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Report: Mirko Cro Cop leaves UFC and will fight for DREAM in Japan

cro cop DREAM
PRIDE FC 2006 Open Weight Grand Prix Champion, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, will no longer compete inside the Octagon, signing an undisclosed contract with the newly-minted DREAM promotion, according to

He will fight on March 15 against a yet to be named opponent. Lightweights J.Z. Calvan and Shinya Aoki will also fight on the card -- it was the only other match announced for the debut show, according to

The Croatian still had three fights remaining on a UFC contract that he signed with much fanfare and high expectations toward the tail end of 2006. No details were provided regarding how or the reason he was released from his contract.

However, speculation has swirled that after two losses in three fights the UFC was not willing to pay him the base $350,000 to compete on under card matches (he more than likely pocketed more than that.)

Dave Meltzer indicated in the print edition of the Wrestling Observer newsletter recently that UFC officials were trying to negotiate a new deal that would pay him less ... perhaps the "deadline" UFC President Dana White mentioned earlier this month.

Since his Octagon debut against Eddie Sanchez, Cro Cop looked uncomfortable and listless in his new surroundings. And even though he won that fight, he went on to drop his next two bouts -- a knockout loss to Gabriel Gonzaga and a lackluster unanimous decision defeat to Cheick Kongo.

It was a far cry from the devastating striker who made a name for himself decapitating people half a world away in Japan. It was also a major disappointment for fans who expected Cro Cop to soar to the top of the heavyweight division.

Oh well.

DREAM is a new collaborative effort between FEG (K-1, HERO'S) and former Dream Stage Entertainment staff (Pride), according to the announcement. Cro Cop was a star in K-1 prior to becoming a star on Pride FC. And he's still extremely popular in Japan.

He'll look to regain his old form; however, unless Cro Cop returns to the UFC before he retires he might always be remembered, at least here in the states, for what he didn't do in the Octagon rather than what he accomplished outside of it.

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