Since Mirko Cro Cop’s loss at UFC 103 last weekend to Junior Dos Santos there has been much speculation as to whether this was to be the last time he would set foot in the octagon or not. Much of the confusion on the matter stems from the fighter himself who has seemingly given conflicting thoughts on his future plans to the media back in his native country, Croatia in the past few days.
A statement, apparently from Cro Cop himself emerged yesterday from the www.nokaut.com site stating that “I have no motivation left and it’s time to leave. Thank you all for supporting me.” News of the fighters retirement has been widely reported since then but it now seems this may have been premature as a new interview with the star has now surfaced where he appears to fall short of confirming that his career is at an end. The nokaut site is now reporting that Cro Cop has now said that “After the Dos Santos defeat I was hot and the statements were not founded. Things are not all that black”. He also mentions that “Although it would be for the best to stay out, I would like to do 2 more contracted fights with the UFC and then end my career.”
It may be days, or even weeks before we get a clearer picture of what happens next for the former Pride legend. In the mean time, whilst it is clear that in his mind Cro Cop is still agonizing over whether to call time on a professional career that started in 2001 and made him one of the most recognisable figures in the sport, recent performances in the UFC suggest that his heart is no longer in the fight game.
Mirko Cro Cop came to the UFC in 2007 on a high after winning the Pride Openweight Grand-Prix the previous year. It waell earned with the fighter having defeating Japanese fighters Ikuhisa Minowa & Hidehiko Yoshida, Wanderlei Silva and Josh Barnett on his way to claiming the belt . However, like several other Pride standouts who would join the UFC at this time Cro Cop did not make the kind of impact that many fans had predicted. In his second fight for the organisation against Gabriel Gonzaga the Croatian fighter fell victim to his own weapon of choice – a devastating head kick KO. A few months later he would lose a lackluster fight with Cheick Kongo by unanimous decision, the first time the fighter had suffered back to back defeats in his career.
After the fight Cro Cop left the organisation to fight back in Japan where had spent much of his career. 18 months later when a call came from Dana White asking the fighter to return to the octagon for their first card in mainland Europe, the chance to repair the damage to his reputation proved too good an opportunity to turn down and he agreed to fight Mostapha Al-Turk at UFC 99. He would go on to win the bout by TKO in the very first round, though the victory was somewhat tarnished by subsequent replays of the finish which showing that he had inadvertantly poked his opponent in the eye.
And so, after agreeing to sign a new contract with the UFC, we come full circle to his fight with Dos Santos at UFC 103 last Saturday night. As with several of his previous fights in the octagon, Cro Cop was tentative and the feeling so familiar to fans of the fighter in his heyday that he could end the fight in an instant appeared to have vanished. In many ways it seemed that he was simply trying to survive in the fight rather than win it. The fighter seemed to share that assessment, confessing after the fight that “I can’t break my mental block in the octagon. The years have caught up to me, and I’m worn out.”
There are still devoted fans of the fighter who are hoping that he will see out the remainder of his 3 fight deal with the UFC, but, with his record still reading a very respectable 25-7-1, perhaps now is the right time to hang up his gloves rather than face the prospect of damaging his legacy with further half-hearted performances that belie his status as one of the sports greats.
Article By RossC