But for all of Andrei Arlovski's natural ability, there was a period in which the Belarussian's training took a back seat to wine, women, and song--and the promising young fighter was paying the price.
Though his entrance to the UFC ended in an arm-bar submission victory over Aaron Brink at UFC 28, Andrei's love of "the good life" came back to haunt him. Before Arlovski knew it, he was 1-2 in the UFC and had just lost two in a row.
"After my two losses in the UFC, I am more focused on the UFC, I am more focused on my training in Jiu-Jitsu and boxing," Arlovski said in a 2005 interview with Insidefighting.com.
"When I won my first fight in the UFC, I thought I was a strong guy. I was going to the night clubs, having lots of fun."
"But right now," he added, "I work hard. I understand that it's my job, it's my way. I train hard and I am focused on my fights."
Andrei Arlovski now has the wins--and the championship belt--to prove it. He has used his improved skills, via dedication to practicing strikes and submission techniques, to destroy such opponents as Tim Sylvia, Justin Eilers, and fellow Belarussian Vladimir Matyushenko. In fact at UFC 44: Undisputed (09/26/03), Andrei Arlovski defeated Matyushenko by knockout at 2:14 of the first round--making Arlovski the first man ever to knock out the mighty Matyushenko.
Now fighting out of Chicago, IL, Andrei credits much of the success in his (re)dedication and improved fighting techniques to Dino Costeas of POW Mixed Martial Arts, an MMA training facility in the Second City's west-loop neighborhood.
Arlovski often trains as part of a full class. Not only does this speak well of his attitude, it gives him the chance to train and spar with a wide group of individuals, each with different styles. This no doubt teaches Andrei to keep on his toes, and to always expect the possibility of the unexpected.
Arlovski trains three times a day, six days a week. He practices Jiu-Jitsu five days a week, and hones his boxing skills six days every week. Andrei begins each morning by running and lifting weights.
The techniques taught by Costeas are almost all ground-focused; Andrei has gone on record as saying that Dino is "a great specialist in Jiu-Jitsu." Arlovski added to Insidefighting.com that while he may have been a member of the Belarus National Sambo/Judo Team, after meeting Costeas he now feels that "Sambo/Judo is more wrestling for amateurs, whereas Jiu-Jitsu is better for me for my fights."
Even the coordination of Jiu-Jitsu ground warm-ups is made to look and feel something like a fighting motion, be they Bear crawls, Chinese push-ups, or Guard recompose drills. This of course further trains the body to move in accordance with Jiu-Jitsu technique, and better prepares the muscles used for this fighting style than a normal warm-up.
Andrei works leg locks well, and shows a good knowledge of ground technique. Arlovski's training philosophy is not merely to impose a raw strength and will on his opponent, but also to out-think and out-move the other fighter.
Arlovski's attitude is of course taken from trainer Costeas. As Dino told Insidefighting.com, "It's a common misconception in MMA that toughness is enough." He added, "You can put 10 tough guys in a room together to train and...after a year, all you're going to get back is 10 tough guys."
"It takes more than that. It takes a structure and a plan."
Arlovski has indicated that he prefers boxing, but never forgets the importance of his Jiu-Jitsu when fighting an opponent. And unlike many others in the UFC, he now focuses more on simply obtaining victory, whether through a quick knockout or by submission.
Andrei's new focus and dedication extends beyond the gym. Like most of us, Arlovski has a fondness for eating well--but he never lets it get away from him, and follows a strict diet when preparing for a fight. Though Andrei doesn't love dieting, he knows that when he's working to be in the best shape, he sticks to nothing but fish, chicken, vegetable foods, shakes, and juices.
The Andrei Arlovski who's now UFC Heavyweight Champion also knows how important it is to take your opponent seriously. "The first time when I thought my opponent was not strong he kicked my ass. I think every fighter in the UFC heavyweight division is very dangerous," he's been quoted as saying.
With Costeas, Arlovski seems to have grown up and found himself as a fighter.
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