by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
Putting an end to the recent barrage of speculation, Fight Entertainment Group in partnership with former Dream Stage Entertainment staff members on Wednesday announced a new promotion called Dream. But aside from obviously trying to fill a void left by the departure of Pride Fighting Championships from the Japanese scene, Dream has emerged as the new home of former Pride and UFC fighter Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic.
Although he was in the midst of a reported six-fight contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Filipovic’s disappointing performances in the Octagon made the situation a win-win for both him and the UFC to allow the Croatian to return to Japan.
With his departure, the promotion is relieved of paying for a fighter that in his UFC debut was paid $350,000 (not including any bonuses or other non-disclosed incentives) to defeat Eddie Sanchez, but then lost back-to-back bouts to Gabriel Gonzaga and Cheick Kongo.
For his part, Filipovic gets to return to Japan, where he is more comfortable fighting, and will have the opportunity to rebuild his reputation, likely without suffering any negative impact on his income. He is an extremely popular fighter in Japan, especially when compared to other non-Japanese athletes.
“I’m happy to be back in Japan,” said Filipovic to the 500 fans that turned out for the press conference announcing Dream and his participation in the promotion. “I didn’t like the cage very much, and now I’m looking forward to fighting here again. I feel that Japan is like my second home, this is where I want to fight.”
He also stated that he would someday like to return to the UFC to prove that it was just a bad time for him and that the losses were not indicative of his career.
In comments made to MMAWeekly.com, UFC president Dana White indicated that the split was amicable and that he believes Filipovic will one day be back to fight for his promotion, maybe even sooner rather than later.
“I have a lot of respect for Cro Cop and I like him,” stated White. “He wants to win the UFC title really bad. He is going back to Japan and taking some tune-up fights and wants to come back and prove himself in the UFC by the end of the year.”
Just whom Filipovic will be fighting in Japan, and even when, has as of yet been left unanswered. Although Dream officials were hopeful that he could be fighting as soon as their first event on March 15 at the Saitama Super Arena, they would not go so far as to confirm anything specific.
No details of Filipovic’s release from his UFC obligations, nor of his contract with Dream were forthcoming.
Although Filipovic stated that he would one day like to return to the UFC and White also said that he could be making that return in the near future, no definitive statements regarding the fighter’s future with the UFC were made.
White left the door wide open saying only, “I wish him the best of luck and hope to see him back.”