Member # 154
Jun 10, 2009
When Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic returns from a nearly two-year break from the organization and fights at UFC 99, he'll do so under an unprecedented one-fight deal.
UFC President Dana White confirmed the unusual arrangement during a recent media call with the Croatian fighter, who takes on Mustapha Al-Turk in a UFC 99 televised main-card bout.
"In this history of the company, I've never done this with anybody ever," White said of the deal. "I've never done that ever in nine years of being in this business."
White, currently in Germany for Saturday's pay-per-view event at Cologne's Lanxess Arena, said Filipovic's return resulted from a simple call the fighter made to him.
"When Mirko and I talked on the phone, the day that he said that he wanted to come back, let me tell you he was all fired up and basically saying, 'Listen, I got my surgery, I've been training, I want this, I want to come back, I want to win that title, and I want to take a run at it,'" said White, who estimated the deal was reached in just three days' time.
Filipovic, a longtime PRIDE fighter perhaps best known for winning the organization's 2006 Open-Weight Grand Prix, entered the UFC in 2007, when he was still ranked as one of the world's very top heavyweights. However, after a win over Eddie Sanchez in his UFC debut, Filipovic suffered back-to-back losses to Gabriel Gonzaga (via stunning head-kick KO) and Cheick Kongo.
The UFC and the 34-year-old fighter split ways soon after, though both sides said it was a temporary split and that the ultimate goal was for "Cro Cop" to return to the UFC. Filipovic has since competed three times for DREAM, going 2-0 (with a no-contest with Alistair Overeem). Filipovic said he wanted to return to the UFC, where he knows he failed to live up to expectations, especially with the UFC heading to Europe for Germany's first-ever UFC card.
"I owe a lot to the UFC and to the UFC fans," he said. "I owe a lot. ... (The) UFC was the black spot in my career and in my life, and I'm the man who dedicates his life to fighting, and I just want ... to justify the (trust) Dana White gave me two years ago and calling me to UFC after I went from PRIDE."
Filipovic repeatedly tried to dodge questions about his health during his first UFC stint. He began to discuss some injuries but cut himself short and said he didn't want to make any excuses. However, he said he's entering Saturday's bout fully healthy following recent knee surgery, in good spirits and with a sound mind. White said any decisions about his future in the organization after UFC 99 will be made after the show is over.
"I just want to return – to return to the top, and I just want to prove everyone that they were wrong," Filipovic said. "They were wrong. 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."
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