Trilogy combatants tend to develop a healthy respect for one another over the course of their battles. After all, if a pair of fighters have squared off three times, it usually means they've fought hard and well and elevated one another's games in the process.
But if Andrei Arlovski has any respect for Tim Sylvia, he isn't letting on. As the two get set to square off for the fourth time in the main event of OneFC 5 on Friday in the Philippines, Arlovski refuses to give his rival any due.
"He is a dick," Arlovski told MMAFighting.com in an interview from Manila. "Normally I respect my opponents, but I do not respect him."
Arlovski and Sylvia fought over the UFC heavyweight title three times in 17 months in 2005-06. Arlovski took the interim title from Sylvia in 47 seconds with an Achilles lock at UFC 51; Sylvia scored a first-round knockout victory to take the heavyweight strap at UFC 59, then Sylvia retained the title via unanimous decision at UFC 61.
But the personal bad blood between the two has never been settled. If anything, given that Sylvia dated Arlovski's ex-girlfriend years after the two had their final fight, it's gotten worse.
So when Arlovski found out last month that Soa Palelei dropped out of his scheduled fight with Arlovski and Sylvia was taking his place, the Belarus native couldn't have been happier.
"When I found out I was fighting Tim Sylvia it was the best day of my life," Arlovski said. "I don't like him, I don't respect him and I will have no problem kicking him in the head and stomping on his body. It will be fun.
"I do not need motivation to fight pee pee mouth. I do not want to beat him by decision or submission. I want to knock him out."
For Arlovski, though, the former champion isn't just looking to smash his most hated rival. He's also on a mission to prove that his best days aren't behind him.
There's really no way around it: Arlovski had some ugly moments. He suffered three first-round knockouts in just over two years, getting his bell rung by Brett Rogers, Fedor Emelianenko, and Sergei Kharitonov.
Arlovski acknowledged that the ferocity of his losses caused him to rethink his career path. Since the Kharitonov fight, Arlovski has won his past two fights via strikes. While the opposition, Ray Lopez and Travis Fulton, aren't exactly ranked foes, the wins have been a step in the right direction.
"What my losses made me think was that I needed to take my career more seriously and to train right," Arlovski said. "Now I have two knockouts in my last two fights so I am not thinking about quitting, only about making other people want to quit. I am only 33 years old, I am still young and I plan to fight for many more years."
Arlovski has trained in New Mexico with Greg Jackson, and he credits the coach of UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and interim welterweight champ Carlos Condit for improving his approach to training camp.
"I have had the best trainers, the best sparring partners, the best possible preparation," he said. "In the past this has not been the case, but now that I am with Greg Jackson I am a completely different fighter, I am motivated, I am well conditioned and well prepared. I am dangerous."
Presumably said preparation includes OneFC's hybrid of Unified and PRIDE-style rules, the latter of which includes the legalization of foot stomps and soccer kicks to downed opponents.
"I am not just ready for [PRIDE-style rules], I am very happy about it," Arlovski said. "Getting to fight Tim Sylvia again was a wonderful gift and when I found out I could stomp on him too, it was like Christmas."
The bout is expected to draw a capacity crowd to the Smart Areneta Coliseum in Manila. It will be available online, with a free stream of the undercard beginning at 8:30 a.m. ET/5:30 a.m. PT on Friday; the main card is available for $9.99.
While Arlovski doesn't know what the future holds, he's just glad to have an opportunity he wasn't sure he'd ever get.
"I am a fighter and I like to fight and I like to get paid," he said. "I am happy that 16,000 people will be there, one day they can tell their grandchildren that they were there when Andrei Arlovski smashed Tim Sylvia into retirement.
"I still feel good, 33 is very young in heavyweight years and some heavyweights have not even started MMA until this age. My lifestyle is completely different from what it was before, I am not 23 years old anymore, I am focused on training and fighting, not night clubs and partying. I just want to fight and to win and to get paid, I will be doing that for a long time."