He's one of the scariest guys to ever don tights in MMA but Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic lost a bit of his fire and confidence when he tried his hand in the UFC in 2007. Cro Cop, who took a fight on just three weeks notice against Mustapha Al-Turk at UFC 99, says he is right mentally. Cro Cop was sidelined at the start of the year after knee surgery. The time on the sidelines gave him a chance to think about his failure in the UFC and it really ignited the fire:
"I wasn't the old Mirko Cro Cop that I used to be. Maybe I wasn't hungry enough. I just didn't smell the blood."
Cro Cop said the hunger is back. He returned to the UFC because he felt like he owed something to Dana White, the fans and himself:
"UFC was the black spot in my career and in my life. I'm a man who dedicated his life to fighting sport. I just wanted to justify the trust that Dana White gave to me."
Cro Cop (24-6-2, 1-2 UFC) lost to Gabriel Gonzaga and Cheick Kongo in the UFC, both inferior stand-up fighters. Maybe it was difficult to get up for fights against guys like that less than a year removed from smashing his way to PRIDE Grand Prix wins over Josh Barnett and Wanderlei Silva.
Listen to UFC 99 teleconference with Cro Cop:
"I have the strongest motivation. I just want to return on the top. I want to prove to people that they were wrong. I was never motivated like this in my career."
The former member of the Croatian Anti-Terrorist Squad admitted that he had too many distractions in the past including his involvement in politics. Now he's focused and right mentally:
"Training is not the key. Head is the key. For me, it's head. How aggressive you will be. Who will attack first? But you need to be good in your head and there will be no problem."
Cro Cop said his doctors didn't expect him to return so quickly from January knee surgery. He's taking the fight on just three weeks notice, so it'll be interesting to see if he's 100-percent physically. Cro Cop said he weighs around 234 pounds. He did mention that his failure to respect the transition from the PRIDE ring to the UFC's Octagon cage hurt him as well. He has now has a cage in his house and tried to work on making sure that he's comfortable with his back against "the wire."
The UFC and Cro Cop have a one-fight deal. If he wins, White says they'll go from there. If not, it doesn't necessarily mean Cro Cop is done with the promotion.
There was a funny moment during the call when Cro Cop was asked to gauge the UFC's heavyweight division, he mentioned names like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Frank Mir and Randy Couture. Cro Cop couldn't remember the name of "the big guy," Brock Lesnar, the UFC heavyweight champ.
Cro Cop said if he gets back to where he was mentally during the 2006 PRIDE Grand Prix no one in the world can beat him.
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