by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Just as though he appeared on the cover of the latest Madden video game or had been praised on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the next champion of the UFC, it looked like Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic had a curse following him during his last trip to England when he was upset in dramatic fashion by Gabriel Gonzaga, a fight and a loss that cost him a chance at UFC heavyweight championship.
This isn’t the first time in Cro Cop’s career where it seemed the odds were in his favor to get a title shot and the end result was him laid out on the mat.
In 2004, Cro Cop was the leading candidate to get to the finals of the Pride heavyweight Grand Prix and face off against champion Fedor Emelianenko.
In the first round of the event, Cro Cop faced former UFC heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman in what most believed would be a walk through fight for the Croatian.
Instead, Randleman landed a huge punch that floored Cro Cop and put him out of the tournament and back to the drawing board for a title shot.
The current Croatian parliament member went on to win his next 7 fights in a row, including a win in a rematch over Randleman, earning a shot at Fedor for the Pride heavyweight title.
In a match that will long be remembered as one of the most highly anticipated fights in MMA history, the champion Fedor Emelianenko defeated Cro Cop via a unanimous decision, placing Mirko back to contender status once again.
The bright spot for Cro Cop came in 2006 as he was able to win the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix defeating fighters like Wanderlei Silva and Josh Barnett along the way.
After his tremendous run in the tournament, Cro Cop became a free agent and shortly thereafter was announced as the latest acquisition by UFC president Dana White and the former Croatian special forces member came ready to conquer America.
Cro Cop impressed fans by dominating heavyweight Eddie Sanchez in his first fight and it looked like a championship run was in his sights.
Matched up with Brazilian grappler, Gabriel Gonzaga, it looked like the UFC was handing Cro Cop a match-up that would place him right in line for a shot at new champion Randy Couture.
Instead, Gonzaga one upped what Randleman did in 2004 by not only knocking Cro Cop out, but by using a high kick, something Mirko is world famous for doing to his opponents.
Beyond the knockout, Gonzaga dominated the entire fight, catching the first kick thrown by Cro Cop, putting him on the ground and unloading some devastating ground and pound before the fight was stood back up and the high kick uncorked.
After the fight, Cro Cop had a rehab an injured ankle he suffered in the loss with Gonzaga and admitted that he hadn’t been as prepared for the fight as was necessary.
Since that time, Cro Cop has built a full size cage in his gym to prepare for all that the Octagon will give him in a fight as well as training with elbows, something Gonzaga used effectively and a weapon not allowed in Pride.
He also brought in new training partners like former K-1 Grand Prix champion Remy Bonjasky to help him prepare for the striking attack of opponent Cheick Kongo, as well as enlisting the help of grappling guru Dean Lister to help his ground work.
Cro Cop may not believe in curses but he needs to believe he is ready for war as Kongo will definitely be the stand-up fight that he’s been waiting for since coming to the UFC.