Over the last five months, two trips to Abu Dhabi and one to Las Vegas have forced Alberta heavyweight Tanner (The Bulldozer) Boser to spend more than six weeks in quarantine.
Boser's fighting skills and willingness to face anyone, anytime, anywhere, have earned him a high-profile fight Saturday against former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei (The Pit Bull) Arlovski in the co-main event of a televised Fight Night card at the UFC's Apex production facility.
Not bad for a fighter who only made his UFC debut in October 2019. But the down-to-earth Boser (19-9-0) is not getting carried away by his billing on the card, even if friends and family are tickled pink at the showcase.
"It's cool to share the Octagon with someone who's a former champion but that's where it ends," he said. "It's cool. I respect him a lot. But I'm going in there to win the fight and I have a job to do."
The 29-year-old from Bonnyville, who now calls Edmonton home, is 12 years younger than Arlovski, whose slalom-shaped nose offers a hint of his storied 21-year combat career.
Arlovski (29-19-0 with two no contests) made his UFC debut at UFC 28 in November 2000 when Boser was nine. The Canadian was 13 when Arlovski, a Belarusian-born American-based fighter, had the UFC championship belt wrapped around his waist for the first time at UFC 51 in 2005.
Arlovski was 10-4-0 in his first UFC go-round (2000 to '08) which started five fights into his pro career. He is 8-9-0 with one no contest on this run, which started in 2014.
Arlovski, whose trademark mouthpiece has a fanged design, comes in tied for fourth in most UFC fights (32) with Demian Maia and Diego Sanchez, tied for eighth for most wins (18) with Frankie Edgar, Rafael dos Anjos and Dustin Poirier, and tied for 10th in both finishes (11) with 13 others and KO/TKO wins (9) with six others.
And while the unranked Arlovski has seen better days, he remains a mobile opponent with plenty of fight savvy.
Boser is on the way up — a colourful character with good hands, mobile feet, lots of feints, an impressive mullet and dry sense of humour. He has shown another skill at his post-fight media conference, opening a can of energy drink with his teeth — thanks to a gap in the front.
He and Arlovski share other skills.
"We both move a lot, we both have good footwork," said Boser. "We're both lighter guys in the weight class (which ranges from 205 to 265 pounds). I think there's lot of similarities between us and I think it's going to make for a good fight and an entertaining high-output, hopefully, fight in the heavyweight division."
Thanks to some increased weight training, Boser fights at a lean 235 pounds these day, down from 246 and 247.5 in his first two UFC outings. Arlovski weighed in at 238 last time out.
Impressive KO victories over Philipe (Monstro) Lins and Rafael Pessoa on June 27 and July 25 — in Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi, respectively — improved Boser's UFC record to three wins in four outings.
This will be Boser's fifth fight in 13 months — and the second on his new UFC contract — although he has been streamlining the process. His last two outings totalled 10 minutes 17 seconds compared to 30 minutes for the first two.
Boser knocked out Pessoa at 2:36 of the second round of a short-notice fight. He connected on 28 of 36 significant strikes in the second round alone, crumpling the six-foot-four 264-pound Brazilian with a heavy punch that embedded his knuckle in Pessoa's eye.
Pessoa went down with Boser delivering 10 more blows until the referee stepped in to end the punishment. The brutal finale earned Boser a US$50,000 performance bonus, which he used some of to buy a 1980 Pontiac Trans Am.
In June, he stopped Lins at 2:41 of the first round in Las Vegas. An overhand right was the beginning of the end, followed by a barrage of seven or eight more blows that concluded with a backward swipe to the face. Lins was left out cold, flat on his back
Boser, who had a brief spell at No. 15 in the heavyweight rankings before he was overtaken by others, also made the trip to Abu Dhabi in October to corner training partner K.B. (The Bengal) Bhullar on Fight Island.
Arlovski has won two of his last three with decisions over Lins and Ben Rothwell sandwiched around a 29-second KO loss to Jairzinho (Bigi Boy) Rozenstruik.
Nine of Arlovski's last 10 fights have gone the distance. He is 4-5-0 with one no contest during that stretch.
Thiago Santos, ranked No. 1 among light-heavyweight contenders, takes on No. 3 Glover Teixeira in the main event Saturday. It's the first fight for Santos since recovering from knee surgery to repair ligament damage in a gutsy loss to then-champion Jon (Bones) Jones at UFC 239 in July 2019.
The Santos-Teixeira winner will have to wait for their title shot with news that middleweight champion Israel Adesanya is expected to move up to 205 pounds to challenge light-heavyweight title-holder Jan Blachowicz.
Boser may be able to skip a two-week quarantine this time upon his return home.
The UFC has him flying back via Calgary, where he will be COVID-tested after landing. A negative test and he can avoid quarantine.
"it's definitely a step in the right direction that they're doing that," said Boser. "Hopefully they can see success with it and they're able to adopt that method in all Canadian cities."
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 6, 2020
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press