clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Cro Cop's Debut: Sizzle or Fizzle?

New, comments

cro cop ufc debout
Eight Sides to Every UFC Story
By Jesse Holland
Special column to UFCmania

Since the day the UFC announced the acquisition of Mirko Cro Cop, the UFC hype machine was uncharacteristically subdued. Instead of the usual razzle-dazzle, fans were limited to a few flashes of the Croatian flag followed by short clips of him mauling Heath Herring.

How ironic that his debut at UFC 67 raised more questions than it answered?

The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) television series, as well as "UFC All Access" and "Inside the UFC," have had an interesting effect on the way UFC fans perceive their fighters. Personality, now more than ability, seems to be the meal ticket.

How many people can tell me which Lion's Den fighter handed Tito Ortiz his first loss? If you can't, can you tell me who Tito is currently dating? In the pre-television era, fighters had to earn their chops in the cage. Now, they earn them by being the funniest, loudest or the meanest.

I would be dishonest if I didn't tell you that I enjoyed the entertainment aspect of the UFC, because I do. But I sometimes get the feeling that what goes on inside the cage isn't as important as what goes on outside of it.

Enter Mirko Cro Cop.

I think a lot of fans and perhaps even Dana White may be focusing too much on where Cro Cop fits into the UFC collage rather than what he can accomplish inside the cage. Am I really to believe that Dana White was as aggravated as he suggested from Cro Cop's no-show at the post-fight news conference? Hogwash, that's just saving face in front of the press.

Cro Cop is what I would consider to be a professional fighter -- not a showman. If the UFC wants showmanship, they've got all they can handle now with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.

In a sport full of colorful characters, Cro Cop is black and white. He wasn't born with the gift of gab, and as a long-time fan I can only remember two occasions where he showed what I would consider to be any real emotion (Sapp KO, 2006 OWGP).

In an effort to dispel rumors and quiet naysayers who might question his commitment to the UFC or claim Cro Cop's press conference no-show was a slap in the face, I present to you a little snippet I found from his previous employer.

This was taken from the press release for the 9/11/06 post-fight conference following PRIDE FC's Final Conflict:

Continuing, Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara addressed the fans, "Having Mirko appear at a press conference is a rare opportunity. This is very valuable" Hearing this comment, Filipovic, sitting next to Sakakibara, couldn't help but smile.

The previous day, Cro Cop defeated Wanderlei Silva and Josh Barnett – in the same night – to become champion of the 2006 Open Weight Grand Prix in front of a stadium full of screaming fans. I can understand if he was a little more receptive to the cameras and questions. Even then, reporters had to pay by the letter.

I don't think beating Eddie Sanchez in front of a few thousand drunks is quite the same thing.

Actually, watching Cro Cop stalk Eddie Sanchez inside the Octagon was eerily reminiscent of my 10th birthday, when my father hunted me down for defecating in his work boots (who knew he couldn't take a joke).

I've said many times in the UFC forums that "What you see is what you get" and that outlook is applicable to both his personality and his fighting style.

A Cro Cop performance is predictable in its simplicity, yet still overwhelmingly effective. Straight left, sprawl, left kick. In a lesser fighter, this arsenal would be inadequate. For Mirko Cro Cop, it is the foundation to which accuracy, ferocity and power have all been added (Hence my nickname: Crobocop).

Zuffa needn't worry, this stuff sells itself.

UFC fans are used to seeing fighters shilling for Xyience, or giving a shout-out to their favorite nightclub where they'll party ‘til dawn. Cro Cop, on the other hand, is a member of the Croatian Parliament. (Can you imagine Tim Sylvia as a member of the House of Representatives?) He's also a former cop, and a devoted husband and father.

If his first priority is to jet back to Croatia to see his family or resume his role with Parliament, should we look unfavorably upon him? I agree that it wouldn't hurt him to stick around for the press, but in this instance what really needs to be said about fighting Sanchez?

As far as I'm concerned this was just an exhibition. When faced with a stronger opponent who actually engages, I expect fireworks from Mirko Cro Cop.

Inside of the cage -- not out.