|Mirko Filipovic (top) batters Eddie Sanchez at UFC 67 on Feb. 4, 2007. At UFC 119 he squares off against former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir. (AFP PHOTO/GABRIEL BOUYS)
As far as Mirko (Cro Cop) Filipovic is concerned, his upcoming fight with Frank Mir could be his last.
"I've had a long career," Filipovic said on a recent UFC conference call. "I don't think many fighters have had as many fights as I have. All together I've had 33 K-1 (kickboxing) fights, 37 MMA fights, plus 44 amateur boxing fights -- most of which were international. As an amateur boxer I used to fight Olympic winners and world champions.
"Any fight could be the last one. This is a hard, brutal sport. Any injury -- especially since I turned 36 (recently) -- any serious injury would take me out of the competition. At my age, with my experience and all the fights on my back, it would be hard to start over again. I will keep fighting as long as I feel good, but any fight could be my last one. Maybe this fight with Frank could be my last one. Maybe I will do a few more fights. I don't know."
The two will headline UFC 119 this Saturday at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. The show will feature a co-main event between light-heavyweights Antonio Rogerio (Minotoro) Nogueira and Ryan (Darth) Bader. Also, former UFC lightweight champion Sean (The Muscle Shark) Sherk meets undefeated Evan Dunham.
With a highlight reel of legendary knockouts behind him, Filipovic (27-7-2, 1 NC) said it's no secret he plans to keep the fight standing against Mir (13-5), a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt.
"As soon as we touch the ground, I will tap right away," Filipovic joked.
"I will do my best, of course," he continued. "Frank is a more experienced grappler than I am, but don't forget that I've been training Jiu Jitsu for 10 years. I'm not sure that I am the same level of grappler as Frank -- he's maybe the best grappler in the UFC today. Definitely, I won't stretch my luck on the ground. Everybody knows that I will try to keep the fight in the stand-up position, but that doesn't mean I won't be able to defend (on the mat)."
Filipovic is a late replacement for Antonio Rodrigo (Minotauro) Nogueira, who bowed out due to a recurring hip injury. Mir originally defeated Nogueira (32-6-1, 1 NC) via TKO at UFC 92 in December 2008, but some questioned the victory following reports Nogueira entered the octagon with a serious staph infection and knee injury.
Although he's looking forward to proving the first fight wasn't a fluke, Mir admits Filipovic makes for a far more intriguing match up.
"It is (a more exciting fight)," Mir said. "The Nogueira fight -- I was also very motivated just for some of the things that were said afterwards with his staph infection and knee injury. There were a lot of excuses why the fight took place the way it did. That in and of itself gave me motivation to engage Nogueira. But it's still something that I've already done.
"Now with Cro Cop -- this is a fresh new slate of somebody who poses his own dangers."
Filipovic, who accepted the bout in mid August, admits he didn't have enough time to put together a complete training camp for Mir. He also potentially suffered a cornea abrasion as a result of an eye poke while sparring last week.
"At the end of the day that's my problem," Filipovic said. "I take the responsibility on my back. I will give my best.
"I am aware that Frank is an extraordinary fighter, but after 20 years of training I think I should be ready, even if I had a short time for preparation. But I don't want to look for excuses. It doesn't have to mean anything."
Mir said full training camp or not, Filipovic can end any fight with one well-placed shot.
"What's always intrigued me is the idea that if I make one mistake the fight can end," Mir said. "That's what always intrigued me about striking and submission grappling. In wrestling, it's point takedowns and you can see who's winning the match and the flow. There are few instances where it can be instantly turned around.
"I could go out there and be beating Mirko for 14 minutes and 59 seconds, but if I drop my hands for a second or I make a mistake and he puts his shin across my liver or I take a knee the fight's over with off of one maneuver. That is intriguing to me. I have to not make a mistake."