Cro Cop finding form

JOSE RODRIGUEZ

, Last Updated: 12:10 PM ET

By all measures, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic has had an uncomfortable existence in the UFC.

Armed with well-earned star power and arguably the most lethal legs in mixed martial arts, the transition from Pride standout to UFC contender hasn't been a smooth one for the heavyweight.

The 35-year-old Croatian has a mediocre 2-2 record in the UFC and drew a full-on tongue-lashing from UFC president Dana White after he allegedly broke a promise to continue fighting in the world's biggest fight club following his UFC 99 win in Germany. Instead, Filipovic was set to sign back on with Japan's Dream organization.

In the post-fight press conference, White went on a tirade -- with language not fit for a family newspaper -- about how he was betrayed by the 2006 Pride Open Weight Grand Prix champ.

Filipovic blames the misunderstanding on nasty Internet rumours. Any open wounds between him and the UFC have been neatly stitched up.

"Germany was a one-fight deal. I was able to choose. I was free on the market," says Filipovic.

"And I wanted to go in the hardest and only global organization. And I think that every true fighter should fight in the UFC today because the UFC is definitely the only worldwide organization. I like Pride more than anything, but those days are gone."

So a recommitted Filipovic has tweaked his training to better his .500 record in the UFC.

"Well, first of all I trained in the cage, that's a very important thing," says the former member of Croatia's elite anti-terrorism unit who has an MMA record of 25-6-2.

Minor adjustments

"I underestimated the cage because I used to train all of my life in the ring."

Filipovic, who was a member of Parliament in Croatia for four years, will take on Junior dos Santos tonight at UFC 103 from the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

He says he is still adjusting to the subtle rule changes between Pride and the UFC. The UFC allows elbow strikes to the head of a downed opponent, something that was banned in Pride.

"I trained a lot of elbow attacks and I trained harder than before," he says.

"There is nothing much new I can learn in fighting, but some small details that are important for the cage fighting. I did a lot of improvement for small things."

His opponent has had two UFC fights -- both knockouts with neither lasting longer than 90 seconds.

Filipovic isn't looking past dos Santos, but says he wants to work his way up to a title shot.

UFC 103 is available in Canada on pay-per-view.

jose.rodriguez@sunmedia.ca


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