"Cro Cop's" head in game

JOSE RODRIGUEZ, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:36 PM ET

Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, who once described his devastating knockout prowess as "right kick hospital, left kick cemetery," is looking to make some amendments to that now-famous statement.

Known for his whip-like, fight-ending kicks, the former Pride and K-1 heavyweight standout says he now realizes he neglected a weapon as lethal as his oversized legs during his first stint in the UFC.

Armed with every possible tool to destroy the man across him, Filipovic says a weak mental game left him with a 1-2 record in first tour of duty with the world's biggest fight club.

"You need to be good in your head to be good. That's the key," says the 34-year-old Filipovic, who returns to the Octagon today against Britain's Mostapha Al Turk at UFC 99 in Cologne, Germany.

A former police officer, Filipovic admits he spread himself too thin by being a full-time fighter and member of Parliament in his native Croatia.

"I did a mistake in the past," says Filipovic (24-6-2 with one no contest)

"Maybe I wasn't adapted. Maybe I wasn't hungry enough. Maybe I couldn't smell the blood. I wasn't the old Cro Cop. The UFC was the black spot in my career and my life."

Indeed, Filipovic was not used to failure before the UFC bought Pride and brought him over.

He has victories over name fighters like Wanderlei Silva, Josh Barnett and Mark Coleman and was the last man to go the distance with Fedor Emelianenko -- a fighter most pundits consider the top heavyweight in the world.

But Filipovic's three-fight stint in the UFC was underwhelming.

After winning his first outing against Eddie Sanchez, Filipovic suffered back-to-back losses to Gabriel Gonzanga and Cheick Kongo.

Filipovic, who had fought his entire MMA career in a ring, admits he underestimated the cage.

"They are very different," he says. "The ring is much easier for defence and for escape."

He now trains in a cage and has found new motivation.

"When you are a young fighter starting out, money is the motivator. Money to take care of yourself and your family," says Filipovic.

"Money is no motivation for me anymore. I want to return and be on top and I hope God gives me the strength to prove my words."

After knee surgery in January, Filipovic says he's as healthy as ever for a fight.

"I spend all my time training and taking my dogs out to the forest. I'm staying out of anything that can take concentration off this fight. I think I fixed those head problems and I'm 100% motivated."

JOSE.RODRIGUEZ@SUNMEDIA.CA


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