Given his lackluster form in recent years, particularly in the UFC, each and every time PRIDE legend Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic steps into the octagon, there is a feeling that it could be for the last time.
His latest fight with Pat ‘HD Barry’ at UFC 115 next weekend is no different, and Cro Cop has added more weight to the fact that this time it may actually become a reality.
This is the last fight on the present contract,” he said at yesterday’s conference call for the event. “I have to finish this fight, then we’ll see.”
Clearly the UFC still hold out hope that he can regain his old form – the fact that his fight takes the co-main event slot next Saturday proves that – but if he turns in another lifeless performance like the one against Junior Dos Santos back in September, then the promotion may well feel that now is the time to cut their losses and move on.
Cro Cop believes that he has turned a corner now though, making significant changes to his preparation in order to prepare himself for this crucial moment in his career.
“I spent my whole career fighting in Japan in a ring. The cage is a cage. [Now] I have an original UFC cage in my house. I have a gym inside my house, and I have cage there,” he says.
He also notes that he has changed his training partners, acknowledging that his previous one’s were not of the caliber required to prepare himself for the challenge of facing some of the world’s best in an increasingly competitive heavyweight division.
“It’s one thing to spar with friends of mine who are good, very solid fighters. But it’s another thing to spar with Remy Bonjasky and other K-1 stars. That’s something very different,” the 35 year-old admits.
Filipovic also puts an emphasis on his full recovery from a severe knee injury two years ago as another reason to look to the future with renewed optimism.
“It was really a hard injury, and it really took time. Now it is one-and-a-half years since I had the operation, and it’s finally OK. Finally, two months ago, I started with the full kicking.”
So Cro Cop certainly puts forward some solid reasons why we should still have faith in his ability to recapture the form that made him a star during the heyday of the Pride Fighting Championships, but still, seeing is believing.
Pat Barry will be a good test for him. He’s far from being the best in the division, but he’s tough, he’ll throw everything he’s got at the Croat, and will test whether Filipovic truly does still have the heart for a fight.