VANCOUVER, CANADA - JUNE 12: UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (L) kicks Pat Barry during UFC 115 at General Motors Place on June 12, 2010 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Zuffa, LLC via Getty Images)
Mirko Cro Cop, or Mirko Filipovic if you prefer, announced last week that he will be back in action in 2012, but not in the venue you might expect. Cro Cop will return to his roots of kickboxing for a K-1 event on March 10 in Zagreb, Croatia. No opponent is yet finalized, though both Dzevad Poturak and Errol Zimmerman have been mentioned as possible Cro Cop opponents.
This will be Mirko's first fight since losing to Roy Nelson at UFC 137 and subsequently (sort of) announcing his retirement from MMA. The Pride and UFC veteran has lost 4 of his last 6 fights, with his last 3 fights all ending in stoppage loses for Mirko.
It will also mark his first time back in a kickboxing ring since 2003 when he faced Bob Sapp and shattered Sapp's orbital bone with a brutal left hand. Before making the transition to Pride and MMA, Mirko was a decorated kickboxer, with a seven year run in K-1. Cro Cop's greatest successes in K-1 came first in 1999, then again in 2002. In 1999, Cro Cop unveiled his now trademark head kick knock out, using his big KO power to make it to the finals of the 1999 K-1 Grand Prix. There, he was stopped by his long-time K-1 rival, and arguably the best heavyweight kickboxer of all time, Ernesto Hoost. In 2002 he was already starting to move full-time to MMA, but ended his K-1 career with a spectacular 4-0 run that saw him defeat Sapp, future 3X Grand Prix champion Remy Bonjasky, and reigning Grand Prix champion Mark Hunt. Kickboxing fans tend to be fiercely loyal to the veterans of the sport, and a return from Cro Cop will be huge.
Also big news for kickboxing fans is the fact that Cro Cop says the fight will be on a K-1 show. K-1 was sold earlier this year and have not promoted any heavyweight shows since the 2010 Grand Prix, though they are looking to resume a regular schedule in 2012. Will this mark an early return for K-1? Unfortunately, probably not. K-1 has long been in the practice of lending their name to smaller, local promotions, such as K-1 ColliZion. It's likely that this is a locally promoted show that is simply using the K-1 name.
Still, Cro Cop is back in a K-1 ring. Yes he's older, and maybe he should be hanging the gloves up instead of soldiering on, but surely I am not the only one who finds this to be incredibly exciting news, right?