Mirko Filipovic's mission since re-signing with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) last year was to get rematches with all of the men who beat him inside the Octagon. First up will be Gabriel Gonzaga, the man who knocked him out in his second fight under the UFC banner via head kick back in 2007.
He'll have the chance to get some payback on "Napao" when the two heavyweights collide this weekend (Sat., April 11, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 64 in Krakow, Poland (details).
And while "Cro Cop" may have already had Gabriel in his sights, the Brazilian says he was surprised when the rematch was offered.
"I wasn't expecting this fight. I knew he was still fighting, but I had no idea he was coming back to the UFC." Gonzaga told MMA Fighting. "But I’m here to fight anyone they want, and this is a good fight. I haven’t watched his fights, but some friends did and told me he was fighting well and winning."
And while Mirko isn't exactly the same world beater he was in his prime, Gonzaga says the kickboxer is still a dangerous threat.
"He’s always dangerous, doesn't matter how he looked in his last fights," Gonzaga said. "Cro Cop is a great fighter, you can see how many knockout wins he has in his career. I’m going to get ready, focusing on what I’m going to do. I’ll try to take this fight to the ground. I won’t let him use his best weapons."
In an ironic twist, "Napao" branded his win over the former PRIDE FC legend the most important of his mixed martial arts (MMA) career because it gave him the freedom to focus on the sport full time by quitting his other jobs he had at the time.
And now that he is currently on a two-fight skid, another win over "Cro Cop" will be equally as important because it will buy him more time inside the Octagon.
"This fight keeps me alive in the UFC," said Gonzaga. "If I lose this fight, the UFC will probably… Everybody knows how the UFC works. Three losses, it’s rare who stays in (the UFC) after that, and I want to stay in the UFC, so I have to win this fight."
While he would love nothing more than to let the fight play out on the ground, "Napao" says he has no issues ending their contest via knockout one more time.
"My goal is to win this fight the best way possible," he continued. "In the first fight, I took him down and worked there, and saw an opening to throw the kick. He wasn't expecting that. I believe he’s expecting everything this time, but I will try to finish him with a kick, a punch, or a submission."
Will history repeat itself in Poland?