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UFC:

Cro Cop’ says he’s back and better than ever

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UFC

Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic attempts to kick Cheick Kongo during their match at UFC 75. The Croatian heavyweight is now back in the UFC and will take on Mostapha Al Turk at UFC 99 this Saturday in Germany.

Cro Cop documentary

Croatian heavyweight Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic says he is returning to the UFC this Saturday with his head squarely on his shoulders, which could spell trouble for his UFC 99 opponent, Mostapha Al Turk, at the event in Cologne, Germany.

"The UFC was the black spot in my career and my life," said Filipovic, the former PRIDE champ who posted a disappointing 1-2 mark in the premiere mixed martial arts organization two years ago.

"And I'm the man who dedicates his life to fighting. I just want to justify the trust that (UFC president) Dana White gave me two years ago, calling me to the UFC after I went from PRIDE."

The 34-year-old, once considered one of the most fearsome fighters in the world, says not only has he physically recovered from a January knee surgery, but he’s also at 100 percent mentally.

" I just think I wasn't that old Mirko Cro Cop that I used to be. I don't know the reason. I spent so many times thinking about it. … To tell you the truth, I don't know,” Filipovic said of his UFC losses to Gabriel Gonzaga and Cheick Kongo.

“Maybe I wasn't hungry enough. I just didn't smell the blood."

The former member of the Croatian Anti-Terrorist Squad said he’s removed other distractions in his life and now concentrates only on becoming a world champion again.

“Training, and every morning I have to take my dogs out into the forest. That's all I'm doing," Filipovic said. "I'm staying out of everything else.

"All other things that can take out my concentration and my energy from the training."

White believes in the transformed Filipovic enough to offer the former K-1 kickboxer the only one-fight contract in UFC history.

"I've never done this in the history of the company with anybody, ever," White said.

"I respect Mirko. He knows how I feel about him and I know how he feels about me and I know what his goals are as far as the UFC and the heavyweight title. We did this over the phone. I've never done that, ever, in nine years of being in this business."

But it seems like a no-brainer on both sides. The UFC was in need of a challenger on short notice, and Germany’s proximity to Croatia gave “Cro Cop” the perfect opportunity to fight in front of his fans.

"I had it on my mind that I will fight in Cologne, because UFC is coming to Germany, where the biggest and largest Croatian community lives there," he said. "It was my big, big, big wish to participate. Even my doctor didn't believe I will make it, but I did."

But in the end, Filipovic says this is the time for his great redemption.

"I think I owe a lot to the UFC and UFC fans," he said.

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