He's not disappointed. He's not lying awake at night dreaming 'what if.'
Andrei Arlovski insists he's not haunted by his first-round knockout loss to pound-for-pound king Fedor Emelianenko in Anaheim, Calif., on Jan 24 at the Honda Center in the main event of the Affliction II card.
And, perhaps most importantly, he's not so consumed by thoughts of his fight with Emelianenko that he's looking past unbeaten Brett Rogers, whom he meets in one of the featured bouts of a Strikeforce card at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo., on June 6.
Or, so he says.
"To be honest, the only time I think of the fight with Fedor is when people ask me about it," Arlovski said. "I'm fighting Brett Rogers and I'm working very hard to get ready for him, not Fedor. [Rogers] is the guy who promised he's going to knock me out, so he's the one I have to worry about."
True, but despite Arlovski's words, one has to at least consider the possibility that Rogers may not be the one he really is worried about.
Arlovski got knocked out 3:14 in the first round of a fight that he was controlling thoroughly until the split second it ended. Had he won, it would have been the biggest story in the sport.
It would have been Emelianenko's first clear-cut loss in mixed martial arts – his only other loss came just 17 seconds into a 2000 fight with Tsuyoshi Kohsaka when he was badly cut by an elbow – and would have signaled a sea change in the heavyweight division.
A win over Emelianenko would have rejuvenated Arlovski's career and made the former UFC heavyweight championship one of the sport's most marketable men.
Arlovski, 30, entered the fight already one of the game's most popular stars. He is charismatic, entertaining and successful. Beating Emelianenko, who is tied with Georges St. Pierre for the top spot in the Yahoo! Sports pound-for-pound rankings, would have only sent Arlovski's popularity and marketability soaring.
Arlovski is too professional to admit he's looking past Rogers, but it wouldn't be a stunner if he were.
He was clearly outboxing Emelianenko and seemed to have the kind of patient, smart plan that would lead him to the biggest win of his career.
Then, believing he had hurt Emelianenko, he went for the kill, trying a flying knee that, if it had landed, likely would have ended the fight.
It didn't and Emelianenko countered with a perfectly placed shot on the chin. Arlovski crumpled to the canvas in a pool of his own blood, drool and sweat.
What could have been the night of his life turned into one of its epic disappointments.
Yet, to listen to Arlovski, the loser in that fight was some other fighter from Minsk, Belarus. He's aware of his mistake – he failed to protect his face as he leaped toward the powerful Russian champion – and he knows he wouldn't repeat it if given a chance.
Rogers, a powerful striker whose most well-known victim, James Thompson, gave Kimbo Slice fits in a 2008 bout on CBS, hasn't faced nearly the level of competition that Arlovski has.
But he's won all nine of his fights inside the distance, with eight knockouts and one submission, and sees Arlovski as the type of name opponent who can open doors for him.
"I have a lot of respect for him and I'm taking him very seriously, believe me," said Arlovski, who will box on a June 27 Golden Boy Promotions card at the Staples Center in Los Angeles if he comes out of the fight with Rogers unscathed. "He's a very powerful striker and he is going to try to make a name for himself."
The problem Arlovski has to overcome that only a few short months ago, he was the powerful striker who was going to try to make a name for himself. No less than the great Randy Couture raved about Arlovski's skills and said he was fast becoming the standard by which other heavyweights are judged.
Arlovski had the opportunity, he had the ability and he was executing. And, in an instant, he lost.
It's not an easy thing to let go of, losing something you'd worked so long and so hard to achieve and have it slip away in a fraction of a second.
Some athletes are far better than others at letting go. Arlovski has lost six times in 21 fights, but on two separate occasions, he's lost back-to-back outings. He was stopped by Ricco Rodriguez at UFC 36 on June 29, 2001, and then was knocked out by Pedro Rizzo on March 22, 2002, at UFC 36. Then, he lost back-to-back fights to Tim Sylvia, at UFC 59 and UFC 61, in a three-month span in 2006.
Could those doubled up dual defeats be interpreted as Arlovski have difficulty letting go? Perhaps, but statistics can be manipulated to the benefit of the person using them. And fights are won by humans in a ring, not statistics on paper.
Arlovski figures to be a prohibitive favorite, but can he be the same after suffering such a heartbreaking defeat?
It's why they fight the fights.
- Andrei Arlovski
- Fedor Emelianenko
- Brett Rogers