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Andrei Arlovski began lifting weights so bullies would stop beating him up—now he may be the toughest man in the world

Beware of the Pitbull: Andrei Arlovski began lifting weights so bullies would stop beating him up—now he may be the toughest man in the world

Terry Goodlad

The Octagon sits ominously silent, awash with high-intensity light as it soullessly awaits its warriors to bring it to life. This steel-mesh eight-sided cage exists solely for the purpose of containing two men locked in hand-to-hand combat. Armed with nothing more than physical skill and using their limbs and joints as weapons, they possess a mindset few in life will ever attain or begin to understand.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is competition in its most raw and absolute form; it’s the Super Bowl of mixed martial arts competition. Only the best in the world come here to be tested. They risk grievous bodily harm and, to them, worse yet, the loss of dignity and respect that comes with being physically dominated by another man.

Suddenly, the noise level from thousands of bloodthirsty voyeuristic fans becomes deafening as the first fighter comes into view and makes his way toward the Octagon. This is the challenger and he is the first to enter the cage. As he nervously moves about the space that will soon become a battle zone, the crowd becomes even more inflamed, their pounding and deafening beat heralding the champion’s entrance. It’s a deadly symphony luring him toward his prey, the waiting challenger. The tension becomes unbearable. In this world where words mean little and men are measured only by their actions, introductions are made, but pleasantries are dispensed with and the deadly dance begins.

It was in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on June 4, 2005, and just over four minutes into the first round, without what seemed like much exchange, Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski had won a technical knockout over challenger Justin Eilers. Arlovski appeared untouched, while Eilers had reportedly suffered two broken hands, a broken foot, a broken nose and a knee injury that made it impossible for him to continue the fight.

It was a rout like every other fight Arlovski has had in the past two years, and the only challenger he has not had the chance to steamroller is the injured-yet-reigning heavyweight champion Frank Mir. When Mir was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident last year, Arlovski was named interim heavyweight champion. Mir is expected to return to defend his title later this year. (A bout between the two tentatively scheduled for October 1 was in doubt at press time.)

When the two men do meet, speculation as to who is the best heavyweight UFC fighter in the world will come to an end. Many believe that Arlovski is improving and maturing as a fighter at a rate that will make him unbeatable by the time he meets Mir in the Octagon.

By all accounts, Arlovski is a beast, perhaps stereotyped by those on the outside as a remorseless sadistic animal who finds joy in maiming others and is disturbed only by being unable to actually dismember his opponents during a fight. Not true. Arlovski is an athlete, a martial artist and a guy who has a sense of humor as engaging as his skills in the Octagon.

The UFC promotes mixed martial arts fights that are properly sanctioned and have rules to protect the fighters, as in boxing or other organized legitimate pugilistic sports. Unlike boxing, UFC fighters not only use their fists, but they can use feet, knees, elbows and, of course, submission holds to best an opponent.

Yes, there are dangers, and aggression is an important key to winning, but fighters such as Arlovski match their diverse skills, gleaned from a variety of martial arts disciplines, as well as boxing, against those of other fighters. It’s not like a barroom brawl or a toughest-man-in-town contest where the only goal is to win by ruthlessly injuring someone.

These are some of the best martial artists in the world and, although injuries occur in any full contact sport, ruthless beatings to the point where a fighter cannot defend himself are not allowed and will be stopped by the referee. It’s about measuring skill, endurance and heart against that of another fighter, and Arlovski has been measured as one of the best on the planet, a fact that would seem absolutely ridiculous to him and everyone in his world as little as 12 years ago.

Arlovski grew up in Minsk, Belarus, and when he was younger, bullies often picked on him and beat him up. In 1994, when he was 14 years old, he finally had enough and started lifting weights to put on muscle and, he hoped, to help him deal with bullies. It would eventually help him do much more than that.

When he was 16, he joined the police academy with plans of becoming a policeman. As part of his training, he learned and started competing in a Russian style of submission wrestling called Sambo. Arlovski had found his niche and, since his two years of weight training gave him a huge advantage over his opponents, he became harder and harder to beat.

In 1999, at age 19, he became the Sambo world champion and, shortly afterward, began fighting in mixed martial arts events. In 2000, he became European Champion and caught the eye of UFC talent recruiters. In November 2000, he made his UFC debut, defeating his opponent with an armbar submission less than one minute into the fight.

Arlovski has lost only three fights in his mixed martial arts career and, given the rate at which he is improving and by virtue of defeating every challenger who has come his way since March 2002, experts predict he may be unstoppable for a long time to come.

Outside of the Octagon, Arlovski is no different than any other single 26-year-old red-blooded male living in America. He loves the ladies and the ladies love him, but when it’s time to go to work, there are few who train as hard as he does. In 2000, he moved from his hometown of Minsk to Chicago, so there would be fewer distractions (girls and parties) to get in the way of the work he had to do to reach his dream of being the best.

His training schedule–three separate sessions per day, totaling about seven hours, six days per week–leaves little time for playing the field. Each training day consists of two to two-and-a-half hours of boxing, one-and-a-half hours of jujitsu, one hour of Muay Thai kickboxing, 40 to 50 minutes of running and one to one-and-a-half hours of weight training. He manages to get in four meals per day, as well as protein shakes between training sessions for an average of six servings of protein.

Bodybuilding is as important to Arlovski’s success as a fighter as any other aspect of his training, because power and strength are vital to be able to strike and grapple effectively to overpower an opponent. Four weeks before a fight, he stops weight training to avoid injuries and focus on flexibility and speed, but outside of that, bodybuilding is a constant in his life, and he believes it’s a necessary part of being the best.

Arlovski has developed most of his weight training and nutrition program from what he has read in bodybuilding magazines, and he has been inspired by Ronnie Coleman, Lee Haney, Dorian Yates and others. But his favorite bodybuilder is Milos Sarcev.

In Minsk, Sarcev is a legend and everyone’s favorite bodybuilder. In June, FLEX flew Sarcev to Chicago to meet and train with Arlovski. Sarcev, a UFC follower, is as much a fan of Arlovski as Arlovski is of him. Thus, after the introductions and some tough sets in the gym, there was plenty of clowning around as well as exchanges of mutual admiration.

The Arlovski who jokingly interacted with Sarcev appeared in sharp contrast to the overwhelming and seemingly vicious Arlovski who handily dispatched Eilers a week earlier in Atlantic City.

It wasn’t. Arlovski is simply a normal young man with an exceptional talent and work ethic, as well as an exceptional mindset that has made him the best in the world at what he does. He began lifting weights so the bullies would stop beating him up–now he may be the toughest man in the world.

MAKE A DATE: Andrei Arlovski will be fighting on October 1 at UFC 55 in Las Vegas. The event is a PPV special. Check local listings for details.

ARTICLE AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY TERRY GOODLAD

ANDREI ARLOVSKI’S WEIGHT-TRAINING PROGRAM

EXERCISE SETS REPS

DAY 1: ARMS

Barbell curls 4 10

Dumbbell curls 4 10

Dumbbell wrist curls 4 10

Lying triceps extensions 4 10

Dumbbell triceps extensions 4 10

DAY 2: LEGS

Squats 4 10

Lunges 4 10

Leg presses 4 10

DAY 3: CHEST AND BACK

Flat bench presses 4 10

Incline dumbbell presses 4 10

Dumbbell pullovers 4 10

Dumbbell flyes 4 10

Deadlifts 4 10

Barbell rows 4 10

DAY 4: SHOULDERS

Barbell presses 4 10

Dumbbell presses 4 10

Side lateral raises 4 10

NOTES: Arlovski trains abs every day with a variety of four to six

exercises to failure. He also trains two or three days per week with a

unique resistance tool called the Clubbell (it resembles a short thick

bat), using it to perform a variety of exercises specific to

strengthening his muscles for fighting. The Clubbell training system was

designed specifically for fighters by USA National Sambo coach Scott

Sonnon.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Weider Publications

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group