Mirko ‘CroCop’ Filipovic says he is undecided about a return to competition following the expiry of his UFC contract. The Croatian heavyweight and 2006 Pride Grand Prix winner won by submission in his last outing and his behaviour prior to the bout gave every indication that retirement was likely to be his next step.
In a rare interview Filipovic told Fighters Only this week that he has not decided what he is going to do, revealing that he has been toying with the idea of moving into coaching and producing the next generation of fighters.
“I don’t know. First of all I will take a rest, definitely I will talk with Lorenzo [Fertitta, UFC owner]. I closed this last contract with him and yes I will definitely talk with him. But I really cannot say right now if I will continue fighting. I think for me to keep fighting, the conditions would have to be right,” the MMA legend told us when we asked what he had planned.
“What I mean by that is, first of all the fights have to be inspiring. It has to be an opponent that makes me inspired to go through eight weeks of hell with [trainer Ivan] Hippolyte. People say to me, “Couture has 46, 47 years and he is still fighting, so you still have many years left”. But people forget, he has had 16 or 17 fights altogether in his career.
“I have 35 in MMA and 26 in K-1 and then 44 amateur boxing matches before that - I have had three times more fights than Randy. So of course I am not old in years, but believe me, I have been around!” Filipovic added.
“I have been to Japan 44 times. That is 44 times I got out of bed, went to the airport and travelled all the way to Japan, fought once, twice in a night. 44 times I went to Japan, suffered jetlag, no sleep, broken bones, stitches - at some point you become sick of everything. So I am still thinking about what to do and right now I need some rest. I will talk with Lorenzo and we will see. I just need motivation right now.”
Asked what kind of thing would constitute motivation, Filipovic had a long think before answering.
“I think it means fights with the legends… Randy Couture, Antonio Nogueira and [Gabriel] Gonzaga - definitely Gonzaga. I would like to fight them in that order actually - Couture, Nogueira, Gonzaga. Those are the kind of fights that would inspire me and make me go through eight weeks of hell with Hippolyte again,” he said, referring to the training camp conducted by the Muay Thai supercoach prior to the Pat Barry fight that left CroCop “in the best shape of [his] life”.
“Pat Barry is an excellent fighter, very tough and he can cause trouble for anyone in the UFC today but it is not the same kind of inspiration. I don’t mean to disrespect anyone here but what I am saying is at this point I would only really be interested in big-name fights and in straightening some things out. I need fights that will inspire me,” he explained.
“Since 2003, its inside of me to have a rematch with Nogueira, definitely. He is one of the true legends, a pioneer of the sport, former Pride champion and former UFC champion as well. It would be a very interesting rematch for me. As for Couture, he is also a legend of the sport and a pioneer. When I was with Pride I was asked many times, how would I fight against Couture? Well now we could find out.”
Filipovic also revealed that being able to fight in Europe would be a big incentive. He says he is well aware that most of his career has been spent fighting overseas and he regrets the fact that his European fans have not been able to see much of him.
“If I continue fighting I think would like to fight in Europe very much. First, because of selfish reasons. I am sick of jetlag, sick of spending nine or ten days away from home and away from my family, away from my young son,” he sighed.
“You know each time I go away, it is harder for him and he cries more than the last time. I don’t like this. And my wife is pregnant. I understand that business is business and I am a mercenary but every time I have to leave home it is harder and harder for me.
“And I do not have the same incentive for travel that I used to - I have made decent money in this sport, I have made a name. Maybe I am in the best possible position now to compete. I don’t need the money, those days are behind me. Now I would fight only to entertain my fans and have great fights. So if I decide to fight again and if I close a deal with deal with Lorenzo, it would be interesting for me to fight in Europe in front of European fans who maybe haven‘t had the chance to see me very much.”
So are we likely to see CroCop back in action?
“I don’t know, I don’t know. I need some inspiration I think. But its not about money. Obviously there has to be payment but this is bottom of the list for my motivation.”