A couple of red flags immediately shot into the air. First, Cro Cop last fought for the UFC and, despite retiring, remained under contract with the MMA juggernaut. Second, Cro Cop was flagged by the United States Anti-Doping Agency for an anti-doping violation after admitting in November of 2015 that he had been using prohibited substances.
“Filipovic, 41, admitted to the use, attempted use, and possession of human growth hormone (hGH) following an out-of-competition test conducted on November 4, 2015 in Zagreb, Croatia,” USADA revealed in announcing his two-year suspension.
The USADA hurdle was cleared, according to MMAFighting.com, because Rizin has decided to give Cro Cop a first-round bye. He won’t fight for them until December, which puts him clear of his November reinstatement. Of course, with Rizin taking place in Japan, which has no sanctioning body, Cro Cop could have simply ignored the suspension and fought anyway. He would have only run into trouble if he tried to fight again in a region that is governed by an official sanctioning body.
“Former heavyweight contender Mirko Cro Cop announced his retirement from the sport of MMA in November (of 2015), and recently requested that the remaining bouts in his promotional agreement with the UFC organization be terminated,” read a UFC statement.
“UFC agreed to terminate the remaining bouts in the promotional agreement, however, Cro Cop was advised that UFC does not have any power to reduce or terminate the sanctions imposed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency pursuant to the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.”
As such, Cro Cop will join Wanderlei Silva in the tournament, potentially setting up a trilogy bout between the two former Pride FC standouts. The two fought to a draw in 2002. In 2006, Cro Cop knocked out Silva en route to winning the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix title.