Trepidation was warranted in relation to Mirko Filipovic, a man who inspired fear like few others in mixed martial arts history.
“Cro Cop” first appeared on the MMA scene on Aug. 19, 2001 and soon emerged as one of the lynchpins of the Pride Fighting Championships organization in Japan. Filipovic remained undefeated through his first nine bouts, his introductory run highlighted by a sensational head kick knockout of Igor Vovchanchyn at Pride Total Elimination 2003. Before long, “right leg, hospital, left leg, cemetery” was part of the sport’s lexicon. Filipovic compiled an 18-4-2 record as a member of the Pride roster and later competed in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Dream and Bellator MMA. The Vinkovci, Croatia, native was in the middle of a career-best 10-fight winning streak when a stroke forced him into retirement in 2019.
As Filipovic attempts the navigate the maze of middle age outside the public eye, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. He was well-suited for certain formats.
Filipovic won three major tournaments as a martial artist: the 2006 Pride Openweight Grand Prix, the 2012 K-1 World Grand Prix and 2016 Rizin Fighting Federation Openweight Grand Prix.
2. His reputation masked other weapons.
While he was a technician on the feet, Filipovic had various skills at his disposal. He has four submission victories on his resume. “Cro Cop” dispatched Randleman with a guillotine choke in their Pride Shockwave 2004 rematch, vanquished Pat Barry with a rear-naked choke at UFC 115 in 2010, subdued Shinichi Suzukawa with an armbar at an Inoki Genome Federation event on New Year’s Eve in 2012 and dismissed Hyun Man Myung with an arm-triangle choke at Rizin 2 in 2016.
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3. Small talk was not in his DNA.
“Cro Cop” boasted 27 first-round finishes among his 38 wins, seven of them of the sub-minute variety. He delivered the quickest stoppage of his career in his third professional appearance, as he put away Yuji Nagata with punches 21 seconds into their Dec. 31, 2001 encounter. Filipovic also posted 39-, 41-, 46-, 46-, 49- and 56-second finishes.
4. His career took an unexpected fine-wine turn.
Filipovic won all nine fights after he turned 40. He defeated Myung, Satoshi Ishii, Gabriel Gonzaga, Muhammed Lawal, Kaido Hoovelson, Amir Aliakbari, Tsuyoshi Kosaka, Roque Martinez and Roy Nelson during a late-career resurgence few saw coming.
5. He has proven himself civic-minded.
Filipovic was a member of the Croatian Army, joined the Lucko Anti-Terrorist Unit—a police special forces tactical team from which his “Cro Cop” nickname is derived—and served a five-year term in the Croatian Parliament.
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