Man on a mission

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

Andrija Pavlic clams up when asked about his experiences overseas.

One can only imagine what the 28-year-old Winnipegger saw, heard and felt during his tour of duty in Afghanistan with the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in 2001 and 2002.

"It was a culture shock," Pavlic said yesterday. "We were the first ones over there. It was right after Sept. 11, so we were the first troops deployed over to Afghanistan.

"We had no idea what to expect or anything. Living conditions were crappy. We did a few combat operations in the mountains in Afghanistan."

When asked how close he got to danger, the chatty Pavlic shook his head, stopped talking and looked away.

So when Pavlic steps into the cage tonight against Calgary's Chad Scherman, one of 12 bouts on the Ultimate Cage Wars 14: November to Remember card at the Convention Centre, don't expect him to blink.

"I've seen bad things, of course. I was in the infantry," said Pavlic, who got out of the army last summer and now works as a correctional officer. "But I don't consider (mixed martial arts) violence. This is sport. You have two guys go into the cage. There's rules. You have a referee. There's doctors. It's safe.

"No one's going to die, and no one's shooting at you, you know what I mean?"

Perhaps that's why Pavlic has won all three amateur and one professional bout since he started fighting two years ago. The longest it's taken him to win a scrap was one minute and 32 seconds.

He knows fear, and being put in a cage with a 190-pound opponent, with a referee to stop the proceedings if they get ugly, has nothing on the Taliban.

It is also a reason why his wife, Alanna, has no problem watching her husband trade blows in what can sometimes be a very bloody sport.

"She's more comfortable with this," he said, "than me going away for six months at a time in the army."

Coincidentally, Pavlic and Alanna's reunion in July 2002 (following his stint in Afghanistan) was caught by a Sun photographer and put on the front page the following day.

It was a glorious moment that Pavlic will never forget. He will also never forget his fellow soldiers who never made it home to kiss their loved ones again.

"There's a lot of names from my battalion, good friends of mine who have passed away in Afghanistan," he said. "So I'd like to dedicate this fight to all those guys."

Today's card begins at 7:30 p.m., but the doors will open at 5:30 for an two-hour autograph session with former UFC heavyweight champ Andrei (The Pit Bull) Arlovski.

The main event will feature Winnipeg native and former University of Manitoba wrestler Kevin (Mongoose) Manderson against Saskatoon's Kurt Southern.

The featured clash will pit Toronto glam rocker Robin Black, formerly of Pinawa, against Regina's Janz Stein. Black is jacked to be back in Manitoba, and he can't wait to prove to fans that he's the real deal.

"I knew when I started that there'd be a lot of people that wouldn't take me seriously and would just think, 'That's that blue-haired guy.' I let my fighting do the talking," Black said.


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