Only someone who has been in that position can really fathom how hard it must be for a professional fighter to admit that it is time to retire, much less a former world champion.
It is an awful thing really.
Chuck Liddell knows how it feels.
There are no set rules for this sort of thing. Likely the best one can do is listen to trusted advisers who will tell them the truth, other fighters who are friends, training partners or coaches.
Head Trainer at JABB Boxing Gym in Chicago, Mike “The Fly” Garcia started working with Andrei Arlovski on his boxing in 2005. He was with “The Pit Bull” in his hey day, when he was the UFC heavyweight champion.
In recent years Arlovski moved around a lot for his training, from working with Freddie Roach in L.A., to Michael Moorer, to Greg Jackson in Albuquerque, but he would always came back to Chicago where he would work with Garcia and a group of other trainers, each specialized in their own discipline. This was “The Pit Bull’s” home base.
However, following Arlovski’s last fight, a brutal knockout loss to Sergio Kharitonov in the opening round of the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament in February, Arlovski decided he will move his training camp full time to Albuqueque with Jackson.
Arlovski made the announcement during a live video chat on his website last week.
He also made the announcement he would be parting ways with longtime boxing trainer Mike Garcia, largely because Garcia told a colleague he thought Arlovski should retire. Arlovski was upset Garcia did not say this to his face.
Garcia said he wanted to take Arlovski out to eat and sit down with he and another friend and talk with him about it. But it didn’t work out that way, and before that could happen word got back to Arlovski that one of his coaches felt he should retire.
In an exclusive interview with ProMMAnow.com, Garcia explained, “I didn’t mean it like he doesn’t have the skills. There’s just… I just don’t want to see him get hurt. There’s something not clicking, and you can see in his last couple fights he’s not the same Andrei. He says he wants to fight, I hope he does. But if he doesn’t , I just don’t want to see him get hurt.”
In Jan. 2009, Fedor Emelianenko put Arlovski to sleep with a big right hand. About five months later Brett Rogers knocked him out with a flurry of punches. But it was Arlovski’s most recent knockout this past February that most concerned Garcia.
“This last one was kind of brutal. It scared me a little bit,” admitted Garcia. “He was doing good for the first two minutes then all a sudden he just shut down, and I don’t know what happened.”
Although he is still concerned about Arlovski, Garcia sincerely hopes Jackson can make a difference.
“If Greg Jackson can bring the best out of him. God bless him, I hope he does. I’d like to see him get back on top,” said Garcia.
Then Garcia touched on something that could be at the root of Arlovski’s problem, possibly a reason he has not been performing the way many believe he is still capable.
“I just think a lot of it is confusion,” said Garcia. “Andrei’s last good fight that he looked awesome in was Ben Rothwell and we were with him. He worked with Freddie like the first two weeks, then he stayed with us like five weeks in the camp with us with Dino, Sean and John, his wrestling coach and jiu-jitsu. We all gel pretty well together. We all know what to do and we all talk to each other as far as a team. … He looked awesome that night. Ever since then that’s when he started going back and forth with Freddie Roach and I just think it’s a lot of confusion for the kid. Hopefully maybe Greg Jackson, him being at one camp, listening to one instruction could work out. Because we didn’t go to Albuquerque with him so we don’t know what Greg Jackson is teaching him compared to our game plan, so… if he listens to us then goes out there and listens to them, then comes back and listens to us, there’s a lot of confusion. So, he needs one base. And we told him before if you feel like somebody else can bring the best out of you, by no means, take them. We’ll still be your friends, it’s strictly business, we understand it.”
That could definitely be a problem; if a fighter has different game plans from different coaches all going on inside his head during a fight.
One thing people have noticed specifically is how Arlovski allows himself to get pinned against the cage. That happened to him in the Kharitonov fight as well.
“You know we worked on that,” explained Garcia. “For the first two minutes he was circling real nice. We knew this guy was a good guy, a dangerous puncher and we told him do not put yourself against the cage. If ever in doubt just try to move around or take him down. Just keep moving. You got good movement, good feet, good hand speed. Like I said, as an athlete he’s got it all. He’s got everything you want. He’s fast on his feet. His hands are like a middleweight. He can punch really good, you know. It’s just there’s something in there he just stops. I don’t know what it is.”
Some people have criticized Arlovski’s chin, saying he has lost the ability to take a punch. Garcia disagrees.
“People say he ain’t got no chin. He’s got a chin, it’s just that, I don’t care who you are, with four ounce mitts, anybody hits you… Look at when he fought Bigfoot Silva. His mind wasn’t there a hundred percent. He got hit with some shots in that first round and he took the hits no problem. When he fought Tim Sylvia the third time, they both beat the shit out of each other for 25 minutes. They both took some shots and they both stood there. So, for people to say he has no chin is bullshit.”
Chin or no chin, health concerns or not, Arlovski made it very clear he is going to continue fighting. And as a man, in the end, it is his decision to make. Garcia is just worried about him.
Asked if Arlovski was his son would he want to see him stop fighting, Garcia said, “I would like to see him [stop fighting] because like I said, you got to really want it and at this point he should really want it. And sometimes when you really want it, it shows. I don’t know if he really wants it. Maybe he thinks he does, but then when he gets in there maybe he’s doubting himself. I don’t know. That’s one thing you would have to ask him. Like I said, I love the kid to death. I don’t want to see nothing happen to him. I wish he would [stop fighting]. But he wants to continue. He’s still young. Could he come back? Sure he could, you know? Hopefully he will, but we’ll see.”
Even to this day, win or lose, Arlovski is one of the most beloved fighters on the planet. The applause he received at his last fight in New Jersey was immense. He would likely win the whole Strikeforce grand prix if it was based on fan applause.
Garcia commented on “The Pit Bull’s” popularity and his relationship with the fans.
“Oh no matter what he does, they love him. You know what, he’s one of the greatest guys out there. I remember when he fought Buentello, when he fought at the Mohegan Sun. It took us two hours as we were leaving the arena for him to sign each autograph, taking pictures, before the last person was there left, you know. So they love him for that, you know. He treats the fans with great respect. Where some people they’ll sign a couple of autographs and walk away and they won’t do it. He never refused a picture or autograph, so… that says a lot about him. That’s why the fans love him so much.”