Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic has been announced as a competitor in Japanese promotion Rizin’s upcoming openweight grand-prix, which gets underway at the Saitama Super Arena on September 25th.
Wanderlei Silva had already been announced for the sixteen man tournament, bringing back waves of nostalgia for the PRIDE era, where both he and Cro Cop first rose to fame.
In fact, Cro Cop and Silva have fought twice before in that legendary organization, first battling to a draw at PRIDE 20 back in 2002, and then in the semi-finals of the PRIDE 2006 heavyweight grand-prix, with the Croatian striker emerging victorious on that occasion by way of a head kick.
The possibility that the two could fight again at some stage in this Rizin tournament certainly adds an element of intrigue to the proceedings, though both are now long since past their best.
The 41 year-old Cro Cop last fought at UFC Fight Night 64 in April of last year, successfully coming back to the Octagon to avenge an infamous loss to Gabriel Gonzaga in his UFC debut several years previously.
However, the afterglow of that TKO victory was tarnished when a few months later he confessed to USADA that he had been taking the banned performance enhancing drug HGH. Cro Cop then announced his retirement, but nevertheless was still hit with a two year ban from the sport.
That ban doesn’t extend as far as Japan though, and so the veteran campaigner will now strap on his gloves again, some 15 years since his first professional fight.
As for Silva, he’s not fought since a KO victory against Brian Stann at UFC On Fuel TV 8 in 2013. After that he agreed to coach opposite his rival Chael Sonnen on The Ultimate Fighter Brazil, but before the two of them eventually had a chance to fight, Silva was hammered with a lifetime ban from the sport after fleeing from a random drug test.
That lifetime ban has since been overruled in favor of a three year retroactive suspension that would end in 2017, but like Cro Cop, he’ll be able to circumnavigate that ruling by competing in Japan.
At this stage no other fighters have been unveiled for the tournament, but Cro Cop and Silva will be kept apart in the opening round.