As the Cro flies

JOSE RODRIGUEZ, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:55 AM ET

Meet the new Cro Cop.

With the last fight on his contract behind him, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic says he is reinventing himself.

Not his fighting style -- it's still right leg hospital, left leg cemetery -- but rather his public persona.

The Croatian striking legend says one of the big changes he's planning for the latter part of his career is to be more open.

The distant, almost disinterested, former special forces officer says he learned a lesson while in Vancouver for UFC 115.

"I think that maybe in the past, I didn't like these type of (publicity) things, so I didn't participate," said the 35-year-old, who beat Patrick Barry by submission at GM Place.

"In the past, if I had the chance to get out of an interview or get out of the publicity thing, I did.

"I realize now, that it is important to the fans and it is important for the UFC for me to be more open and take part in these things."

The Pride Fighting Championship 2006 Grand Prix winner has always seemed an odd fit since coming to the UFC.

His fights have not lived up to the highlight-reel finishes he orchestrated in Pride and in post and pre-fight interviews he has often come across as cold and, perhaps a bit bitter the UFC purchased Pride and folded the Japanese fight club.

Filipovic says he plans to let fans get a glimpse of the real Cro Cop in the months and years to come.

"People think I am serious guy. That I'm just serious all the time. That's not true," said Filipovic.

"You can ask the people I hang with and they will tell you. I am a very funny guy."

Filipovic began showing signs of the new, more engaging, Cro Cop at UFC 115.

In the build-up to the Barry fight, Filipovic (27-7-2) was clearly uncomfortable with his opponent's admiration for him.

RESPECT AND AWE

Barry had told of his respect and awe for Filipovic at every opportunity.

As the week wore on, Filipovic seemed to become more accepting of Barry's idol worship.

By fight night, Filipovic stopped mid-round and the two fighters embraced for a second to thunderous applause from the 17,000 fans in the stands.

Barry may have lost the fight, but likely played a huge role in the reinvention of Cro Cop.

With 115 over, Filipovic and the UFC will now get down to hammering out a new contract.

Filipovic's new attitude may help get him re-signed.

"I like the new Cro Cop," joked UFC president Dana White at the post-fight press conference.

For his part, Filipovic says he has no plans to fight anywhere else.

"I plan to stick around with the UFC," said Filipovic. "Fighting or not, I plan to stick around."

JOSE.RODRIGUEZ@SUNMEDIA.CA


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