Mirko Filipovic will step into the Octagon at UFC 137 this Saturday night (Oct. 29, 2011) in what could very well be the last time we see him compete in mixed martial arts. It's not that Mirko has hinted at retirement, however, this is his final fight on his Zuffa contract and a loss could mark the end for his storied MMA career.
After finding success overseas in the now-defunct PRIDE FC, Filipovic made his way stateside and found a home with the UFC. With a 4-5 record inside the cage, his time spent with the world's largest mixed martial arts promotion has been anything but stellar.
The winner of the PRIDE 2006 Open Weight Pride Grand Prix has had a very long and prosperous career, but time is not on his side. Next June will mark 20 years that the 37 year old has been fighting professionally.
"Cro Cop" admits the window of his fighting career is slowly but surely closing.
Mirko recently sat down with Thomas Gerbasi of UFC.com and talked about his humble beginnings, to his rise in fame in Japan, to his time with the UFC.
Join me after the jump to read what Mirko himself had to say in this very candid interview.
Referring to his early fighting days and what inspired him to compete, Mirko reveals it was all for his family.
"I knew the sport was the only way for me to swim out from that misery and in a way to save my family, to save my mother, and to earn some more money. If I decided to work in the police and just that, I would be sentenced to work for five to six hundred dollars per month, so I would be surviving from the first to the first every month to get my money. The sport was the only way for me to run out from the misery. And that was a true motive for me. At that point, I didn't want to be famous, I just wanted to make some money."
The often stoic Filipovic, reflects on his time spent in PRIDE, and how he absolutely did anything possible to stay out of the public eye when not fighting:
"During my Japan career, I was able to avoid all kinds of press conferences because I just didn't like it, I never liked to be exposed too much, and why, I don't know. I'm aware that many people have a dream just to appear on TV and get some interest. And in a way, it's my duty. I committed myself to the UFC and I need to promote the fight, so I understand. But if you ask me if I'm especially happy, it's so hard for me. I think the glory brings only trouble in a man's life. That's my opinion. The best thing is to be rich, but anonymous, that nobody knows about it. I think all those stars in America, the movie stars and some pop stars, I think they are very unhappy people. People are spying on them and running after them, those paparazzi are following them, they can't open their mouth or put their finger in their nose, which is something that each of us does from time to time, because they are being spied on. I never liked it and I never wished for it to happen to me. I am very happy with my life, I have a beautiful family, two sons, and who needs anything more than that?"
Mirko also touched on his less than stellar performances with the UFC:
"To tell you the truth, in my own eyes, I feel ashamed that I've collected five losses in the UFC. Reasons are not important now. Who cares for the reasons? But I've got to be honest to myself. I trained hard, I was always professional, but some circumstances happened and sometimes it gives alibis in my own eyes. I don't expect alibis in the eyes of the UFC or of my fans. I had six surgeries - four knee surgeries, one foot surgery, and one nose surgery - since I came to the UFC and it was a lot, and it left a mark. So I really believe that I have a lot to show (at UFC 137)."
On his upcoming fight with Roy Nelson this Saturday at UFC 137:
"Any fight can be the last one, and not just for me, but for anyone, but a loss is not an option that I can see in this fight. It doesn't mean that I underestimate Roy, no way, he can be a dangerous fighter, and he can be a true danger to anyone in the world. I'm sure that I'm going to win this fight, but this is MMA. When two fighters enter the cage, one of them has to lose, so I don't want to underestimate or insult my opponent. I really believe that I'm going to win, just like he believes that he's going to win. The only thing I can see right now and that I'm thinking about is how to beat Roy Nelson. That's all I'm thinking right now. For any further conversation, I need to kick Roy Nelson's ass, that's all."
When asked about his future after this weekend, a very blunt and up front Crocop had this to say:
"It's hard to say, I'm excited because I don't know how to do anything else but fighting. It doesn't mean that I'm desperate or that I didn't make money enough to secure my life and the life of my family; it's just that I don't know anything else to do. In a certain way, fighting keeps me alive. And I'm aware that one day when I stop fighting, part of me, a big part of me, will die with that decision. And that's what still motivates me. You ask me if I need it, No, I don't need it to survive. But that's the only life I know and that's the life that makes me happy. Nothing less, nothing more. I don't expect the UFC to call me or extend the contract. I don't want to live on an old glory that I made five, six, or ten years ago. It's not an option for me. I need to be honest."
Regardless of the results in his fight with Roy Nelson, one cannot and should not discredit his career up to this point.Filipovic has provided fans with exciting fights against many of the legends of the sport such as Fedor Emelianenko, Wanderlei Silva and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Mirko should not be judged solely on his latest performances with the UFC, his overall body of work should be taken into consideration.
If this indeed is Mirko's last dance, then we all just need to sit back, relax and enjoy the show ... one last time.
Should "Cro Cop" hang up his gloves for good if he loses to Roy Nelson? Or does a part of you want to see him fight just a little bit longer?