Sept. 10, 2006: The crowning achievement of Mirko Cro Cop's MMA career, as he stopped both Wanderlei Silva and Josh Barnett to win the 2006 PRIDE Openweight Grand Prix. Photo via Sherdog.com
It was Huey Lewis and the News that once crooned, "If this is it, please let me know." Of course, that song, like most others, was about love. Still, I find that particular line appropriate when thinking how this could very well be the end of the line for the long and storied fighting career of Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic.
UFC president Dana White said following Cro Cop's UFC 128 knockout loss to Brendan Schaub that this is it for Cro Cop in the UFC. Two straight losses, both by knockout, have dropped the Croatian's record to 4-5 inside the Octagon. After a brief resurgence in early 2010 with wins over Anthony Perosh and Pat Barry, Cro Cop has been brought crashing back with those back-to-back knockout defeats.
With his UFC career apparently done, the question has to be asked: Has Mirko Cro Cop fought for the last time? As it stands now, Cro Cop has nothing left to prove. The 2006 PRIDE Openweight Grand Prix Champion, he has fought some of the sport's best names and provided some enduring memories.
At one point, Cro Cop was one of the most feared strikers in the sport and will undoubtedly go down as one of the top strikers in the sport's history. His exploits in PRIDE are legendary and give fans of his a warm, fuzzy feeling inside when they relive his knockouts of Heath Herring and Dos Caras Jr.
That feeling only grows as they progress down memory lane where he became known and feared for "Right kick, hospital. Left kick, cemetery." Igor Vovchanchyn found that out in 2003 when he was separated from his senses by a rocket of a left high kick. Then Cro Cop climbed the proverbial ladder and knocked out 6-foot-6 Aleksander Emelianenko with another trademark head kick. He was, as they say, taking over.
His 2005 PRIDE heavyweight championship loss to Fedor Emelianenko remains, to this day, one of the most highly-anticipated fights in MMA history. He bounced back from that devastating loss to win the 2006 PRIDE Openweight Grand Prix, the crowning achievement of his career. He capped off his four tournament wins by stopping both Wanderlei Silva and Josh Barnett in the same night.
Sadly, though, Cro Cop was never the same once he left PRIDE. He was out of the UFC after going 1-2 in three fights, including a devastating knockout loss to Gabriel Gonzaga where he tasted a bit of his own medicine, being finished with a head kick. Injuries and age have left Cro Cop a shell of his former self here in 2011.
It remains to be seen if Cro Cop will fight again. The MMA landscape isn't exactly ripe for him to fight anywhere but the UFC right now. Big-time MMA in Japan looks to be finished and it's going to be tough for anyone else to come up with the type of cash it's going to take to get Cro Cop to sign on the dotted line.
When looking back at Mirko Cro Cop's career, I'm going to choose to remember that September night at Saitama Super Arena, host of PRIDE Final Conflict Absolute. How I literally jumped out of my chair and screamed "Holy s---!" at the top of my lungs in my dorm room when he knocked out Silva. How he was so overcome with emotion when presented with the Openweight Grand Prix title on the same day he turned 32 years old. How he finally won the big one that night.
Those are the things memories are made of. Cro Cop is one of those enduring, iconic figures that will live on no matter how long this sport exists. If this is it, Mirko, please let us know.