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Cro Cop never trained with 'complete MMA fighters', brings in Stipe Miocic

Mirko Cro Cop was involved in some of the most memorable bouts in MMA history, fights against Josh Barnett, Igor Vovchanchyn or Fedor Emelianenko. Yet, the Croatian kickboxing specialist has never really trained with a 'complete' MMA fighter.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

At age 40, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic has just made another comeback to the UFC, to take on the man that beat him at his own game eight years ago: Gabriel Gonzaga.

Both will meet again in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Cro Cop vs. Gonzaga 2 in April. And after 14 years of professional MMA fighting in the biggest organizations of the world, this could mark the first time, the Croatian prepares himself like an MMA fighter should - by sparring with another MMA fighter.

He told MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani:

"I was always managing to have either top jiu-jitsu fighters or top kickboxers," Cro Cop said. "I never in my life prepared myself for a fight with a complete MMA fighter and a top one, especially a top one. That's the key. Sparring is the key. You need to spar with complete MMA fighters. [...] The kickboxer doesn't know how to take me down," Cro Cop said. "The jiu-jitsu fighter doesn't know how to punch me on the ground. I need a complete fighter who knows how to throw elbows on the ground, who knows how to do ground and pound. All those things are very important in an MMA fight."

Most fighters seek those complete sparring partners in big camps around the world. Not Mirko Cro Cop. While he admits to the benefits of professional camps away from home, they are still not an option for him. "I just can't go outside of Croatia to train," he said. "I have two sons. I have a family here. It would definitely kill me, personally."

That's why Cro Cop will continue to train at home, like he did all those years. It's a lucky coincidence, that one of the most promising UFC heavyweights has Croatian roots, too: Stipe Miocic, who is happy to fly over to help the former PRIDE Grand Prix champion prepare.

Miocic lost on points to Junior dos Santos in a grueling five-round war in his last fight in December, but holds a victory over Gonzaga and is 6-2 in the UFC. If this really is the first time, Cro Cop spars with a real MMA fighter, it will be interesting to see if he looks improved on April 11 in Krakow, Poland.