If you’ve followed MMA for more than five years, you’re probably familiar with Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic for more than just the time he’s spent inside the Octagon. You likely remember his run through the 2006 Pride Open Weight Grand Prix. Or perhaps you recall his fight with Fedor Emelianenko for the Pride heavyweight title – a bout that, at the time, was arguably the biggest in MMA history.
If you don’t remember any of that, it’s okay. Just know that Cro Cop was a menace in the ring and the most feared striker the sport had seen up to that point in time.
Over the last five years, the sport has evolved tremendously. With that evolution, younger and more well-rounded fighters have entered the game and completely changed the landscape of competition.
Enter Brendan Schaub.
The UFC heavyweight is a young, up-and-coming fighter with a world of potential heading into his UFC 128 match-up against the legend that is Cro Cop. Schaub recalls the Cro Cop from years before and admits to being a fan of his, much like Pat Barry did prior to his fight against the Croatian at UFC 115: Liddell vs. Franklin.
The media’s biggest criticism of Barry in that fight was seemingly letting the aura of Cro Cop consume him. Being a fan of his apparently got in the way of following through with the killer instinct.
You think the same thing is going to happen to Brendan Schaub? According to him, being a Cro Cop fan just makes him want to lay out his UFC 128 opponent that much more. Ironically, that’s how he says he’ll pay respect to a legend.
“The way I show my respect is by getting after these guys, giving them my best,” Schaub said on MMAWeekly Radio. “I go in there to give these guys all I got. Doing anything else I think is doing a disservice to them. It’s almost disrespectful.
“As far as him being a legend, it makes me just want to get after him and knock him out that much more.”
Maybe the idea of beating a fighter he’s seen compete for years is a driving factor behind Schaub’s intention to knock him out. Perhaps topping someone who was once on top opens up a place at the top.
Still, Schaub admits to having an odd feeling in getting an opportunity to take on someone he views as legendary. Ultimately, the fight is one he’ll remember for the rest of his life, guaranteeing a time when he’ll tell his children’s children of the night he fought Cro Cop.
“I’ve been a big fan of Mirko and it’s weird you get a chance to fight a legend like Mirko,” he said. “This is one of those fights that, when I’m retired and looking back on my career, this is going to be one of those ones you hang your hat on.”
Schaub made it clear that finding a training partner to mirror Cro Cop is a bit of a task. At six-foot-two and 225 pounds, Filipovic is a smaller heavyweight, but for what he lacks in size, he still packs power in that left side of his. Although he hasn’t had a highlight reel head-kick finish since 2006, the possibility of absorbing a deep impact from a Cro Cop strike is still as strong as ever.
“He’s a small heavyweight, about 220, 225 and he’s fast, he’s a southpaw,” Schaub explained. “Those guys are hard to find as training partners. His left kick is still very dangerous and that left hand comes with bad intentions.”