Sunday 25 September 2016

UFC enters Poland as Cro Cop looks for vengeance

Published 10/04/2015 | 09:59

Mirko Filipovic is better known around the world as ‘Cro Cop’
Mirko Filipovic is better known around the world as ‘Cro Cop’

The Ultimate Fighting Championship will break new ground in Europe this weekend with a trip to Krakow, Poland.

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While Mixed Martial Arts is incredibly popular in Poland already, the event took on greater significance after Joanna Jedrzejczyk became the first Polish UFC champion last month.

The fight card is headlined by one of the most unlikely re-marches in MMA history. In 2007 Gabriel Gonzaga beat Mirko Filipovic with a head kick KO at the end of the first round

At one time Mirko Filipovic was one of the most feared fighters on the planet. Due to his service in the Croatian Elite Special Forces, Filipovic is better known around the world as ‘Cro Cop’. By the time he made his UFC debut Cro Cop had 24 MMA wins and only four losses having crossed over after a successful 31 fight kick boxing career.

He had beaten a who’s who of MMA royalty in the mid 2000’s. At the time Pride Fighting Championship in Japan was the biggest MMA promotion in the world. The pinnacle in his career came in 2006 when he captured the Pride Open-Weight Grand Prix Final defeating Josh Barnett in the final.

The Croatian had a slew of left high kick knockouts. During interviews he would say ‘right leg, hospital; left leg, cemetery’.

After a debut win at UFC 67 Cro Cop fought Brazilian and BJJ black belt Gabriel Gonzaga. It was expected Gonzaga would drag the Croatian to the mat, where he would have an obvious advantage over the striker.

But what happened in the fight shocked the world and gave Gonzaga the 2007 ‘KO of the Year’ award from many media outlets.

Towards the end of the first round Gonzaga threw up a right high kick that landed flush. Cro Cop collapsed to the mat with his right foot bent at an awkward angle underneath him. He was out cold. The Brazilian grappler had pulled a Cro Cop on Cro Cop.

After shipping another loss, Filipovic left the UFC with a record of one win, two losses. He returned in 2009 to rack up three wins and four losses only to leave again in 2011.

In his time away Mirko has only managed four MMA fights, winning three but returned to kickboxing going 7-1.

Gonzaga has remained active since their first fight. After beating Filipovic, Gonazga fought for the UFC heavyweight title losing out to Champion Randy Couture.

Exactly why this fight was booked is a little unclear. Some say rival MMA company Bellator Fighting Championship were thinking of hiring Filipovic, others say it’s due to him being Croatian and one of the biggest names in European MMA. Regardless, come Saturday we’ll get to see if Cro Cop can wind back the clock and wind up his left leg to reclaim some former glory and squash a previous defeat.

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