VANCOUVER — Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic doesn’t want to be here.
He’s OK with being in Vancouver. He’s ready and focused to fight.
But he wants no part of the media circus surrounding the UFC.
So he begins answering questions with the cold efficiency of an Eastern European factory foreman.
Heavily accented ‘yeses’ and ‘nos’ and uncomfortable silence in between.
But the Croatian striker — who made his name fighting for Japan’s Pride Fighting Championship before it went down for the count — perks up when talk turns to his old employers.
“In Japan, there were never press conferences like this,” says the 35-year-old who is set to take on Patrick Barry in the co-main event of Saturday’s UFC 115.
“I had a hotel for myself and other fighters were in other hotels. Nobody talked to me. The driver just came to pick us up before the fight.”
He doesn’t mince words when outlining his dislike of being in the public eye when he’s not trying to knock someone out with a highlight-reel head kick.
“I don’t like it. I don’t want to be a star. I don’t want to be in the magazines. I just want to fight,” he says.
“I don’t see the point of all these things. All the same questions my entire career: ‘How do you train?’ ‘How do you feel?’
“I think people just want to see people fighting and that’s it. But this is the North American way. Business is everything. Who cares what I think about things? That’s my opinion.”
The 26-7-2 fighter explains his desire for privacy often extends to dealing with his many fans.
“I respect that many people like me universally. They like my way of fighting and I respect it. But sometimes it’s hard to be polite all the time,” he says.
“Sometimes they don’t see that they pass through a border, you know. I can sign one, two, three, 100 (autographs) but 300 times I cannot.
“I want to get my rest. Want to get my peace and quiet. I just want to stay in my room and I don’t want to go out. Doesn’t mean I hate fans. No, No. I’m aware of everything. We are here because of fans. I am paid because people pay a ticket to see me fighting. But sometimes it’s hard.”
Filipovic has always held strong to his Pride roots. At his first UFC fight (UFC 67) he used the Pride theme as his walk-in music.
Even Wednesday, he attended the open workouts and media session wearing the Pride lightning bolt on his T-shirt.
“The American way of doing business and the Japanese way of doing business — I had to adjust. It was just like I went to Mars,” he says.
“In Japan, I always stayed in the same hotel. I was the only fighter in that hotel.
“Here, in the same floor there are three or four fighters and their cornermen and some people don’t know the level to which they go. Parties in the middle of the night that wake you up. It makes you nervous and I never saw that before in Japan.
Filipovic says he’s come to accept the changes.
“This is the way it works here. I’m professional and I have to respect it,” he says.
“I fight for the UFC now. Pride is dead and I need to adapt.”
His opponent is the polar opposite.
Barry attended the media session with all the excitement of a young pup at a Milk Bone factory.
He went on at length at how Filipovic was his idol as a young fighter and how he respected the Croat for opening doors for stand-up fighters everywhere.
He even said he played himself against Filipovic in the UFC 2010 video game losing by left kick to the head — Filipovic’s trademark.
Filipovic dismissed his opponents admiration.
“I never play Playstation. I don’t even have Playstation. I hate video games. I don’t think it’s for grown men,” said Filipovic.
“My son who’s seven plays Playstation. But for me, I don’t see the point.”
Filipovic is 3-3 since coming over the UFC and has never lived up to the reputation he brought with him.
He says he came over for the money and admits to underestimating the challenges of going from a ring to a cage. He says he has adjusted his training and has an Octagon in his home.
Filipovic is on the last fight of his UFC contract and hopes to renegotiate with the fight club.