Stepping into the Octagon to do battle with an adrenaline-fueled MMA heavyweight is one thing.
Stepping onto a movie set to do (simulated) battle with Jean-Claude Van Damme is another thing entirely.
Straddling both worlds is Andrei Arlovski, the former UFC Heavyweight champ whose menacing stature and fighting pedigree made him practically a shoo-in for the role of a ruthless, brainwashed killer in the latest installment of the Universal Soldier franchise, Day of Reckoning.
Although Arlovski was mindful to pull his punches in the choreographed battle scenes, he says the role felt strangely natural for him.
“It was easy – (there were) no lines for me, so I just had to kill people and be mean,” Arlovski told Fighters.com from his most recent training base in Chicago. “So that’s what I did!”
The man known to fight fans as The Pit Bull – he wears a fang-toothed mouthguard in the cage to fully embody the nickname – said he is enjoying his newfound career as an action movie bad guy.
“It was a lot of fun,” he says, his thick accent a holdover from his upbringing in Belarus. “This movie is just full of awesome fighting scenes.”
Awesome fighting scenes – the real kind – are exactly what fans have come to expect from Arlovski, given the ferocity with which he steamrolled through UFC opponents between 2001 and 2008.
The vast majority of his fights during that period were won by knockout or technical knockout – a testament to his background in Sambo and kickboxing.
A four-fight losing streak between 2009 and 2011 led many to speculate that Arlovski might retire from the fight game, but insists the thought never crossed his mind.
Instead, Arlovski believes he is at a “new beginning” in his MMA career, and that “every fight is like another first step in MMA.”
Those steps have been in the right direction lately, such as the first-round knockout victory Arlovski scored against Devin Cole at the inaugural World Series of Fighting event, broadcast on NBC Sports Network on Nov. 3.
Amid his rebirth as a fighter, Arlovski has been getting a kick out of his emergence as a supporting action hero. Day of Reckoning marks his second appearance in a Universal Soldier flick, having debuted in the 2009 chapter Regeneration.
“When I was a little kid I watched movies with Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Van Damme,” he says.
So appearing onscreen alongside Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren – whose iconic portrayal of the Russian boxer Ivan Drago in Rocky IV bears some striking similarities to Arlovski himself – has been something of a boyhood dream come true.
His grown-up dream, however, remains the same as it was since he first walloped a heavy bag: to be a mixed martial arts champion.
He doesn’t know if he’ll fight again in the UFC – “that’s up to the UFC to decide,” he says – but he is determined to get their attention by continuing his winning ways in other organizations.
Although it’s not yet confirmed, Arlovski is expected to square off against veteran fighter Jeff Monson in Brazil this February. If it happens, he says, it will be another important jump on his upward trajectory back into the mainstream consciousness of fight fans.
“Just being a good fighter is not enough for me,” he says. “I want to be the best fighter in the world. One day I will be.”
Given his track record – both as a champion cagefighter and a remorseless b-movie killing machine – who’s going to argue with him?