Just days after Rizin Fighting Federation CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara said that Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic would come out of retirement for another few fights, the Croatian fighting legend has an official opponent.
Rizin has announced the first of its bouts for the company's Dec. 31 date at Saitama Super Arena, revealing that the 43-year-old Filipovic will take on 47-year-old Japanese pioneer “TK” Tsuyoshi Kosaka. The heavyweight tilt will be contested under standard Rizin rules over two rounds, with a 10-minute opening period followed by a five-minute second stanza.
The second of Rizin's holiday season cards, the Dec. 31 bill at Saitama Super Arena will also feature the semifinals and finals of the promotion's women's atomweight and men's bantamweight tournaments, as well. Rizin will also promote a card at the same venue two nights earlier on Dec. 29, featuring the quarterfinals of the bantamweight bracket as well as other non-tournament contests.
A longtime star as a kickboxer and MMA fighter for K-1 and the Pride Fighting Championships, Filipovic has made several aborted retirements over the last few years. In November 2015, he was tabbed to face Anthony Hamilton at UFC Fight Night 79, but was flagged by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for a potential doping violation. Filipovic then admitted to using human growth hormone in a public statement and accepted a two-year USADA sanction, at which point he announced another retirement. The UFC released Cro Cop from the remainder of his contract in July 2016.
Following his UFC release, Filipovic cropped up in Rizin's 2016 openweight grand prix two months later, defeating South Korea's Hyun Man Myung. He would go on to defeat Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, “Baruto” Kaido Hoovelson and Amir Aliakbari, all by knockout, to capture the tournament victory last Dec. 31. After his triumph, Cro Cop declared yet another retirement, citing that this one was final and binding due to an accumulation of health issues.
Kosaka began his pro MMA career nearly 23 years ago and was the first successful Japanese roster fighter for the fledgling Ultimate Fighting Championship in the mid-to-late 1990's. In recent years, Kosaka has become much more known as one of Japan's top MMA coaches through his Alliance gym, as well for his efforts as a broadcaster, becoming a highly-regarded color commentator for Japanese MMA broadcasts, as well. “TK” has fought just twice in the last 11 years: he surprisingly knocked out James Thompson under the Rizin banner in December 2015, before losing a two-round decision to aforementioned Estonian sumo wrestler Kaido Hoovelson last Dec. 29.