‘Cro Cop’ Doesn’t Think Fedor is Afraid

By Brian Knapp and UFC.com Sep 9, 2009
Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic has no clue why Fedor Emelianenko signed with Strikeforce and decided against testing himself inside the UFC. Like much of the mixed martial arts community, the Russian’s decision left him scratching his head.

“I like Fedor as a fighter,” Filipovic said during a pre-fight conference call for UFC 103 on Tuesday. “As a man, I don’t want to insult Fedor, but I don’t understand his attitude. I really don’t understand why he doesn’t want to enter the UFC.”

Filipovic -- who will face Brazilian bomber Junior dos Santos in the UFC 103 co-main event on Sept. 19 in Dallas -- lost a unanimous decision to Emelianenko under the Pride Fighting Championships umbrella in 2005. A rematch now seems unlikely since the two heavyweights have opted to hang their hats in different organizations. Emelianenko signed with Strikeforce in August and will debut against undefeated Brett Rogers sometime this fall.

“Definitely, the UFC offered him the best possible deal, to pay him more than Dream can offer or Strikeforce can offer, but he’s just refusing to go there,” Filipovic said. “I don’t know why. I think he should take the challenge. I don’t think he’s afraid. Maybe he wants to keep his perfect record. Maybe he thinks the UFC is too tough. Why he’s not there, I don’t know.”

Other notes from the conference call included:

• Cro Cop sees dos Santos as “one of the young lions in the UFC.” The Brazilian wrecked Fabricio Werdum in his promotional debut and followed with a first-round stoppage against Stefan Struve. “It’s going to be a tough fight,” Filipovic said;

• Dos Santos, still somewhat of an unknown commodity in the heavyweight division, welcomed the opportunity to fight Filipovic with open arms. A decisive win could thrust the now world-ranked Brazilian into title contention. “I was very happy with the news. I like to fight the best,” dos Santos said;

• Filipovic, despite the fact that he turns 35 this week, maintains his interest in fighting more often. “It depends on injuries. If everything goes well, I expect to fight again before the new year, or at least by January,” he said;

• Cro Cop has changed his stance on training. Prior to his first foray into the UFC he disclosed, to the surprise of many, that he had not trained inside a cage. “I underestimated the cage. I feel much more comfortable. I train all the time in the cage,” he said;

• With sparring partner Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira entrenched ahead of him on the UFC totem pole, dos Santos claims to be in no rush to challenge for the title. Still, it remains one of his aspirations. “My goal, like any fighter, is to be at the top of the weight class. I’m not worried about that now. I’m not in a hurry to become the champion,” he said;

• Cro Cop did his best to avoid questions regarding the happenings after his UFC 99 victory against Mustapha al Turk. UFC President Dana White lashed out publicly at the Croatian heavyweight when it appeared he was spurning a deal with the Las Vegas-based promotion in favor of a return to the Dream organization in Japan. “I wanted to go to the only global organization today. I made my career in Japan, and I liked Pride more than anything, but those days are over. My place is to fight here. I was fair with Dana White. I was fair with Dream. I decided to take the UFC offer, and that’s it,” Filipovic said;

• Filipovic believes two straight wins inside the Octagon, starting with dos Santos, could earn him a title shot. However, he admits the depth of the heavyweight division has improved dramatically of late. “There are new fighters arriving, like Junior, like [Cain] Velasquez. It gets stronger every day. It’s going to be tougher and tougher to take the belt,” he said;

• Dos Santos conceded that a fight against someone with Filipovic’s reputation brings with it additional challenges. “Obviously, there’s added pressure fighting someone with a big name. I’ve learned to deal with that well,” he said.
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