As Andrei Arlovski prepared to fight Tim Sylvia for in August, he was blunt in his feelings for his longtime enemy, which had only intensified with the passing of time.
"He is a dick," he told MMA Fighting just days before the fight. "Normally I respect my opponents, but I do not respect him."
Arlovski went so far as to say that he was looking forward to kicking Sylvia in the head, which is exactly what happened in their OneFC match. Unfortunately for him, the bout's referee Yuji Shimada had not yet given the OK to kick a downed opponent as mandated by the promotion's rules, and instead of being credited with a knockout win, his fight was ruled a no contest. The conclusion was unsatisfying enough that the mutual rivals decided on the spot that they should fight a fifth time.
Less than two weeks from fighting Devin Cole in the World Series of Fighting main event, however, Arlovski has changed his tune. It took four fights, seven years and two continents, but there lies some kind of truce between them. And surprisingly, where there was once hate for Sylvia, there is now respect.
While he hasn't completely ruled out the idea of another fight between former UFC heavyweight champions, it will no longer be about evening an old grudge.
"I don't know about the story with Tim Sylvia, about the match," Arlovski said on Wednesday. "I don't know. If people want to see it, maybe. But really like, no more bull---- between me and Tim. We talked after the fight. He's the best guy. I wish him all the best in his life and his MMA career."
If that's a vast departure from the Arlovski of just a few months ago, perhaps it's all by design, as Arlovski has been on a mission to prove that at 33 years old, he isn't the over-the-hill commodity some make him out to be.
Frankly speaking, multiple matchups with Sylvia would do little to help shake a perception that's been brewing since just after he left the UFC in 2008. While Arlovski began his post-UFC tenure with consecutive knockouts of respected fighters Ben Rothwell and Roy Nelson, that was the end of the good times for a while. Starting in January 2009, he lost four consecutive bouts, including three by KO or TKO.
That led to questions about his chin, his training, and his numbered days as a force in the division.
While he's since rebounded with wins over Travis Fulton and Ray Lopez, and an otherwise strong performance against Sylvia, Arlovski understands there are still questions to answer about what he has left.
"This is a great opportunity for me to prove to everyone and to myself that I'm not done yet," he said.
In Cole, he'll be facing a strong wrestler who has 10 of his 20 career wins by KO.
Like Arlovski, Cole will enter the fight with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He was under contract with Strikeforce when the promotion was bought by Zuffa, and though he won both of his fights in 2011, he wasn't retained when the division's heavyweights were moved over to the UFC.
While Arlovski will be trying to prove that he's still a heavyweight name to reckon with, Cole is trying to prove that he can make the next step, having never defeated someone with Arlovski's name value.
For Arlovski, a bout with Cole may not hold the personal importance of a Sylvia fight, but even though it's behind him, he can't deny the fourth fight in the series served its purpose.
"The most important thing is that I shut many, many mouths who said Arlovski had a weak chin, glass chin, this and that," he said. "Tim Sylvia, he landed a couple good right hands, and actually, he hurt me at the end of the first round and I survived. And I'm very happy about that."
And with that, the book on the Arlovski-Sylvia feud is over. For now.
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