There are times as a professional fight fan where you get frustrated, very frustrated with a talented fighter. Right now I’m thinking about last night and Mirko Cro Cop. As everybody should already know, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic was defeated by the less-than-stellar Junior Dos Santos in UFC last night after a tight clinch and a few knees to the face and Cro Cop told the referee he was having trouble with his vision. The ref absolutely made the right call, and it was heartbreaking to those that have been following Mirko’s career since his K-1 days.
Mirko made the switch from K-1 to PRIDE because there was more money and prestige involved with MMA at the time. The media was focused on MMA during the golden days of Kazushi Sakuraba and K-1 was in their dark days where Bob Sapp and the like were becoming the norm and the Grand Prix wasn’t what it used to be.
In K-1 he would never realize his full potential and win the grandest tournament in combat sports; the K-1 World Grand Prix. But in PRIDE he was brought in as the dangerous striker with a deadly high kick and saw immediate and overwhelming success. That all changed when PRIDE was bought by the UFC and he made his UFC debut. Something seemed different. There was talk of performance enhancers and drug testing in the United States hampering former PRIDE fighters as well as talk of drive and desire. A big part of the difference between Japan and the United States is the style. In Japan putting on a show for the fans is always in the back of a fighter’s mind, and there is less emphasis on what seems traditional here in the United States such as boxing and wrestling. That, of course, and fighting inside of a cage as opposed to a 4-cornered ring. It sounds superficial, but talk to fighters with experience in both and you’ll hear how your strategy is completely different in a cage than in a ring.
As seen in a recent fanpoll, K-1 fans still fondly remember Mirko and would love to see him once again in the K-1 World Grand Prix, and with some of his last kickboxing performances being wins over Peter Aerts, Mark Hunt and Remy Bonjasky, it is safe to say he’d immediately find his place in K-1 of today.