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Source: CroCop returning to UFC heavyweight division

Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic is returning to the UFC.

Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

The veteran Croatian heavyweight has agreed a new multi-fight deal with the organization, a source close to the situation tells me.

His last fight for the UFC was in October 2011 when he suffered a loss to Roy Nelson in Las Vegas, Nevada.

More recently Filipovic had competed in kickboxing and was 1-1 in GLORY as well as the winner of the 2012 K-1 World Heavyweight Grand Prix. This past New Year's Eve he fought in Japan under MMA rules and defeated the Olympic medallist Satoshi Ishii.

The source says that Bellator MMA had been "very close" to signing Filipovic but that the UFC got wind of the deal and stepped in with a big offer. The source says this was "almost certainly" for no other reason than to keep Filipovic away from Bellator and Spike TV and to deprive Bellator frontman Scott Coker - formerly the head of Strikeforce - ammunition with which to work.

Coker's first signature presentation for Bellator featured Tito Ortiz against Stephan Bonnar and was a big success ratings-wise. Not long afterwards, the UFC managed to secure Quinton Jackson's services again and this week has done likewise with Filipovic. The UFC's CM Punk signing is also believed to have come as in part a defensive move to keep him from signing with Bellator.

Looks like it is a good time to be a big name in free agency.