Andrei Arlovski (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)Andrei Arlovski: Worthy UFC Headliner, or Cynical Star-Power Cash-In? Rob Young July 30, 2014 Spotlight Former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski carried the promotion’s heavyweight division nearly on his own at one point back in 2005, picking up the torch from the injured former champ Frank Mir after his motorcycle accident. He filled something of a vacuum in the organization’s talent-starved division that had very few ranked fighters in it compared to Pride. His trilogy with Tim Sylvia was no Gatti/Ward style classic, but he had a marketable look and by the end of his UFC career he had built his brand up quite well on his own, even with many of his wins being over fighters such as Justin Eilers and Marcio Cruz, neither of whom would be considered heavyweight MMA luminaries by any stretch of the imagination. Given the dire state of the UFC’s heavyweight division, Arlovski amassed a certain amount of star power and good will from fans that would stay with him for years to come. Arlovski’s post-UFC career started off very promising. He knocked out IFL standouts Ben Rothwell and Roy Nelson, catapulting him to a second-place ranking within the heavyweight division. It was enough to earn Arlovski a shot at the kingpin of that division and the man widely considered to be the greatest MMA fighter of all time, Fedor Emelianenko. Emelianenko came in fresh off of defeating Arlovski’s UFC nemesis, Tim Sylvia, adding yet another victim to the longest undefeated streak ever in the sport. Promotion for this fight was at a fever pitch, at least if one was to drive around in Los Angeles, where it was difficult to miss the myriad billboards and bus-stop posters featuring Arlovski’s bearded face with his signature fanged mouthpiece. Arlovski’s training with Freddie Roach was a focal point of the narrative leading up to the fight, and for the first few minutes, the hard work with Roach seemed like it was paying dividends, with Arlovski surprisingly picking Fedor apart in the stand-up department. And then, it happened. “Arlovski” was no longer merely this fighter’s last name after that night, it had become a verb. It became a verb for what happens to a fighter that attempts a brazen flying knee, only to be countered by their opponent mid-flight and rendered completely unconscious once they reunite with the canvas. This was the shocking outcome of a fight that was considered to be a competitive match-up at the time. It also marked the beginning of Arlovski’s downward spiral, in which he lost three consecutive fights in Strikeforce and was relegated to smaller regional and international shows. He had earned a reputation by that point for a weak chin, but he still had a fair amount of loyal fans showing up to his Strikeforce fights, as heartbreaking as their outcomes were. Against generally easier competition in the smaller shows, Arlovski has done quite well for himself, winning five of his last six fights and only losing to a resurgent Anthony “Rumble” Johnson under the World Series of Fighting banner. Since the UFC has such an expanded schedule nowadays, we’ve been seeing the promotion bring back fighters many people thought would never set foot in the Octagon again. Going with that trend, the UFc signed Arlovski and set his return against The Ultimate Fighter contestant and Metamoris star Brendan Schaub at UFC 174 in Vancouver. When asked why Arlovski was brought back into the UFC fold, UFC President Dana White was uncharacteristically coy with the media, saying that he had always liked Arlovski and had a good relationship with his management. White more or less left it at that. The fight with Schaub went the distance. It was a largely uneventful affair that the judges awarded to Arlovski via split decision. When Schaub publicly declared that he was robbed of a win, White replied in a post-fight interview that the “fight was horrible. Do you know who lost in that fight? The fans. The fans lost in that fight.” White also lamented his choice to feature the fight on the pay-per-view main card and said that it should have been scheduled for the preliminary portion of the event. During the post-fight press conference, Arlovski cited symptoms of the fabled “Octagon Jitters” for his subpar performance. Nevertheless, Arlovski has been scheduled in a rematch with Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in the main event of UFC Fight Night 51 on Sept. 13. Arlovski’s unanimous decision loss to Bigfoot was in the middle of his aforementioned post-Fedor losing streak, but he took pride in absorbing Silva’s best shots while remaining standing, putting some of the “glass chin” talk to rest. So, is Arlovski a worthy UFC headliner, or a cynical star-power cash-in? Well, that depends on what a worthy UFC headliner is, at least for Fight Night cards. He’s definitely every bit as worthy as Ryan Bader or Ovince St. Preux. At this point in his career, however, it does seem that the UFC more or less picked him up because he’s a warm body that still has something of a loyal fan base after all these years. It also doesn’t hurt when Bruce Buffer can introduce him as the former heavyweight champ. If there’s one thing we as MMA fans should know at this point, it’s that we shouldn’t write Arlovski off completely just yet. We aren’t too far removed from Robbie Lawler dropping a decision to Renato “Babalu” Sobral and from Matt Brown’s losing streak that should have—and almost did—result in him being cut. The late career resurgence seems to be a popular thing in MMA these days.