If some fans and pundits are having misgivings about Bellator’s decision to work with Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic, it doesn’t sound like head of operations Scott Coker is giving their concerns much truck. Filipovic was handed a two-year suspension back in 2015, by USADA, stemming from a failed drug test ahead of a planned UFC bout against Anthony Hamilton. A suspension that would have been wrapped up last November, had the former Pride & K-1 Grand Prix winner ever served it.
Instead, the UFC granted the Croatian fighter his release from the promotion the following July, after which – along with various retirement claims – he went on to compete five times, winning all bouts by stoppage. Since he’s been fighting in Japan, outside the network of US athletic commissions likely to uphold his USADA suspension, the anti-doping agency’s penalty has been effectively rendered moot.
To Coker’s feeling, if CroCop’s punishment was worth enforcing, USADA and the UFC should have looked to do something about it back when they had the chance. It’s a view the Bellator honcho recently made clear in an interview with MMANYtt (transcript via MMAFighting).
“To me it’s like, if you wanted to take action, you should’ve took action a long time ago,” Coker explained, “because to me, honestly, when we booked it, we didn’t even know there were issues. He’s already fighting so we thought he was able to fight.”
“Listen, USADA works with the UFC,” he continued. “They’re doing their own thing, so go do it. I just feel like the timing of it is a little bit questionable because at the end of the day, if you really wanted to enforce it, you should’ve enforced it two years ago when Mirko fought in Japan.”
Bellator 200 is set to go down on May 25th in London, England – once again away from potential commission trouble. There, Filipovic is expected to face another former UFC veteran in Roy Nelson. Nelson and CroCop fought for the first time back in 2011, with Nelson winning the bout via third round TKO. The card also includes Rafael Carvalho vs. Gegard Mousasi, Michael Page vs. David Rickels, and Phil Davis vs. Linton Vassell.