Andrei Arlovski has heard it before. For years, actually. In the land of heavyweights, knockouts just come with the territory -- a causality of behemoth lunchbox fists hurtling towards human skulls at high speed. Yet fairly or unfairly, somewhere along the line Arlovski got plastered with that grim distinction: weak chinned.
"It's f--ked," Arlovski angrily told MMAFighting.com. "I'm really getting f--king sick of all these comments about my chin. I broke my jaw in two f--king places and f--king Anthony Johnson couldn't f--king knock me out. So if you're going to talk to Mike Kyle, you can just tell him to shut his f--king mouth and be ready for the f--king fight. That's it. Period."
You can probably guess the culprit for that sudden burst of rage. Ahead of WSOF 5, yet another opponent, this time Mike Kyle, repeated the same stock line about Arlovski's "questionable" chin.
"People who say or write those comments about me are people who spend all the time on their couch all day long laying down and watching TV.
"It kind of pisses me off. I don't read those comments like I used to read those comments. I showed my chin was fine when I fought Tim Sylvia in the Philippines, when our fight was a no contest. He landed a good straight right hand at the end of the first round and I was fine. I survived and knocked him out. Those people say [I don't] have a good chin, now this guy? It's okay. Just fine. To be honest with you, I don't know what to say in a nice way. It's one of those bad spots in my mind."
To his credit, Arlovski understands how the criticism first started. From early-2009 to early-2011, right after he became the first, and still only man to knockout Roy Nelson, the Belarusian dropped four consecutive contests, three of which ended with Arlovski either dazed or unconscious on mat.
In the two years since, however, Arlovski has been knockout free -- other than the ones he's handed out himself. And Arlovski is quick to mention, he suffered a broken jaw against Johnson and still kept trudging forward. Yet the meme about his glass jaw continues to make the rounds.
"People say to me, ‘Oh, you're Arlovski? Right? I remember you were the s--t. Now you're just a good fighter.' Those comments piss me of so bad. People say, ‘Arlovski is done. No more fire in his eyes.' I try to prove to those guys that they're wrong," he explained.
"I was a champion several years ago. I remember the taste. I remember the feeling of being on top of the world. I want to be again a champion. After those four losses, people said that's it.
"I have the right people," Arlovski continued. "I have great sparring partners. Everything's fine. I'm not going to finish my MMA career like that."
Down south in Albuquerque, NM, Arlovski still grinds away his days at Jackson/Winkeljohn's. He served as one of Jon Jones' main sparring partners before the pound-for-pound titan puts his belt on line against Alexander Gustafsson, so Arlovski isn't lying when he compliments his teammates.
Still, it says something that even at age 34, Arlovski either headlines or co-headlines nearly every show he competes in. Albeit, they may not be the star-studded pay-per-views he championed in his younger days. But he isn't ready to let the dream die.
"My body feels great," Arlovski said. "The most important thing, I still want to fight. I still want to train hard.
"Now I'm more hungry. I have more reasons to be a better fighter right now than I used to be; more reasons right now to be a champion again, to reach my goals. Five or ten years ago, I was younger. ... Now I'm older. I guess I have at least some good life experience. I became, I think, smarter -- a smarter fighter. Now everything around me is to help me be a better fighter; to reach my goals and to do it in a right way."
Arlovski's ultimate goal is to return to the UFC. At the moment he may be under WSOF contract, but he isn't shy to say it.
Arlovski knows it'll take time. He wants to fight until age 40. He figures that's as good a number as any. But Arlovski admits, he hasn't started thinking about life after fighting, if only because he has so much left he wants to do.
Within the past five months, a trio of men Arlovski defeated in a past life -- Nelson, Fabricio Werdum and Ben Rothwell -- all tasted the sweet taste of UFC glory. Arlovski, though, isn't bitter. He considers WSOF to be the "right place for right now." What happens a few years down the line is anyone's guess.
"Everybody has his own destiny. Like I like to say, everything happens for a reason. We'll see," Arlovski said.
"Maybe one day I'm going to be in the UFC again.
"I know it's a long way. I just have to beat all of my opponents. Mike Kyle is the first one on Saturday."