Mirko Filipovic (often known as Mirko “Cro Cop”) is a former kickboxer and current mixed martial arts fighter. Filipovic has competed in K-1, PRIDE and the UFC, and is known for his devastating left high kicks. He has also served as a commando and a member of the Croatian Parliament.
Mirko Filipovic was born on September 10th, 1974. Sometime after graduating from high school, he began a career as a commando for the Croatian police anti-terrorist unit known as Alpha. This group was stationed in Lucko, Croatia. During this time, he earned the nickname “Cro Cop,” which is short for “Croatian Cop.”
Before entering the world of kickboxing, Cro Cop compiled an amateur boxing record of 40-5 (with 31 knockouts). He also fought under the nickname of “Tigar” during this time (which is Croatian for “tiger”).
While still serving with Alpha, rko Filipovic started his kickboxing career in 1996. He was partially inspired by fellow Croatian Branko Cikatic, who was the first K-1 Grand Prix winner.
At 21 years of age, Cro Cop made his professional kickboxing debut in the K-1 World Grand Prix tournament. He immediately made a splash by defeating the previous year’s finalist, Jerome Le Banner. He advanced to the next round of the tournament and was defeated by Ernesto Hoost.
In 1999, he returned to K-1 and scored a knockout win, but was later beaten in the tournament. He still moved on as a wildcard, where he beat his next three opponents before being stopped once again by Ernesto Hoost.
Over the next couple of years, Mirko Filipovic would gains wins over Mark Hunt, Remy Bonjasky, Bob Sapp and numerous others. He suffered a few losses, as well, but became a favorite among the Japanese fans for his heart and courage (fighting with obvious injuries on more than one occasion).
After suffering an upset at the hands of Michael McDonald (the fighter, not the singer), Cro Cop began appearing on PRIDE cards. He would fight (and win) four more K-1 bouts before fully moving on to the Japan-based MMA organization. He would later cite a dissatisfaction with K-1 salaries as a major reason for the move. His last kickboxing match would be against Bob Sapp on April 30th, 2003, and he would finish with a record of 16-7 (with 11 knockouts).
In 2002, Cro Cop would leave his job with the anti-terrorist unit to fully concentrate on his fighting career.
Cro Cop made his PRIDE debut at PRIDE 17, drawing with Nobuhiko Takada in a match with special stipulations (the match would be a draw if it went to a decision). He next took on Wanderlei Silva in PRIDE with the same stipulation in place. The fight also ended in a draw. In-between these two draws, he picked up a win over Yuji Nagata at the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2001 event.
At PRIDE Shockwave 2002, Cro Cop took on Japanese star Kazushi Sakuraba. Filipovic would fracture his opponent’s orbital bone and pick up the TKO victory.
Cro Cop’s MMA career kept right on rolling, as he picked up wins over Kazuyuki Fujita, Heath Herring, Igor Vovchanchyn and Dos Caras Jr.
His first PRIDE defeat would come at the hands of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira on November 9th, 2003. In the second round, Nogueira took him to the ground, mounted him, and forced Cro Cop to submit to an armbar.
After the loss, Cro Cop began working on his ground fighting, even bringing aboard Fabricio Werdum to assist him in training. He would go on to win his next two fights against Ron Waterman and Yoshihisa Yamamoto by knockout.
At PRIDE Total Elimination 2004, Cro Cop suffered a shocking knockout defeat at the hands of Kevin Randleman. He would avenge this loss later in the year, submitting Randleman with a guillotine choke.
Filipovic won his next seven matches, defeating fighters such as Josh Barnett, Mark Coleman and Aleksander Emelianenko (which has become one of the most popular PRIDE knockouts). All the while, he petitioned PRIDE officials to give him a shot at heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko.
He finally got his wish on August 28th, 2005 at PRIDE Final Conflict 2005. Emelianenko would win by unanimous decision and retain the title.
Less than two months later, Cro Cop picked up a unanimous decision victory over Josh Barnett. He would then turn around and lose a split decision to former K-1 fighter Mark Hunt.
Next up would be PRIDE’s 2006 Open-Weight Grand Prix. Cro Cop first defeated Ikuhisa Minowa and then Hidehiko Yoshida to move to the semi-finals. He then faced Wanderlei Silva and knocked him out cold with a left high kick. He moved to the finals, where he would face Josh Barnett for the third time in his career.
Cro Cop would defeat Barnett for the third time after he submitted due to an eye injury. With this victory, Filipovic was crowned the PRIDE Open-Weight Grand Prix champion. It was the first major belt of his MMA career. And it just so happened that the win came on his birthday.
He pulled out of a December 12th, 2006 event in order to allow nagging injuries to heal. During this period, rumors began to circulate that Filipovic was entertaining offers from other MMA companies. The rumors became reality on December 30th of that year, when UFC president Dana White announced that the company had signed Cro Cop to a two-year, six-fight deal.
He made his UFC debut on February 3rd, 2007, winning by TKO against Eddie Sanchez in the first round. His next fight would come on April 21st, 2007 against Gabriel Gonzaga, and the winner of the bout would get a shot at Randy Couture’s heavyweight title.
At 4:51 of the first round, Gonzaga threw a high kick and knocked out Cro Cop. This loss stunned both Filipovic and the MMA world. Gonzaga would later lose his match against Couture.
Filipovic regrouped and fought again on September 8th, 2007 against French kickboxer Cheick Kongo. Surprisingly, Cro Cop lost again, this time by unanimous decision. He later stated that he had cracked a rib during the bout, and that two low blows had cost him some strength.
While some speculated that he might retire after the loss, Cro Cop has since publicly stated that he would fight five or six more times before he retired. After the Kongo loss, Cro Cop underwent surgery to repair his nose. According to Filipovic, one side of his nose was completely blocked, and the other side was only 30 percent open. This was a result of years of untreated damage, and his breathing is expected to be much improved.
On a personal note, Filipovic lives in Zagreb, Croatia with his wife, Klaudija, and son, Ivan. In 2003, he was elected to the Croatian Parliament, and he’s focused on issues regarding the nation’s police force. He has announced that he will return to his old anti-terrorist unit at the end of his term.
In addition to MMA, he is also an avid soccer player. In fact, he was signed by the Croatian football team, Cibalia.
In his spare time, he enjoys practical jokes and playing cards with friends. Mirko Filipovic also enjoys chess, but he admits to being awful at tennis. He also owns a coffee bar in Zagreb.