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Mirko Filipovic Bio

Mirko Filipović (Croatian pronunciation: [mîrko fǐːlipɔːʋitɕ]; born 10 September 1974) is a Croatian heavyweight mixed martial artist, kickboxer, boxer, politician, and law enforcement officer.

Filipović is the 2006 Pride Open-Weight Grand Prix Champion, the 2012 K-1 World Grand Prix Champion and the 2016 Rizin Openweight Grand Prix Champion becoming the second fighter in the world to win mixed martial arts and kickboxing championships and tournaments. He is also a former IGF Champion. His nickname, Cro Cop, short for "Croatian Cop", comes from his membership in the Lučko Anti-Terrorist Unit, Croatia's elite Police Special Forces tactical unit.

Filipović's signature move was his lightning quick left head-kick, once famously described as "right leg, hospital; left leg, cemetery." He was a successful amateur boxer and medalled numerous times in international competition, and was also a member of Croatia's world team when he competed at the 1997 Amateur Boxing World Championships.

From 23 December 2003 until 11 January 2008 he served as a Member of Parliament for the 1st electoral district. He was elected as an independent candidate on the party list of the Social Democratic Party.


  • 1 Background
  • 2 Professional career
    • 2.1 Pride FC
      • 2.1.1 Early PRIDE Career
      • 2.1.2 PRIDE Interim Heavyweight Championship
      • 2.1.3 PRIDE 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix and comeback
      • 2.1.4 PRIDE title fight with Emelianenko
      • 2.1.5 Post-title shot and PRIDE 2006 Openweight Grand Prix
    • 2.2 Ultimate Fighting Championship
      • 2.2.1 UFC Debut
      • 2.2.2 UFC title eliminator
      • 2.2.3 End of 1st UFC stint
    • 2.3 Dream
    • 2.4 Return to the UFC
    • 2.5 Retirement from MMA and return to kickboxing
    • 2.6 Return to MMA
    • 2.7 Retirement from kickboxing and third stint in the UFC
    • 2.8 Retirement from MMA and anti-doping violation
    • 2.9 Return with Rizin FF
      • 2.9.1 2016 Openweight Grand Prix
  • 3 Fighting style
  • 4 Personal life
    • 4.1 Film career
    • 4.2 Political career
  • 5 Championships and accomplishments
    • 5.1 Records
    • 5.2 Kickboxing
    • 5.3 Mixed martial arts
    • 5.4 Amateur boxing
  • 6 Mixed martial arts record
  • 7 Kickboxing record
  • 8 See also
  • 9 References
  • 10 External links


Filipović was born 10 September 1974 in Vinkovci, Vukovar-Srijem County, Socialist Republic of Croatia, Socialist Federal Republic Yugoslavia (today Republic of Croatia). He was raised in a working-class family with his sister, who is three years his senior. Mirko grew up training in track and field, namely the shorter distance events (100m, 200m, and 400m dashes.) After seeing Jean-Claude Van Damme's performance in the film Bloodsport, he began training in his parents' garage with his father's boxing equipment and weights. His father, who worked as an electrician for a railway company, fashioned his son a crude but effective punching bag filled with sand and cotton, and would bring home track scraps for Mirko to use as for weight training. Filipovic began training officially in Taekwondo at the age of 7 and later studied Karate.

Filipović's father died in 1994 when Filipovic was 19 years old and that same year, he joined the Croatian Army. The Croatian War of Independence was entering its final year, and he was sent to train in Zagreb where he joined a boxing club. After joining the Croatian police force in 1996 following a year in the army, he embarked on a career in professional kickboxing in March that year and defeated Jérôme Le Banner in his debut. After losing to Ernesto Hoost in his next kickboxing match, he turned his attention back to amateur boxing and his law enforcement career. He had success in both areas as a three-time national amateur boxing champion and later joined the Lučko Anti-Terrorist Unit where he served for six years until he was elected to the Croatian Parliament.

Professional career

A martial arts enthusiast since his youth, Filipović started his professional career in 1996 as a kickboxer, following in the footsteps of his compatriot Branko Cikatić. Before turning pro, Filipović had accumulated an amateur boxing record of 48–8 (31 KO's). At the time, he was working as a commando in the Croatian police anti-terrorist unit Alpha (stationed in Lučko near Zagreb), which earned him his nickname "Cro Cop". He fought several times early in his career under the nickname "Tigar" (Croatian for "tiger").

Pride FC

In 2001, Filipović began his switch to fighting in Pride, citing personal challenge as well as dissatisfaction with K-1 salaries. A year later, he also left his job at the anti-terrorist unit in order to focus fully on his martial arts career.

Cro Cop's first 6 professional MMA fights were in K-1 2001 GP Final, PRIDE FC and the New Year's events Inoki-Bom-Ba-Ye. He defeated veterans Kazuyuki Fujita (twice) and Japanese legend Kazushi Sakuraba, while drawing with Nobuhiko Takada and reigning PRIDE Middleweight Champion Wanderlei Silva.

Early PRIDE Career

Now fighting exclusively in PRIDE, Filipovic's 7th MMA fight was against former title challenger Heath Herring, who sported a 20-8 record and had gone the distance with current champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira as well as fighting soon-to-be champion Fedor Emelianenko - where the doctor had to stop the fight after the 1st round. Cro Cop defeated Herring by a body kick and punches 3 minutes into the fight.

In his 8th fight, he became the first fighter to defeat legendary striker Igor Vovchanchyn by KO (with his trademark head kick). This was witnessed as a passing of the torch in the heavyweight division, as Vovchanchyn went on a decline and Filipović continued his run at the heavyweight title. Cro Cop then defeated Dos Caras Jr. via head kick KO in 46 seconds, and then told the fans that he would see them in his next fight for the title against Fedor Emelianenko.

PRIDE Interim Heavyweight Championship

After a contractual dispute between PRIDE and Fedor Emelianenko, PRIDE matched up Cro Cop against former champion Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira for the PRIDE Interim Heavyweight Championship. Filipovic dominated early in the stand up; even knocking Nogueria down at the end of the round which prompted Yuji Shimada to wave the fight off, but the bell had already rang. At the start of the second round, Cro Cop was taken down, mounted and eventually submitted via armbar in the second round, suffering the first loss of his career.

PRIDE 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix and comeback

After the loss to Nogueira, Cro Cop scored back to back first-round TKO's of Ron Waterman and Yoshihisa Yamamoto. It was after these performances that he was drawn into the bracket of the 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix. In what was seen as the biggest upset in recent history at the time, Filipović was KO'd by former UFC Heavyweight Champion Kevin Randleman at 1:57 of the very first round, being eliminated in the opening round of the tournament where he was favored to be a finalist or even win it all.

It was after this tournament that Cro Cop went on a seven fight win streak from May 23, 2004 until June 26, 2005. He began by fighting 1 month after the loss to Randleman, against Hiromitsu Kanehara, a seasoned RINGS veteran. Cro Cop won by a unanimous decision (the second decision victory of his career). He then knocked out Shungo Oyama 2 months later in 1 minute. A month after that, Filipovic scored a head-kick knockout 2 minutes into his fight with Alexander Emelianenko (brother of the champion). Staying busy, Filipovic defeated former UFC Heavyweight Champion and reigning King of Pancrase Josh Barnett 2 months later at PRIDE 28, when Barnett injured his shoulder only 46 seconds into the fight. 2 months after that, Filipovic avenged his loss to Randleman by guillotine choke at PRIDE's new year show.

After defeating Randleman, Cro Cop stated that he wished to fight former UFC Heavyweight Champion and PRIDE 2000 Grand Prix Champion Mark Coleman. In the pre-fight interviews, Coleman repeatedly stated that he was going to take Cro Cop down and pound him out, while Cro Cop said there's no way he would be taken down and that he would defeat Coleman. At PRIDE 29, Filipovic stuffed every single one of Coleman's take down attempts, staggered Coleman with straight lefts before knocking him out at 3:40 of the first round with punches and a soccer kick.

Cro Cop had defeated 3 former UFC Heavyweight champions back to back, and said in the ring after defeating Coleman,

"I'm still standing, and I'm still waiting for a title fight. Emelianenko Fedor, you are next."

Filipovic faced Emelianenko's teammate, Ibragim Magomedov at PRIDE Critical Countdown 2005, winning by a body kick TKO in the 1st round (his 6th first round finish in a row). Emelianenko cornered Magomedov for this fight, and after the fight, stepped into the ring and shook hands with Filipovic as the two posed with the championship belt. Filipović finally received a chance to fight Fedor for the Pride Heavyweight Championship. The highly anticipated match between Emelianenko and Filipović finally took place at PRIDE Final Conflict 2005.

PRIDE title fight with Emelianenko

In the first round, Filipović stunned and broke Emelianenko's nose with two quick straight left hands. He discolored Fedor's midsection with powerful body kicks. Emelianenko was then able to get the fight to the ground and land several body shots, which took a lot of gas out of Filipović. As the fight progressed, Emelianenko became more and more dominant, winning most of the stand up exchanges and scoring several takedowns. After 20 minutes, Emelianenko was awarded a unanimous decision victory. The fight was awarded fight of the year by mmafighting.com and fight of the decade by Sports Illustrated.

Post-title shot and PRIDE 2006 Openweight Grand Prix

After the loss to Emelianenko, Filipović defeated Josh Barnett at PRIDE 30 by what some saw as a close and controversial unanimous decision, and then dropped a split decision loss to hard hitting K-1 veteran Mark Hunt at PRIDE Shockwave 2005.

Coming into the 2006 Openweight Grand Prix, Filipović TKO'd two Japanese legends, Pancrase veteran Ikuhisa Minowa in the opening round, and 1992 Olympic Judo Gold Medalist Hidehiko Yoshida in the quarterfinal. On his 32nd birthday, he met Wanderlei Silva at Pride Final Conflict Absolute in the semi-finals, where he put on one of his best performances, defeating the Middleweight champion with his trademark head kick knockout.

This put him in the final against Josh Barnett, a fighter whom he would face for the third time in his career. After exchanging in the stand up, Cro Cop was able to posture in Barnett's guard - landing many punches. At 7:32 of the first round, Barnett tapped to strikes, earning Filipović his first belt in his MMA career - the PRIDE 2006 Openweight Grand Prix championship. When PRIDE president Nobuyuki Sakakibara placed the belt around Filipovic's waist, Cro Cop broke down in tears and addressed the crowd in attendance, saying "This is the happiest day in my life. It's my 32nd birthday, and I want to thank all my fans in the arena, and all around the world for supporting me during my career. I love you, thank you."

Many have cited the performances that night as Filipovic's finest - leading Wanderlei Silva's trainer, Rudimar Federigo to say, "That was Mirko’s day. He fought two perfect fights and I believe even Fedor could lose to him on that night." Josh Barnett would later say - despite facing top fighters like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Randy Couture, Frank Mir and Andrei Arlovski - that Cro Cop was the best fighter he ever faced in his career.

After winning the belt, Cro Cop revealed some more of his emotions behind the victory in the backstage interview with Frank Trigg,

"All I can say is this is the happiest day of my life. Definitely. I was waiting for this for 10 long years and finally - I knew that I'm the best, but some circumstances just didn't let me do that. To go to the end, and I proved to all the people who were talking that I'm finished, that I'm done after Fedor's fight, that I am number one. Believe it or not, and I swear with everything I got, I told myself, 'If I don't take this belt, it will be my last MMA fight in my life.' I would quit fighting, I swear. And that's why I said, 'now or never'. And plus I was training like never before, and I was motivated, and I knew this is it.

There is no [bad] blood between us [myself and Silva.] I would like to know how he is, and I would like to shake hands with him. That's all. I have nothing against him, really. But I told you before, he is just acting weird and he refused any kind of contact, but I'm not mad at Wanderlei, I don't hate him. I respect him as a fighter, and I would like to see him if he's still here.

I'm very happy, this is the day of my life, and I'm only sorry for one thing - that my father couldn't live long enough to see my success. He died 12 years ago and I dedicate this belt for my father."

After his victory at the 2006 Openweight Grand Prix, a rematch between Filipović and Fedor Emelianenko failed to materialize and on December 12, 2006 Filipović pulled out of the New Year's Eve event, citing both a foot injury and Emelianenko's commitment to meet Mark Hunt at the card in question. Through his official website, Filipović revealed "I still can't kick like I want to. It's the best that we give more time to this injury to heal. I want to be in perfect shape for my next fights."

Filipović has often been cited as being one member of the "Holy Trinity of PRIDE" (alongside Rodrigo Nogueira and Emelianenko.) These 3 heavyweights were considered anywhere between number 1-3 at any point in time between 2003-2007, and are often looked at as the "golden age" of MMA.

Ultimate Fighting Championship

In December 2006, rumors began to surface about Filipović entertaining offers from other mixed martial arts organizations; the Ultimate Fighting Championship was one of the promotions that Filipović confirmed came forward with an offer. Rumors continued to circulate about Filipović's future with the Pride FC organization and media websites were reporting that Filipović had chosen the UFC for his future. It was announced during the pay-per-view of UFC 66 that Filipovic indeed signed with the UFC.

UFC Debut

Filipović made his UFC debut at UFC 67 on Saturday, February 3 - which featured fellow debutants and future UFC champions Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida and Frankie Edgar - stopping the undefeated prospect Eddie Sanchez by TKO at 4:33 of the very 1st round. Average betting for this fight was around -1200 for "Cro Cop" and +800 for Eddie Sanchez, the biggest gap for underdog/favorite in UFC history.

It has been speculated that the reason Filipovic did not receive an immediate title shot - despite being ranked #2 across many media outlets - was due to his lack of popularity with the UFC audience.

UFC title eliminator

On 21 April 2007, Filipović faced Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 70 in Manchester, United Kingdom to determine who would challenge reigning champion Randy Couture for the heavyweight title. In what was seen as an upset by many in the MMA world, Gonzaga won with a head kick knockout at 4:51 of the 1st round. Filipović claimed the elbows on the ground confused and damaged him enough that he was disoriented after the stand up, contributing to the subsequent knock-out. During the fall to the canvas, Filipović suffered a minor injury to his ankle and a ligament was detached in his knee. It was number 1 in the 'Deadliest Headkick Knockout' due to Gonzaga stealing Filipović's finisher, but the timing of the countdown coincided with their upcoming rematch on 11 April 2015.

End of 1st UFC stint

Filipović's next fight was on 8 September 2007 at UFC 75 against French kickboxer Cheick Kongo where he lost by unanimous decision (29–28, 29–28, 29–28). In a post-fight interview upon his return home, Filipović stated that he cracked a rib during the fight and that the three illegal knees to the groin he received also cost him some strength. Filipović trained with Remy Bonjasky and Gilbert Yvel, and 2003 Abu Dhabi Combat Club champion grappler Dean Lister for this fight. Lister joined Filipović at his home town for a month to train for this upcoming bout. Filipović's coach was Vos Gym's main trainer and muay thai practitioner Ivan "Hydro" Hippolyte.


On 12 February 2008, Filipović announced a visit to Japan on his blog. With the foundation of the new MMA event, 'Dream', co-established by FEG running K-1 Hero's and the former Yarennoka! organizing committee members which had managed Pride FC, Filipović officiates ending his career in UFC and the participation into the new event.

Fight Entertainment Group confirmed on 11 March 2008 that Filipović would face Tatsuya Mizuno at Dream 1 on 15 March at Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan.

When asked about Filipović's current contract status with the UFC and whether it would interfere with his participation in 'Dream' events, Dream producer and front man Keiichi Sasahara said, "Though I can't share specific details about his contract, there will not be any foreseeable problems arising."

Filipović was vague in answering the question himself, qualifying his response by mentioning his intent to return to the UFC sometime in the future.

"Well, as you all know, I had a bad period in my last two fights, which I'd lost in the UFC ... I don't want anyone to think that I'm running away from the UFC, but I was thinking a lot about how to continue with my career, and I think in this moment, I think Dream is the right place for me", Filipović said.

"Another thing is that I never liked fighting in the cage. I always liked to fight in the ring. The second thing is that I liked fighting in Japan. Japan is like my second home—I feel like I'm home in Japan. All those reasons [have brought me] here, and I'm very happy that I'm going to fight here in Japan. But of course, one day, I don't know when, but definitely I'll be back in the UFC to show that it was just a bad period for me. Now I'm fully recovered, physically and mentally, most important mentally."

On 23 September 2008, Filipović's fought against Alistair Overeem at Dream 6. After almost half of the first round saw Overeem takedown Filipović twice and the two fighters exchanging stand-up and ground strikes (with Filipović sustaining a cut) the bout was stopped and declared a no contest due to Overeem landing multiple knees to the groin of Filipović, who stated after the match that he had wanted to continue to fight, as evident by his remaining in the ring, but the ringside doctor would not allow him to continue. His manager stated that the injury was not serious and that a rematch as soon as possible was sought. Filipović said that he was planning for a long fight and a KO towards the end. He expressed frustration and quoted "I'm angry it ended this way, it seemed as if he was the dominant one, however I wasn't in trouble for a second and was waiting for my opportunities. I prepared very well because I thought the match could last a while. I thought I would knock him down in the end." In recording the fight, Filipović's corner relayed to the announcers that his right testicle had been lodged inside of his body and that he could not continue. He later limped out of the arena.

Return to the UFC

Mirko Filipović defeated Pat Barry by submission due to a rear naked choke at UFC 115 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

On 18 May, Filipović issued a press release on his official website and his MMAid account stating his scheduled return to the UFC. His first match upon returning was at UFC 99 in Germany against Mostapha al-Turk. During the bout, Filipović knocked down al-Turk with punches within the first round, then allowed him to stand. The fight ended when Filipović finished al-Turk with a flurry of punches that left al-Turk unable to defend himself. After the one-fight agreement with the UFC, it was announced Filipović was scheduled to return to Dream to face Siala "Mighty Mo" Siliga on 20 July at Dream.10. On 3 July 2009, it was reported that he might have re-signed with the UFC after getting an offer "he couldn't refuse" by UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta who personally flew to Filipović's residence in Zagreb. It was later confirmed at the UFC Fan Expo by Fertitta that Filipović had indeed signed a three-fight contract with the UFC.

Filipović fought up and coming striker Junior dos Santos at UFC 103. During the third round, Filipović sustained an uppercut to his left eye that caused him to verbally submit by waving his hand at the referee and motioning that there was a problem with his eye. The fight was officially stopped due to submission, giving Dos Santos the win. After the fight, Filipović showed signs of frustration, stating, "I don't feel the hunger anymore. I started playing it safe, I'm not ready to take risks."

He hired legendary former Muay Thai champion Ivan Hippolyte and revamped his whole training team. Filipović was scheduled to face Ben Rothwell on February 21, 2010 at UFC 110. Just days before the fight, Rothwell was forced to withdraw from the event because of an illness. Australian fighter Anthony Perosh stepped in to replace Rothwell.

During the fight, Filipović dominated for two rounds before opening a cut on Perosh's forehead which forced a doctor stoppage before the third round and awarded the TKO win to Filipović, who fought despite receiving a cut in training that required stitches.

Filipović next fought against fellow former Kickboxer Pat Barry at UFC 115 in Vancouver, Canada. After being knocked down twice to the canvas in the first round by Barry's strikes, he won the second round after utilizing his ground game. The third round saw Filipović open up with a head kick followed by an axe kick to Barry's head. He ended the fight with a strong flurry, dropping Barry against the cage where he continued his assault with numerous punches to the face. He then took his back and defeated Barry by rear naked choke, earning him Submission of the Night honors which Filipović had joked to Dana White and the crowd earlier that he deserved it. Prior to the Barry fight, Filipović was detained by Canadian officials, who threatened to deport him. He revealed that the Canadian officials had asked for details of his activities in the Lučko ATJ which he had several years after the Croatian War of Independence. He was held for six hours.

Filipović faced former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir on 25 September 2010 at UFC 119, replacing an injured Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira. There was a brief scare the weekend before the fight when Cro Cop suffered an eye injury in Croatia during his final day of training, but upon arrival in the U.S., was medically cleared to compete.

Neither fighter managed to deliver any significant damage to the other until Filipović was defeated by Mir at 4:02 of the third round by KO. In a later interview for a Croatian television station Cro Cop stated that he suffered a disc herniation three weeks before the fight with Mir. He decided not to inform the UFC about this injury because he believed it would seem as if he was trying to pull out of the fight.

Filipović was defeated by Ultimate Fighter alumnus Brendan Schaub on March 19, 2011 at UFC 128: Shogun vs. Jones by way of knockout at 3:44 of the third round. Shortly after the knockout loss to Schaub, Dana White stated that Filipović is most likely retiring. Since this time, Dana White has appeared to have had a change of heart. In a recent interview White said "This guy wants to fight again, and I owe him another fight." White also added "Do I think he should have retired? Yeah," White said. "But I don't think he's in one of these situations like Chuck Liddell, who needed to retire right then. He's a man, a grown man, and if he wants to continue to fight, that's his right."

In his last fight with the UFC, Filipović was defeated by Roy Nelson at UFC 137 by TKO due to strikes in round 3. Even though he looked to be in good physical condition for the fight, he still did not look like the same fighter from his days in PRIDE FC. In an interview to a Croatian television station Filipović revealed that he suffered an arm injury in training 10 days before the fight. Filipović said the injury came as a result of him sparring with Pat Barry and that the doctors told him he had to go into surgery because a tendon had separated from a bone, but he refused. He decided to go through with the fight without informing the UFC officials about his injury.

Retirement from MMA and return to kickboxing

He has not completely retired, but that his days with the UFC, and possibly MMA, are now finished. He announced that he would return to kickboxing to fight at Cro Cop Final Fight 2012 at the Zagreb Arena on 10 March 2012. Mirko defeated Ray Sefo by unanimous decision.

Filipović fought on 27 May 2012 at K-1 World MAX 2012 World Championship Tournament Final 16 in Madrid, Spain against Loren Javier Jorge, where he won by knockout in the second round with a left uppercut.

He faced Randy Blake at the K-1 World Grand Prix 2012 in Tokyo Final 16 on 14 October 2012. In the third round, after a break and restart, Filipović attempted to apologize for a late uppercut, failing to put his hands up to defend and leading to a straight punch by Blake that resulted in a knockdown. Despite this incident, Cro Cop was able to outfight the American en route to a majority decision win.

He was scheduled to fight at Cro Cop Final Fight 2013 on 15 March 2013 in Zagreb, and expressed his desire to face Gökhan Saki. The event was then merged with the K-1 World Grand Prix 2012 Final, and was the first K-1 World Grand Prix held outside of Japan. He faced American boxer Jarrell Miller in the quarter-finals where the panel of judges awarded "Cro Cop" a unanimous decision win due to Cro Cop landing more significant strikes. He advanced to the semi-finals where he outpointed Pavel Zhuravlev to another unanimous decision. In the final, he fought Ismael Londt and floored the Suriname fighter with his patented left high kick in round two en route to yet another unanimous decision victory to win the tournament, thirteen years after he had finished as runner-up in 1999.

He lost to Remy Bonjasky by a widely disputed majority decision in a rematch at Glory 14: Zagreb in Zagreb on March 8, 2014. He was set to rematch Pat Barry at Glory 17: Los Angeles in Inglewood, California on 21 June 2014 but Barry withdrew from the fight for undisclosed reasons and was replaced by Sergei Kharitonov. Kharitonov then also withdrew, however, and was replaced by Jarrell Miller. Cro Cop won the rematch, against Jarrell Miller, by unanimous decision.

Return to MMA

On 8 August 2012 news came that Filipović had said that he would like to return to MMA, and on December 31, 2012 he made his comeback against former sumo wrestler and MMA newcomer Shinichi Suzukawa at Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2012 in Tokyo, Japan. He won the fight by submission due to an armbar at 1:18 of the first round.

Filipović was expected to rematch with Alexander Emelianenko in October or November 2013 in Russia. On 25 October 2013, it was reported that Emelianenko had been accused of assaulting a 63-year-old man in a bar. The fight organizer terminated the contract with Emelianenko and announced that Filipović would face a different opponent from Russia. Filipović eventually faced Oleksiy Oliynyk, who replaced Emelianenko, on 8 November 2013 at Legends 2 in Moscow. He lost the fight by submission in the first round.

On 23 August 2014, Filipović defeated former 2008 Olympic judo gold medalist Satoshi Ishii via doctor stoppage at an Inoki Genome Federation (IGF) event in Japan to win the IGF Championship.

Filipović was expected to fight Satoshi Ishii in a rematch on 31 December 2014 for the IGF Championship. However, the rematch was cancelled due to a rib injury sustained by Ishii. Filipović stayed on the card and a new match up was being sought for a brief period. On 1 December, it was reported that Ishii would be able to heal up in time to take the fight, and the rematch was official once again. Filipović defeated Ishii via TKO, landing a head kick and follow up punches just as the second round was coming to a close. Ishii was unable to make it to his corner under his own power, forcing the referee to call an end to the fight. Following his return to UFC, Filipović was stripped of the IGF Championship on January 23, 2015.

Retirement from kickboxing and third stint in the UFC

On January 20, 2015, Bloody Elbow reported that Cro Cop had re-signed with the UFC. Days earlier, Bellator MMA CEO Scott Coker had expressed interest in signing the IGF champion. This would mark the fighter's third stint with the promotion.

A rematch with Gabriel Gonzaga took place on 11 April 2015 at UFC Fight Night 64. After losing the first two rounds, Filipović landed an elbow in the clinch which rocked Gonzaga and finished the fight via TKO after landing multiple elbows and punches on the ground. The bout earned both men Fight of the Night bonus honors.

Retirement from MMA and anti-doping violation

Filipović was expected to face Anthony Hamilton on 28 November 2015 at UFC Fight Night 79. However, on November 10, it was announced that Filipović had pulled out of the fight and abruptly announced his retirement. Subsequently, on 11 November 2015, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) notified both Mirko Cro Cop and the UFC that he has been provisionally suspended due to a potential Anti-Doping Policy violation. The following day in a statement Filipović confirmed that he had used human growth hormone for his shoulder injury and had admitted this to the UFC. On November 25, Filipović was suspended for two years by USADA retroactive to November 9, 2015. On July 20, 2016 UFC announced that it has terminated the remaining bouts of Filipović's contract. The doping results returned negative for any banned substance.

Return with Rizin FF

In July 2016, Filipović announced that he was ending his retirement and would return to mixed martial arts competition in Japan. He is scheduled to make his return with the Rizin Fighting Federation as part of a 16-man openweight tournament beginning September 25, 2016 in Tokyo.

2016 Openweight Grand Prix

Filipović defeated Korean Hyun Man Myung in the first round via arm-triangle submission in the opening round of the tournament.

Filipović was scheduled to face Wanderlei Silva in a trilogy bout on December 29 in the Rizin Open Weight quarter finals. However, on December 2, Silva withdrew from the bout.

Rizin announced that Filipović would then face Muhammed Lawal, who had just fought Satoshi Ishii on December 16 at Bellator 169. On December 29th, Filipović won the bout via knockout in the second round. Filipović handed Lawal his first loss at heavyweight, with Lawal being 9-0 as a heavyweight prior to this fight.

Filipović faced Baruto Kaito on December 31, 2016 in the Rizin Openweight Grand Prix Semifinals. He won the fight with a knee to the body at 0:49 of the first round. Filipović then faced Amir Aliakbari in the final that same night. He won the fight via knockout to become the inaugural Rizin Openweight Grand Prix champion.

Fighting style

A pure sprawl and brawl fighter, Filipović focused his game on his kickboxing acumen and skill to avoid the fight on the ground. He made usage of a technical yet powerful striking epitomized by his famous left roundhouse kick to the head, sometimes combined with a fast left straight punch in order to open position. Despite the relative predictability of his offense, Filipović was able to hit it consistently by speed and timing, gaining 24 KO wins in his career, among them four by head kick alone. On the other hand, his defense featured a signature left sidestep used to avoid his adversary's lunges and a solid ability to sprawl, having stopped takedowns from Olympian caliber wrestlers such as Mark Coleman, Olympic judoka champions like Hidehiko Yoshida, wrestling champions like Kazuyuki Fujita or veteran wrestlers like Heath Herring and even countered judoka and sambist Aleksander Emelianenko's takedown attempt by a hip toss. Though always centered on his striking, Filipović developed over time groundfighting skills, being apt on fighting from his back and recovering the standing position.

Personal life

Filipović and his wife have two sons. In the 2004-05 season of the Croatian Second Football League, Filipović played for his hometown football club, HNK Cibalia, participating in the final 8 minutes of a match against HNK Vukovar.

Film career

Filipović starred in the 2005 action film Ultimate Force as Axon Rey.

Political career

Filipović was elected to the Croatian Parliament, where he served one term from 23 December 2003 to 11 January 2008. He was elected on a list for Social Democratic Party of Croatia from I electoral district.

Championships and accomplishments


  • Only person to win K-1, Pride, and RIZIN Grand Prix championships
  • One of two fighters to win a world championship in Mixed martial arts and Kickboxing
  • Only mixed martial artist to win three World Grand Prix championships


  • K-1
    • K-1 World Grand Prix 2012 Final Champion
    • K-1 World Grand Prix 2000 in Fukuoka Runner-up
    • K-1 Braves '99 3rd Place
    • K-1 World Grand Prix 1999 Runner-up
  • International Kick-Boxing Federation
    • I.K.B.F. World Heavyweight Full Contact Champion

Mixed martial arts

  • Rizin Fighting Federation
    • 2016 Rizin World Openweight Grand Prix Champion
    • Undefeated in 'Rizin Fighting Federation' competition (4-0)
  • Inoki Genome Federation
    • IGF Championship (One time)
    • One successful title defense
    • Undefeated in 'IGF' competition (5-0)
  • Pride Fighting Championships
    • 2006 Pride World Open-Weight Grand Prix Champion
    • Tied (Wanderlei Silva) for most finishes in Pride history (16)
    • Most first round finishes in Pride history (15)
    • Most wins through kicks in Pride history (8)
    • Most head kicks knockouts in Pride history (4)
    • Second most knockouts in Pride history (14)
    • Tied (Igor Vovchanchyn and Kazushi Sakuraba) for second most wins in Pride history (18)
    • Fourth most fights in Pride history (24)
    • Only fighter consecutively defeated three former UFC Heavyweight Champions in Pride history
  • Ultimate Fighting Championship
    • Most finishes in Zuffa, LLC (UFC, Pride, WEC, Strikeforce) history (21)
    • Most first round finishes in Zuffa, LLC (UFC, Pride, WEC, Strikeforce) history (17)
    • Most wins through kicks in Zuffa, LLC (UFC, Pride, WEC, Strikeforce) history (8)
    • Most head kicks knockouts in Zuffa, LLC (UFC, Pride, WEC, Strikeforce) history (4)
    • Second most knockouts in Zuffa, LLC (UFC, Pride, WEC, Strikeforce) history (18)
    • Second most knockdowns landed in Zuffa, LLC (UFC, Pride, WEC, Strikeforce) history (19)
    • Fight of the Night (One time) vs. Gabriel Gonzaga
    • Submission of the Night (One time) vs. Pat Barry
    • 78% takedown defense (4th among active UFC heavyweight division)
    • Average betting for this fight was around -1200 for Cro Cop and +800 for Sanchez, the biggest gap for underdog/favorite in UFC history
  • MMAFighting
    • 2003 Fight of the Year vs. Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira on November 9
    • 2005 Fight of the Year vs. Fedor Emelianenko on August 28
    • 2006 Knockout of the Year vs. Wanderlei Silva on September 10
    • 2006 Heavyweight Fighter of the Year
  • Black Belt Magazine
    • 2003 Full-Contact Fighter of the Year
  • Fight Matrix
    • 2003 Knockout of the Year vs. Igor Vovchanchyn on 10 August
    • 2005 Fight of the Year vs. Fedor Emelianenko on 28 August
    • 2005 Most Noteworthy Match of the Year vs. Fedor Emelianenko on 28 August
  • Wrestling Observer Newsletter
    • 2006 Most Outstanding Fighter
  • Sherdog
    • 2006 Knockout of the Year vs. Wanderlei Silva on September 10
    • Mixed Martial Arts Hall of Fame
  • Sports Illustrated
    • 2000's Fight of the Decade vs. Fedor Emelianenko on August 28
  • Yahoo! Sports
    • 2000's Fight of the Decade vs. Fedor Emelianenko on 28 August
  • Bleacher Report
    • 2000s Striker of the Decade

Amateur boxing

  • International Military Sports Council
    • 1998 CISM World Military Championships Silver Medalist
  • Czech Amateur Boxing Association
    • 1998 Usti Grand Prix Bronze Medalist
  • International Committee for the Mediterranean Games
    • 1997 Mediterranean Games Bronze Medalist
  • Hellenic Boxing Federation
    • 1997 Acropolis Cup Silver Medalist

Mixed martial arts record

Kickboxing record

Legend:   Win   Loss   Draw/No contest   Notes

See also

External links

MMA Shirts