Andrei Arlovski is scheduled to fight the final bout on his current UFC contract on March 1 in Columbus, Ohio during UFC 82, reports Roman Modrowski of the Chicago Sun-Times.
The UFC has not officially announced Arlovski’s involved with the card, but the report seems legitimate. Arlovski is due to become a free agent in April and the UFC needs to offer him a bout before the expiration of that contract, or otherwise risk having the contract expire without the ability to schedule him for the one remaining fight.
Unless he signs a new contract, Arlovski will become a free agent in April. It is unknown whether the UFC retains an exclusive negotiation period or if they have a right of first refusal. Even if Arlovski is a restricted free agent, the former UFC heavyweight champion is expected to draw considerable interest on the open market.
The article did not name a specific opponent for Arlovski but several names have been rumored in recent weeks, including Jake O’Brien. O’Brien’s involvement has only been rumored and an attempt to reach his representative was not successful. It’s unknown whether O’Brien will be healthy in time for March and other names have been rumored as well.
It is also believed that the UFC has tried to schedule Arlovski for matches on two previous occasions but that bout agreements with his potential opponents could not be formalized. It remains to be seen whether Arlovski will be offered a fight against a big name opponent because the UFC may not want to run the risk of having him beat a core member of its heavyweight division and then walk away from the promotion.
While Arlovski’s involvement in UFC 82 is not yet official, the promotion announced late last year that a unification match between UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva vs. PRIDE welterweight champion Dan Henderson will headline the card. Additional bouts between Jon Fitch vs. Akihiro Gono, Cheick Kongo vs. Heath Herring, Josh Koscheck vs. Dustin Hazelett, Jorge Gurgel vs. John Halverson, and Luke Cummo vs. Luigi Fioravanti are rumored as well.