Waldo Cortes-Acosta reflects on surreal matchup vs. former UFC champ Andrei Arlovski

Waldo Cortes-Acosta never thought he would be fighting Andrei Arlovski. Yet, here he is just days away from facing the living legend.

It’s a surreal matchup for Cortes-Acosta (10-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC), who has been watching Arlovski (34-22 MMA, 23-16 UFC) fight since he was a teenager. Cortes-Acosta, now 32, feels proud of how far he’s come in MMA now that he’s fighting a former UFC champion at Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 234 in Las Vegas.

“When I started MMA, I never thought I would be fighting him,” Cortes-Acosta told MMA Junkie in Spanish. “I thought maybe I would fight other fighters like maybe if I got really, really good, and I would get to fight Jon Jones. But fighting Andrei Arlovski, I never thought about it. I began fighting around 2014, 2015, and I thought in a few years he would be retired, but no. He’s kept going, and now we’re in 2024, and he’s still at it.”

When Arlovski made his professional debut in MMA, Cortes-Acosta was just seven years old and hoping to become a professional baseball player in the Dominican Republic. When Arlovski first became UFC champion, Cortes-Acosta was 12.

Never in a million years did Cortes-Acosta think he would be fighting Arlovski, who’s now 44. He remembers the first time he saw Arlovski fight.

“Imagine, I got a flashback when I was playing baseball in the academy,” Cortes-Acosta said. “I remember one day, all my friends were gathered at the T.V. and they called me over, ‘Hey, come look!’ When I go over, I see this monster fighting in the octagon. I was like, ‘Wow, they’re allowed to go after each other like that?’ I’m talking about when I was 14 or 15 years old, and look at me now.

“I remembered that moment when I got the fight. I feel very proud of myself to be where I’m at and to be fighting him.”

Although Cortes-Acosta respects Arlovski, all that will go out the window the moment they get locked in the cage. He won’t let his admiration for Arlovski stop him from getting his hand raised.

“The psychological and respect fight, all that is thrown out,” Cortes-Acosta said. “In the cage, I have respect for no one. If you’re putting on the gloves to fight me, there’s no respect. Even my own dad, I don’t give him any respect if we were to fight in the octagon. It’s another world in there.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 234.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie