PRO MMA (promma.info) participated in a UFC 99 conference call earlier today with UFC President Dana White and returning UFC heavyweight fighter Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic (24-6-2).
“Cro Cop” will make his highly anticipated return to the Octagon this Saturday, June 13th, when he faces England’s Mostapha Al-Turk (6-4) at “UFC 99: The Comeback” in Cologne, Germany. The Croatian talked about what it meant to him to fight on the UFC’s first card in Germany, his opinion of Al-Turk, his new-found motivation, his desire to ultimately win the UFC Heavyweight Title, and much more.
Here is the audio and highlights of the UFC 99 conference call with UFC President Dana White and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filiopovic:
UFC 99 – Dana White & Mirko “Cro Cop”
What do you attribute your struggles to during your first UFC tenure and what are you switching up in terms of your preparation to try to ensure this time you will show your full range of skills?
To tell the truth, it’s hard to say one-hundred percent what was the trouble for my first appearance in the UFC, for my first three fights. I won one fight and I lost two. I just think I wasn’t the old Mirko “Cro Cop” that I used to be. I don’t know the reason. I spent so many times thinking about it. I don’t know, maybe I was just empty right after I won the PRIDE Grand Prix, I don’t know. To tell the truth, I don’t know, I don’t know. Maybe I wasn’t adapted for the fight in the cage. Maybe I wasn’t hungry enough, I don’t know. I just couldn’t smell the blood like I did in my previous fights. What switched me on again, I don’t know. So many things I was thinking hard about everything. I had surgery in January and had a lot of time to think and I decided to return. And I hope and I think, I really think my condition and my shape is better than ever, of course I will have to prove in my next fight that are in front of me. But I really think that I have fixed those, it was only a head problem, not body, nothing with body, not with condition, it was a problem with my head. Why I wasn’t motivated it’s hard to say, but definitely it is behind me and I’m one-hundred percent motivated, I’m very good condition, I am hungry for fighting and that’s most important thing for a fighter. And I’m very happy and I can’t wait for this Saturday night.
What was the difference that convinced you to sign with the UFC instead of somebody else?
I signed with the UFC because it was my wish, it was my wish to fight in the UFC and I think that I owe a lot to the UFC and to UFC fans and that was the main reason I signed with the UFC.
Dana, when Mirko left the UFC, you said you felt that he needed to rebuild his confidence. What do you see in him that leads you to believe he has regained it?
When Mirko and I talked on the phone on the day that he said he wanted to come back, I tell you what, he was all fired up, basically saying, ‘I got my surgery, I’ve been training, I want this, I want to come back, I want to win that title, I want to take a run at it.’ I’ve been in the fight business a long time and talked to a lot of different guys throughout different points in their careers and when I talked to Mirko and talked to him about putting him on this Germany card, he was fired up and wanted to come back bad. I’ve always said I respect Mirko and if he ever wanted to come back, it was a phone call away, and there it was.
You’ve had great success in your career. Your first trip to the UFC did not go according to plan. Did that stick with you, was it in your mind? Obviously, you wanted to come back and fix it?
Exactly. Exactly. This is good question. Exactly. UFC was the black spot in my career, in my life, and I’m the man who dedicates his life to fighting sport and I just want to justify the contract Dana White gave me two years ago by calling me when I came from PRIDE. It just bothers me. Like every fighter in the world, in the beginning of his career, motivation for most of them is money and to secure for his life and for his family you know. But today those things are behind me and I have maybe the strongest and best motivation. I just want to return on the top and I just want to prove to everyone, they were wrong. They were wrong you know. I just hope that God will give me the strength that I can prove my worth. I don’t like to talk too much now on the phone about it because I have to prove my worth in the cage and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Definitely I have a very very high motivation. I was never motivated like this in my career. Never. Definitely, never.
Is it true that the deal with MIrko is a one fight deal or is it not true?
Mirko and I are working on that still. Listen, Mirko “Cro Cop” ended up on this card like last minute, within weeks before the event. And this whole deal was done verbally over the phone with me and him. Since the day he left PRIDE and came to fight with us, right until he fought his last fight with us, up until now, we have a great relationship and like I said, this fight was made over the phone. We’ll see what happens.
That’s kind of unusual isn’t it?
You’re right, I’ve never done this. In the history of the company, I’ve never done this with anybody ever. I respect Mirko and I’ve always said that publicly and he knows how I feel about him and I know how he feels about me and I know what his goals are as far as the UFC and the title go. We did this thing over the phone. I’ve never done that in nine years of being in this business.
Is your goal to come in and get a couple of wins and get a championship match?
Definitely. Definitely, that’s my goal. As Dana explained we talked this one the phone, we did not meet, but this is definitely not the last fight in the UFC for me. Definitely not, you have my word for it.
Does this fight in UFC 99, does the outcome for “Cro Cop” determine in large part if he’ll be back? If he wins obviously there’s no problem for him to keep going, but if he loses, does that squash any hope of a second fight for him?
I don’t know. Like I said, Mirko “Cro Cop” is a guy I respect. We have a good relationship and he and I will talk about it. Just because you lose a fight in the UFC doesn’t mean you’re gonna leave. There’s a lot of different factors. Mirko will fight this fight and we’ll talk after the fight and see what happens.