SYDNEY – When Brock Lesnar debuted in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, with all of one professional fight under his belt, he met former heavyweight champion Frank Mir.
When Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic debuted in the UFC in 2007 at UFC 67, he was given Eddie Sanchez, an inexperienced fighter who was cut last year. Filipovic has been handled with kid gloves by the UFC almost since the time he joined the company.
He's miserable with the media and rarely, if ever, does interviews. He doesn't show up for news conferences, as all other fighters are required to do. And he has been given some ridiculously easy touches – anyone remember Mostapha Al-turk at UFC 99? – despite his experience.
Despite all that, Cro Cop is just 2-3 in the UFC and finally has come to a fork in the road.
UFC president Dana White said during a fan question-and-answer session at Acer Arena on Friday (Saturday in Australia) that UFC fighters Stephan Bonnar and Wanderlei Silva, who have hit on tough times, will have a spot with the company for life.
White said he likes Cro Cop but conceded in a later interview that the one-time member of the Croatian parliament doesn't have the cushion that Bonnar and Silva do and needs to start winning fights.
Filipovic fights late replacement Anthony Perosh on Saturday (Sunday in Australia) in the opener of the pay-per-view broadcast of UFC 110. "He hasn't done great," White said of Filipovic's UFC bouts. "Like I said, he's a guy I respect because of his accomplishments. But we have some in-depth conversations, he and I. I'm real interested to see how [his fight] goes."
He said that although Lesnar began his UFC career with much tougher competition, it was at Lesnar's request.
But Filipovic came into the UFC as one of the most decorated fighters in the sport's history. He was the 2006 PRIDE Open Weight Grand Prix champion and had beaten elite fighters such as Josh Barnett, Kevin Randleman, Mark Coleman and Silva prior to coming to the UFC.
Given his lackluster record and his unwillingness to help promote his fights, White said he is going to demand results from Filipovic. He originally was to fight Ben Rothwell at UFC 110, but Rothwell withdrew 48 hours before the fight because of a stomach virus. Rothwell was replaced by the unheralded Perosh, whose main calling card was that he was available and in shape.
White conceded he is not happy with Filipovic's lack of cooperation with the media and hasn't been overwhelmed by his performances in the cage.
"When there's a press conference, you can't find him," White said. "He's like Batman. He gets lost and you just can't find the guy. It's like you have to send out a Bat Signal to find him. I'm in a business where I deal with lots of different personalities, lots of different egos. There's a lot of crazy [expletive] I deal with, and I try to deal with each guy a different way.
"Brock Lesnar wanted what he got and he had to come in and prove himself. Mirko Cro Cop didn't. Mirko Cro Cop, everybody knew what this guy accomplished and what he had done. … Mirko has made a lot of money and he lives in Croatia somewhere. He's a different animal, he really is. He'll always be a part of the UFC history, but he hasn't been the guy maybe we thought he might be. It would be good to see him prove what he can do."
UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta said former light heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson signed a contract at about 10 p.m. Australian time on Friday to fight Rashad Evans in the main event of UFC 114 in Las Vegas.
Fertitta said both fighters have now signed their contracts. The UFC was in a dispute with Jackson and filed a lawsuit in Nevada District Court against him shortly after Jackson announced his retirement last fall. Fertitta said the suit was filed to clarify Zuffa's position regarding Jackson's contract and so-called retirement.
Jackson announced his retirement when he got angry that White wanted him to fight Evans at UFC 107 in Memphis and wouldn't grant him permission to star as B.A. Baracus in "A-Team: The Movie."
Jackson went ahead and did the movie, which White said "is a real movie. Watch the trailer of this thing and you'll see, that's a real, big-time movie. Some of these guys come to me and tell me they're filming a movie and you see the thing and it's like it was filmed on a little home camcorder. Rampage's movie is not like that. It's definitely the real thing."
Fertitta said it's likely the lawsuit will be withdrawn.
White said that if Anderson Silva retains his middleweight title by defeating Demian Maia at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, he could move to light heavyweight.
He said during a fan question-and-answer session at Acer Arena that he could see Silva meeting the winner of the May 8 light heavyweight title match at UFC 113 between Lyoto Machida and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. However, in a later one-on-one interview, White said Silva would not get an immediate shot at the 205-pound belt.
"What we'd do is, we'd find whoever the top contender is at that time and put him in with Anderson and the winner would get the next title shot," White said.
White said during the fan Q&A that the UFC would include an Australia trip on its yearly schedule.
But the next fight Down Under likely will be in Perth and not in Sydney. Marshall Zelaznik, the UFC's managing director of international development, said the UFC already had been eyeing Perth as a venue and that Perth likely would be next in the rotation. White said at the Q&A that "we'll do like we did in the U.K., and move it around to all the cities."