Mirko Filipovic’s career is well-known to hardcore MMA fans. The Croatian kickboxer, police officer, and politician has collected wins in K-1, Pride, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. While he hasn’t enjoyed much success since Pride evaporated in 2007, “Cro Cop” is still dangerous fighter and one of MMA’s most interesting characters. Here are five “Cro Cop” quotes from various points in his career to illustrate the complexity of the his character:
“It was my childhood dream to be in [the] Special Forces and [to be one of] the best fighters in the world. I was lucky enough to see
both dreams come true. I was persistent enough to fulfill both of my dreams.”
Born Sept. 10, 1974 in Vinkovci, Croatia, Filipovic began training himself at a young age. He spent hours lifting railroad tracks and cement-filled pickle jars because he could not afford weights. His kickboxing equipment was equally creative; he filled an awning canvas with sand to act as a heavy bag, and he drew a chalk outline of a
person on a brick wall to help him practice his front kick. The bag was constantly being patched, and Filipovic’s father repeatedly replaced bricks in the wall. Filipovic’s self-discipline and athletic ability later earned him a position on an elite Croatian anti-terrorism squad. Perhaps to prove that he was more than brawn, Filipovic successfully campaigned for a seat on the Croatian parliament as well.
Filipovic’s kicks are legendary. Aimed with surgical precision and delivered with the concussive force of a car crash, Filipovic’s kicks have earned him a career full of highlight-reel finishes, both in K-1 and in PrideFC. His record reflects his power: 16-7-0 in kickboxing (11 wins by knockout) and 25-6-2 in MMA (19 wins by knockout).
Wanderlei Silva and Aleksander Emelianenko can attest to the power of Filipovic’s left leg; both having been felled by it. Bob Sapp can vouch for the power in Filipovic’s hands; an overhand left fractured Sapp’s orbital bone, crumpling him into a paralyzed ball of pain and shock.
“I am afraid of snakes, aggressive girls, and loose dogs over 60 kilograms.”
In the cage, Filipovic maintains an aura of tense seriousness. Among friends and family, he is a lighthearted jokester. During a Croatian documentary, Filipovic went door to door in a Japanese hotel the night before a bout and doused anyone foolish enough to answer his knock with a cup of water. In the same documentary, Filipovic told
the story of how his dog, a mahogany-colored Pekingese, was lost for three days. Filipovic said that he could not eat because he was so worried.
For the first five years of Filipovic’s MMA career, a championship belt eluded him. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira submitted him to win the interim
heavyweight belt in 2003. Kevin Randleman knocked him out in the opening round of the 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix. In 2005, Fedor Emelianenko successfully defended his belt when he won a decision against Filipovic. When Josh Barnett tapped to Filipovic’s strikes in the final round of the 2006 Openweight Grand Prix, Filipovic finally won a belt. Filipovic went to his corner and collapsed. While confetti and cornermen swarmed Filipovic, tears streamed down his face. The date of the fight, Sept. 10, was his birthday, and he said that the championship belt was the greatest birthday present of his life.
When Gabriel Gonzaga finished Filipovic with a head kick at UFC 70 and Cheick Kongo out-pointed him at UFC 75, many fans and critics said that the Croatian should retire, that he should be satisfied with his legacy forged in K-1 and in PrideFC. While preparing for a return to Japan under the Dream banner, Filipovic told NOVAtv, a Croatian television station, that he was not ready to retire. He promised that the final stage of his career would be his most productive.
We’ll find out if that is the case when Filipovic returns to the UFC on Sept. 19 to face the 8-1 Junior Dos Santos at UFC 103.