Former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski, finds himself in a peculiar situation tonight when he locks horns with the undefeated Jake O'Brien at UFC 82: "Pride of a Champion."
"The Pitbull" -- one of the organization's biggest stars -- is competing on the untelevised preliminary card. It's a big step down for a man who has seemingly done nothing wrong inside the Octagon sans a few "dull" performances.
That's perhaps more than likely not the primary reason, however, Arlovski will not be featured on the pay-per-view (PPV) live this evening. It's what's going on outside the Octagon that has everyone abuzz.
He's got one fight remaining on his current UFC deal and there's talk that he was forced to "sit on the bench" until an extension was struck. In fact, Arlovksi has not fought in almost one year ... and he's been perfectly healthy.
We caught up with Andrei and discussed his fight later on tonight, the contract situation and his plans going forward. He was tight-lipped for much of the interview, but that can be attributed in part to the sensitivity of his future talks with the Zuffa brass about a new deal after the O'Brien fight.
Here it is:
MMAmania.com: Andrei, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule. We know that you've got a lot going on this weekend with your return to the Octagon against Jake O'Brien. So let's start with that. What do you think of O'Brien?
Andrei Arlovski: Jake O'Brien is a very good, well-rounded fighter. I look forward to test my skills against him.
MMAmania.com: What have you done to prepare for him? Please explain a little bit about your training and training camp.
Andrei Arlovski: My training and my training camp was the same as always.
MMAmania.com: Because you are such a fan favorite and have been with the organization for so long, what were your thoughts and feelings when you found out that you would be fighting on the undercard? It seems like a lack of respect for one of the organization's top consistent draws for the past few years.
Andrei Arlovski: My job is to fight. It is UFC's job to promote and it's up to them where they put my fight. I am a fighter, not a promoter.
MMAmania.com: Is there any added pressure to finish this fight fight convincingly to prove that you are worth your asking price in future negotiantions?
Andrei Arlovski: What asking price? As far as I know, I haven't asked for any money.
MMAmania.com: Okay ... so then what is the gameplan, especially if he intends to grind out a boring decision. Is this a fight in which we will see the Pitbull throw caution to the wind?
Andrei Arlovski: As always, I have a gameplan. I will try and execute and do everything I can to win the fight.
MMAmania.com: You haven't fought since the Fabricio Werdum bout back in April 2007. Ring rust -- will it play a factor?
Andrei Arlovski: I was not just sitting around for the last 10 months.
MMAmania.com: What is your current contract status with the UFC? Has anything changed since we previously spoke?
Andrei Arlovski: The contract situation is between myself and the UFC. It would be unprofessional and unethical to discuss it at this time.
MMAmania.com: It's safe to say that several of the top heavyweights are now competing outside the Octagon. Do you want to be back in the UFC, why or why not?
Andrei Arlovski: I have been a UFC fighter for over seven years and I do not have any other plans at this point in time. I am concentrating on my fight for Saturday.
MMAmania.com: If you do re-sign, and you defeat O'Brien, do you feel you deserve the title shot that was promised to you in 2007 but never honored?
Andrei Arlovski: At the end of the day it is not my decision who gets the title fight. I am a contender and will wait in line like everyone else.
MMAmania.com: Who do you see winning the heavyweight bout between Cheick Kongo and Heath Herring Herring at UFC 82?
Andrei Arlovski: I wish them both the best of luck but I do not like to make predictions.
MMAmania.com: Who are some of the fighters who allegedly refused to take a fight with you before O'Brien, can you name names?
Andrei Arlovski: I am not in a position to discuss privileged information. This question should be directed to Dana White.
MMAmania.com: Who are some of the fighters (besides Sylvia) who you want to challenge in your next few fights?
Andrei Arlovski: Never in the past have I picked my opponents. The promoter has always picked them. I just want to be able to fight the best guys out there and test my skills against the best competition.
MMAmania.com: Thanks, Andrei. We know you're pressed for time. Good luck against O'Brien and with everything else going forward. Are there any sponsors you like to plug before we wrap this up?
Andrei Arlovski: Yes, thank you. I have two new sponsors, Trendkilla.com and cafepress.com/arlovski. I would like to thank the rest of my sponsors, Dreamsoft, Prestige Auto Gallery and Geneva Seal for their continued support.
MMAmania.com: Sounds great. And how about a final message for your fans before the fight?