LAS VEGAS – There have been a few moments in Andrei Arlovski’s career that he’s had to endure calls from critics that it’s time to hang up the gloves.
In fact, the most recent time wasn’t that far back, when the former UFC heavyweight champion was in a rough stretch of nine losses in 12 fights. But since a 29-second KO loss to Jairzinho Rozenstruik in late 2019, Arlovski mostly has been on a tear.
These days, the 43-year-old has four straight wins and victories in six of his past seven during the pandemic era, all by decision. After a split call over Jake Collier (13-7 MMA, 5-6 UFC) in the UFC on ESPN 35 co-main event Saturday, Arlovski (34-20 MMA, 23-14 UFC) finds himself in legitimate title contention, which may have seemed unthinkable just a few years ago.
Saturday’s win tied Arlovski for the most victories in UFC history. But when Collier got a 30-27 scorecard, Arlovski had a panicked moment while Bruce Buffer was reading the scores.
“It means a lot, but I was scared, and my coaches were scared (that I wouldn’t get the decision),” Arlovski said in his post-fight news conference. “I mentioned in an interview before (the fight) that I had to stick with the game plan, and I didn’t stick with the game plan, even like 99 percent. I’m super upset, and I was really worried when the first judge gave three rounds to Jake.”
Arlovski said he hopes to improve his wrestling in the near future, then implement that better his next fight.
He appears to be cognizant that at 43, the clock’s ticking on his opportunity to fight for the UFC title he most recently held 16 years ago.
“I have great coaches … I just have to put everything together,” Arlovski said. “I just have a small window, some small period of time. C’mon, guys: Be serious. Do what you have to do.”