Credit: Ken Pishna - MMA Weekly

Mirko Cro Cop reflects on success in Pride, lack of in UFC

“I miss Japan. I miss those days. So many things have changed since then” proclaimed the man once seen as the most feared striker in MMA. And right he is.

Former Pride superstar Mirko Cro Cop appeared on the MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani on Monday, and to call his interview entertaining would be a huge understatement. The Croatian sensation reflected on his long and illustrious career, while also reflected on his lacklustre run in the UFC, his fight with Bob Sapp and more in one of the most interesting interviews on the year hitherto.

Cro Cop recently lost to UFC newcomer Alexey Oleinik, a win that led to Oleinik receiving the call-up to the American based promotion, and he is set to fight at the upcoming Glory 14 kickboxing event in Cro Cop’s native Croatia.

Snippets from the interview can be found below, followed by a link to watch the interview in its entirety. Props to for the transcription.

On Bob Sapp’s decline:

“I met him one year ago in Japan, when I fought a Japanese pro wrestler in MMA. I asked him, ‘Bob, why are you doing this?’ He is too dangerous, he is such a huge guy. I saw some of his fights, he was fighting in Europe. 99% of the fights he lost here in Europe, he could’ve kicked their asses easily. Why he didn’t do that? To me, it looked like he was doing that with some intention. He just wanted to lose the fight. Unbelievable.

He’s a huge guy, and enormously strong, especially in MMA. He’s loses fights with guys who are 50-60 kilograms lighter than he is and he could beat them easily. Easily. Why he is doing that, I don’t know.”

On the rapid decline of MMA in Japan:

“I am surprised… I talked to my Japanese manager, who is a very capable and very diligent guy. I said, ‘what happened with Japan?’ He said, ‘after Pride died, people just lost interest.’ Of course I don’t want to underestimate anyone, but there was four fighters that created the biggest attractions. It was Nogueira, Fedor, Wanderlei Silva and myself. And at the end of the day, we all left. I was the first one. I left for the UFC, and after me, Nogueira and Wanderlei Silva, and then the UFC bought Pride. The martial arts scene just disappeared.

My manager claims that the audience that were coming to Saitama all the time, they just found new heroes, new interests in the meantime. They lost interest because there wasn’t attractive fighters like Nogueira, like Fedor, like Wanderlei, like me, like many others, like Rampage Jackson. The market just died. The market just died. Unbelievable, and it makes me sad.”

On his inconsistent run in the UFC:

“It’s a black spot in my career. The UFC treated me like a king, UFC fans treated me like a king. I just failed. Why? It’s hard to say. New fighters are coming. But I will always believe — maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m right, who knows — but I’ll always believe that my bad period in the UFC started with my injuries… There is an old wise saying, ‘a winner will always find a solution, and a loser will always find an excuse’, so I don’t want to sound like a loser who is finding some excuse. But the fact is, after my last fight in Pride and before my first fight in the UFC, I had my first surgery.

Definitely, definitely, it left kind of a scar. I had my first fight (in the UFC) then, and I won it, but I felt really bad. I knew it wasn’t me. It wasn’t me. I fought — I can’t remember my opponent’s name — but then after that I fought Gonzaga. I lost, terrible high kick. I was surprised and shocked by the cage. And at the end of the day, it was the first time (I fought with grounded elbows allowed) — actually second, but my first opponent didn’t have the time — and Gonzaga destroyed me with elbows from the ground. So after we stood up, I didn’t have double vision. I had [triple] vision. I saw three guys. He really beat me up badly, and he threw a high kick which I didn’t even notice. The bad period was just in front of me. And then after that I broke my leg, I [tore] my knee, so I had four knee injuries, and then so many. I would say it’s bad luck. Maybe it’s not. Maybe I was happy, but because in my previous career I didn’t have any kind of injuries, so maybe I can consider myself lucky at the end of the day. But the UFC days, (it was) injury after injury. And then before my last fight in the UFC with Roy Nelson, I broke my arm. Not bone, but ligament and biceps broke in half completely.

 I was crazy and I took my chances, I risked (my health). Now I know, maybe I shouldn’t do that and I should do something different, but at the end of the day, it’s me… But I don’t feel sorry. That’s the name of the game. It’s not shame to go down. It’s shame not to stand up. That’s what I was always saying. I’m a fighter, I’m a warrior, that’s my job, that’s my love, and I enjoy it.”

The interview is fascinating, and I encourage everyone to check out the video below. Once again, thanks to MMAFighting for the transcription.

Tags: Mirko Cro Cop PRIDE Roy Nelson UFC

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