After much controversy, Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic is getting ready to fight in the UFC again, as he faces Junior dos Santos at UFC 103. The Croatian superstar looked like he was heading to the DREAM organization in Japan before officially announcing that he signed with the UFC earlier this month.
“To my great pleasure, I signed a contract with American UFC for three more fights,” Filipovic said during an interview with Croatian website Index. “The first will be in Dallas September 19th against Brazil’s Junior dos Santos.”
“He is a lion, one of the emerging stars along with Cain Velasquez, who is foremost,” he said of dos Santos. “I know that because of training with Minotaur [Nogueira], that he is a very good boxer and a great grappler. I saw his knockout against Werdum and his last fight, in which he also got the knockout. Overall, he is a great fighter, never to be underestimated. However, I expect victory.”
Cro Cop hopes to eventually get a shot at the UFC heavyweight championship, but admits that he needs to beat some tough competition before winning the gold.
“Competition is extremely strong,” he admitted. “There are several legends like Couture and Minotauro, and strong fighters like Lesnar, Mir, Velasquez, Carwin . . . I should go fight by fight and be focused on what is next.”
As for current UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, Cro Cop said that he wasn’t impressed with his skills. He went on to say that a few “good low kicks” could take the former WWE star down.
“His victory (against Mir) is a defeat for the sport as such,” Cro Cop stated. “Don’t get me wrong, Lesnar is a fearsome and very dangerous opponent, but I am old school, I prefer skill and technique. This win was a defeat of martial skills. Much of what he achieved in the fight is a result of pure power . . . Of course, Lesnar has quality sparring partners, is an experienced wrestler and a man who learns very quickly. But he is yet to have a real struggle.”
One fighter Cro Cop does respect and hopes to fight again is Fedor Emelianenko. Fedor had defeated Cro Cop when they met at PRIDE: Final Conflict four years ago.
“This is a man who I very much appreciate and respect and he is very dear person,” Cro Cop noted of Fedor. “Of course, I would be delighted were he to come to the UFC because that would open the possibility of another fight between us. I still have a great desire for revenge against him.”
But Cro Cop won’t be able to get his revenge on Fedor unless the Russian heavyweight signs with the UFC, which has yet to happen. Filipovic himself almost didn’t sign with the UFC, until a visit from UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta to his home in Croatia convinced the 230 pound fighter to re-sign with the UFC.
“I was motivated by what the UFC has become,” he noted. “It is the only global association of fighting at this point which has weight and reputation in the world. Unfortunately, Dream has not reproduced the legendary Pride where I once fought, while on the other hand the UFC has grown in every way. Japan currently cannot compete with the UFC either financially or in the sport sense.”
He went on to thank his Japanese fans for helping him become the success he is today. He also addressed the controversy surrounding his relationship with UFC co-owner Dana White, who insulted Cro Cop when it seemed like he was heading to DREAM last month.
“Dana White is my employer, and this is the end of the matter,” he stated. “I’m sorry only that individuals, behind my back, disputed certain points unnecessarily. I was a fighter on the free market and I signed a contract according to the best offer. And we all know that the only valid contract is written on paper and with a signature. But there is not issue [with White]. ”
As for the rumor that he called White 600 times after it was reported that he signed with DREAM? Not true, he says.
“Personally, to me that is very insulting. I do not know why it is said that I have called 600 times when it is not true. This is actually the more accurate truth: I called him exactly zero. I only sent him a text message. I do not know his reasons for saying this, but to me, this statement cast me in a negative light. It made me out as nagging and two-faced. I do not like anyone so much to spend so much time calling them, if my life depended on it! Indirectly this statement is degrading to me.”
UFC 103 takes place on September 19, 2009 from the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas and is headlined by a rematch between Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson.