Mirko Cro Cop is introduced before his bout against Josh Barnett at PRIDE Final Conflict Absolute 2006. Photo property of PRIDE FC Worldwide.
Immediately after Mirko Cro Cop jettisoned to Japan to become part Fight Entertainment Group and Dream Stage Entertainment’s combined “DREAM” effort, rumors began to circulate that his departure from the Ultimate Fighting Championship was either totally positive or completely negative.
Speculation that the UFC asked the Croatian to either restructure his contract or that they would release him can be put to rest now according to MMA Weekly, who after speaking with UFC President Dana White have found that Cro Cop’s departure was amicable on both sides and could only be temporary.
“I have a lot of respect for Cro Cop and I like him,” White told Ken Pishna. “He wants to win the UFC title really bad. He is going back to Japan and taking some tune-up fights and wants to come back and prove himself in the UFC by the end of the year. I wish him the best of luck and hope to see him back.”
So it seems that this is just a classic case of a fighter taking a break from the UFC so they can fight in smaller shows to gain experience and get their confidence back a la Sean Salmon and Marcus Davis, right?
Maybe, maybe not in my opinion. As you can see in White’s quote, he wasn’t very definitive as to whether or not it was a sure-fire thing that Cro Cop would return. At the same token, Cro Cop’s comments about not liking the cage very much at the DREAM press conference the other day weren’t very forthcoming either.
“I don’t want anyone to think that I’m running away from the UFC but I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do with the rest of my career lately and right now I believe DREAM is the right place for me,” said Filipovic. “I never liked fighting in the cage, always in a ring. Japan is also like my second home. Many reasons have brought me back here.”
There’s been a lot of varying opinions over the past couple of days regarding Cro Cop and I have to say that all of them are correct in different ways. MMA Junkie points out that Cro Cop now has a chance to rematch Fedor , who is expected to fight for the promotion at some point.
Sam Caplan of Five Ounces of Pain feels that Cro Cop’s departure for the UFC is a win from both sides and that he doesn’t expect Cro Cop to return to the Dana White-headed promotion unless he defeats Emelianenko.