Cro Cop smelling blood again
Story by Anthony Springer Jr.
Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic (24-6-2, 1NC) may be the most honest fighter in the UFC today. The Croatian made his debut at UFC 67 to much fan fare from MMA aficionados and was hailed as the next big thing.
After a victory over Eddie Sanchez at UFC 67, Cro Cop found himself on the receiving end of a vicious head kick from Gabriel Gonzaga—a maneuver he’s used to turn the lights out on many fighters himself. A decision loss to Cheick Kongo saw him exit the UFC as quickly as he returned. With a much-anticipated return to the UFC this Saturday at UFC 99, he’s had a long time to reflect on what happened in his first stint inside the Octagon and freely admits that focus and motivation may have been the issue.
“To tell the truth, it’s hard to say [what happened] in my first appearance with the UFC,” Cro Cop said on a Tuesday conference call. “I won one fight, and lost two fights. Maybe I was just empty right after I won the Pride Grand Prix. I don’t know.
“I just didn’t smell the blood like I did in my previous fights. I just wasn’t the old [me].”
Cro Cop is also coming off a surgery (though he wouldn’t go into detail about the injury) but insists that his downfall in the UFC had nothing to do with his physical health.
“I think it was only a head problem and not [my] body.”
The Pride Grand Prix winner will make his return against Moustapha Al-Turk, who was also defeated by Kongo at UFC 92. With Cro Cop referring to the UFC as a dark period in his career, Al-Turk may be in for a short night when he steps into the Octagon.
“The UFC was the black spot in my career and in my life,” he added. “I’m a man who dedicates my life to fighting sports. I just want to justify the [chance] that Dana White gave me in the UFC. I have the strongest motivation, I just want to prove everybody [who doubted] me wrong. I don’t like to talk too much on the phone about it because I have to prove my worth in the cage and that is exactly what I’m going to do.”
For his encore performance, Cro Cop has made a substantial investment in his success. Having earned his MMA stripes inside the ring, the man known for head kicking his way to victory also acknowledges that he was not fully prepared to fight inside the Octagon.
All that has changed now.
“They are different,” he explained of the ring and the cage. “I know it very well because I spent my whole career fighting in the ring. I underestimated the cage; it’s much easier to go from the cage to the ring than from the ring to the cage. [To prepare] I got a cage in my gym.”
Even Dana White has renewed confidence in Crop Cop. The UFC President resigned the fighter over the phone—a first in the history of the organization. Cro Cop matches White’s enthusiasm, promising a new and improved Cro Cop. And while he praises the current bunch of UFC heavyweights, a game Cro Cop is bad news for anyone in his path.
“I was never motivated like this in my career,” he said firmly.