Mirko ‘CroCop’ Filipovic says he was suffering from “a huge mental barrier” during his time with the UFC.
The legendary Croatian heavyweight, winner of the PRIDE Openweight Grand Prix in 2006, joined the UFC in 2007 and was expected to smash his way to a title shot with ease. Instead he was knocked out by Gabriel Gonzaga in his second fight for the organisation and never really recovered his confidence.
Having left the UFC recently he was expected to retire, but instead he returned to his first love, kickboxing. CroCop always regretted not having won a K-1 tournament and so now, even though the organisation is shadow of its former self and all the top fighters are in Glory, he is taking a run at winning a K-1GP title.
Last week he fought US heavyweight Randy Blake and won a unanimous decision to progress to the next stage. There was controversy when CroCop struck Blake after a knockdown - clearly still in MMA mode - and was then flattened by Blake when he was looking for a glove touch by way of apology.
“Semi-finals are passed, Blake is behind me. I have seen some idiotic comments, I guess people expected me to knock him out in the first seconds of the first round. But it's not that, Blake is a young guy - a lot younger than me, unbeaten in 26 fights and has little unusual style of fighting, a lot of moving, not to mention running around the ring,” CroCop says.
“I am very pleased with the fight despite the fact that the fight did not get the finish. For the first time since Pride I was aggressive and attacked constantly; in past years that has not been the case. In the UFC I had a feeling that I was ‘frozen’ and mostly I moved away [from opponents], I had a huge mental barrier. Why I cannot explain it any more than that doesn’t matter.
“I think I've managed to eliminate the things that are bothering me, both mentally and physically, but no more about it because it was a really strange and complicated story. I feel great, physically and mentally, and I think I'll take the belt at the end in spite of everything and everyone. And yes, next year I will be perforating in MMA again.”