a mere 48 hours to go before facing the stiff challenge that might get him there.
“I have to win first. I have a very dangerous opponent and what’s going to happen after that is totally up to the UFC.”
Arlovski wants to focus on what he can control, and while matchmaking decisions don’t fall into that category, fighting to the best of his ability does. Even though making sure not to train with Overeem in Albuquerque, Arlovski knows exactly what he’s about to be tasked with once the Octagon doors close this weekend.
“He’s got great boxing and kickboxing skills, he’s a great striker, and he’s got very dangerous kicks, knees, elbows. I just have to be ready for anything. I’m ready for 25 minutes.”
At 37 years of age, Andrei Arlovski is ready to make another run for the title he held when every other fighter on the card had yet to make his Octagon debut. Even if it doesn’t work out this time, he’s sure he’ll get there eventually.
“It is definitely not going to be the last chance, but I promise I will do everything possible to be victorious.”