In the world of combat sports and mixed martial arts few names ring bigger than Mirko Filipovic aka Cro-Cop.. A Pride Fighting Championships , K1 kickboxing and boxing champion very few people in any of the sports never mind both Kickboxing and MMA have the track record and resume of this legend. A private individual to say the least when he drops a interview which is VERY rare its time to get to the reading 🙂
training MMA in locally often with little in terms of resources Cro-cop was certainly influential in both movements and the application of the left side tools he put to complete mastery in live action with both his left kick body /high kick and straight punch being as effective striking tools as they come
enjoy highlight video and interview attached below
Mirko Cro-cop interview
What’s new in Cro-Cop’s life?
My life is quite monotonous, it revolves around a similar daily routine. I recently switched to one training a day, until three weeks ago I was training twice. It’s a drug stronger than anything, my body was asking for it. Unnecessary, of course. In the morning I did cardio, stretching, cycling… I haven’t run for several years because my cartilage is damaged.
Who are you working with today?
No, my name was often mentioned, but I’m not in the coaching business at all. I train for myself. Here and there I give some suggestions to Anta (Delia), I only work with him, he trains according to my program. Lately, Matej Batini? has also been coming and with him a young 21-year-old fighter, Marko, who is just getting started. He is a heavyweight, taller and heavier than me, so we did wrestling and grounder. Let’s do one round and I’ll show him where he went wrong. It’s a long way to success, it can’t be done all at once.
But as for the coaching aspect, I don’t do that. Only with Anto, wrestling, floor, strength, I motivate him to break barriers when we do strength, lifting, some specific exercises that are the most important in martial arts.
Are you open if a young fighter asks you for help?
I have never refused to help, but most of them expect – I get a lot of questions, if they can come and train with me. No, the gym where I train is part of my house, it just has a separate entrance. Ante, Matej Batini? and several of my closest friends have the key if I go somewhere for the weekend.
I don’t accept anyone for such a thing. But it’s difficult because people often ask me via Facebook or Instagram if I can help them with advice. What does advice mean? I can’t give you advice in two or three sentences.
It’s too much of a spectrum of everything, from training, rest, nutrition, how to train, satisfy certain things and achieve the goal, when to work with weights, whether you should do strength exercises, explain how important specific strength is in martial sports in general. I would have to write a novel. What should I say to that?
I don’t train anyone, I train because I love it. I don’t train on Thursdays and Sundays, because experience has shown me that the human body must rest on the fourth day of the week, especially in martial arts, that’s how they timed me. I would train on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then downhill on Thursday, then extremely brutal training on Friday and Saturday, and Sunday is to refresh. Overtraining is the greatest enemy of athletes, especially in martial arts.
How do your trainings differ today from when you were an active fighter?
I don’t run anymore, I had knee injuries so it hurts for a few hours after running, but I compensate by cycling. It is much healthier because there is five to six times less load on the knees, and the effects are the same. Even in some segments, cycling is much more difficult than running.
A friend tells me that he watches series while riding his bike, but that is worthless. I only ride the bike for 15-20 minutes, but I don’t lower the speed below 80-90 per minute and I increase the load every minute. It’s terribly difficult, you don’t even have time to hear what music is playing. Most people keep it at 30-40 revolutions, and that’s ok, but for the real effect it has to be much higher.
Of course, sometimes I do sprints of 120 revolutions per minute, but for 30 seconds, then 30 seconds slowly, so I make 5-6 such changes, depending on how I feel. There is no running training that can wear me out like a bike.
How important are mental trainings?
To be honest, I don’t believe that in this sport. I have never seen a more mentally stable man than Ante Delija, that he has less nervousness before a performance. Everyone has nervousness when entering a match, top fighters all think: “Just let me win this fight, I’ll never fight again.” It’s such a stress.
Delia is an out-of-series character, so mentally stable that she has a complete absence of fear. No one is afraid of beatings or injuries, but of defeat. There is a certain amount of humiliation, you feel bad yourself, then they make fun of you…
It’s not tennis where today you lose in the first round, and in two weeks you are in the final of the second tournament. Here you lose and you get suspended for six months. Then you wait six months for rehabilitation, then you falter, and you would rather kill yourself. The frequency of performances is lower.
He who needs mental training should change his sport, it is not the sport for him. They’re just not for everyone. This is the most beautiful sport for recreation, for training for your soul, without sparring or with light sparring, but to do my training as much as you can.
What was it like to start in kickboxing, which was quite unknown 30 years ago?
I went to Japan in 1996, and before that I had only two performances. I had one in Locomotive on the First Gauntlet. It was public sparring, not a match. My first performance was in 1995 in Varaždin with a fighter from Rijeka, it literally lasted nine seconds. They said goodbye, I threw a low kick, returned it and after 2-3 seconds I kicked him in the head and that was the break.
So, zero experience, we haven’t done five rounds of a war. I went to Japan without any experience and it was such a stress and shock that I can’t explain.
You had a complex relationship with Branko Cikati?. How much did he help you in the beginning?
He was truly my idol and role model in everything. I trained with him in 1994, I was in the army in Samobor and often trained with him, but we parted ways in 1996. Then I went into boxing by force of opportunity, which turned out to be a complete hit because I was inexperienced to perform at that level in Japan.
So I spent two and a half years in boxing and gathered crucial experience. I was the champion of Croatia twice and I had international matches, which I mostly lost because I fought with the best amateur boxers. It gave me super important confidence.
I fought Rubalcaba, who was perhaps the greatest knockout in amateur boxing, Sergej Ljahovich, who was a junior champion and later a professional world champion, Alexei Lezin, who defeated the Klitschko brothers several times and was a multiple world champion… I was losing , but it was an opportunity to strengthen and gather experience, priceless.
Then in 1999 I returned to Japan with the help of Orsat Zovko, who made a promotional brochure with my pictures, collected a compilation of all my fights, like from the K-1 tournament at the Hilton Hotel in Prague, where there were eight fighters, three fights for one evening, which I won. He went to Japan as a guest and showed them that, and they said that they would be glad if Mirko came back, that they had heard otherwise and so on.
My former mentor – rest in peace, I won’t spread that story too much for ethical reasons because the man is dead, but I have to say – they got a notification from him that I stopped training, that I was a criminal, that I was stealing cars and they didn’t call me anymore. Orsat removed that block and everything else is history.
That’s the reason I didn’t perform for those two years. In the end, it turned out that he did me a big favor. Without any cynicism. Who knows if I would have given up because I wasn’t up to the level to fight those people. This was the real thing, without it what happened would never have happened.
What impressions did Japan leave on you?
I was a 21-year-old kid when I first came to Tokyo, which is the biggest city in the world. It’s a completely different culture, and he’s green, inexperienced… I mostly hung out with Peter Aerts because I knew him before and he was a big idol of mine. It was a great stress and shock for me.
They have a completely different mentality than we do. They don’t make jokes, they don’t even understand them. Many of the words we use are not even in their vocabulary. If we said something wrong, they understood that we were foreigners and they still idolized us as fighters, we had a really wonderful treatment.
In 2004, I was received by the Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Koizumi, I am the only fighter ever received by the Japanese Prime Minister in an official audience. It was a wonderful experience and memory for me when I was escorted to his prime minister’s residence as if I were the president of the country. He welcomed me with his family, we talked for an hour, there were hundreds of journalists, unbelievable.
I was really popular in Japan, but many people wanted to scratch, there was also a dark side to that story. People you’ve never seen in your life come to you, enter your dressing room with falsified credentials, take pictures and then sell business stories that way. There were fraudsters, tinkerers, everything.
K-1 has a specific tournament system of competition – all in one day, unlike UFC and professional boxing where matches are contracted. What is it like to experience such a tournament?
The tournaments had to be held on the same day, everything would be over in three and a half hours due to injuries. When the hematoma cools down, you cannot stand on your feet the next day. It is definitely the most difficult format because it is very difficult for you to get lost in a fight. Your shin, feet, knee hurt, you get it somewhere.
Two of my ribs healed incorrectly. In 1999, Sam Greco broke them for me, punched me several times and finally hit me with a knee. And when you enter the next match with a broken rib, you are still somewhat mobile. The second day I couldn’t breathe, they even offered me a wheelchair to drive me around. But while it’s hot, a person still functions to some extent. That format was really demanding, it wasn’t for everyone, old school.
Is this system also applicable in MMA and professional boxing? What is the advantage of contracting fights, for which boxers like Hrgovi? wait up to a year, compared to the tournament system?
Well, the PFL and Bellator function according to the tournament principle, only the UFC does not, it has its own loophole. The UFC is a private organization and whoever Dana White designates will fight for the champion. There are rankings that have been skipped many times. A man who is a legitimate first challenger is run into by a man who is not ranked at all because he is popular at the time, said something and promoted himself well on social media.
If they judge that the fight will sell better, they will do as they see fit and that’s how it is. The same applies to boxing. If you are the champion, the organization decides that you have to defend the belt against Hrgovi?, then you have to defend it, but he won’t, instead he turns and leaves, leaves the belt, what does he care.
There is no chivalry here, it is professional sport, and professional sport = profit, earnings. Let go of stories about honor, nobility, there is none of that. Currency only. I guess our Hrgovi? will reach the belt one day. A great character and a great boxer. Although the match with De Mori is a step backwards for him, but maybe it is best for him not to risk too much, he is still the first challenger. From the business side, there is no reason to risk losing the place of the challenger, because that way you can get paid better.
For Hrgovi?, the title match will be the fight of his career. What was yours?
Every fight is dear to me. When I took PRIDE, I also liked Rizin, when I fought with Aliakbari… There are really fights, I remember every one. But not in detail.
What do you remember most from the fights?
It’s all similar. In Saitama, I always had the same dressing room, went out the same way. The moments of greatest stress and nervousness are when you are watching the end of the fight before yours, they are already taking you out and you are waiting because there could be an interruption at any moment, so you watch the fight, every now and then you warm up on the focusers.
I remember it as tremendous stress, pressure, nervousness, they are looking for cameras, everyone is watching you, many are waiting for you to fall, to take you outside, to rejoice and rejoice… Your family is watching, it is difficult for them because it is a dangerous sport. Punches are coming, there can be serious injuries, it’s not a joke. Not that I’m disparaging, but it’s not table tennis, where the worst thing that can happen to you is getting hit in the head by the ball.
It can be dangerous, although I don’t remember any deaths in MMA, but we are fully trained people with a different muscle structure and a different level of endurance compared to the average person.
Is MMA or boxing more dangerous?
Boxing is more dangerous for health because the target is almost always the head and the gloves are bigger. You absorb 100-200 hits. It’s better to get hit once than to get hit for 12 rounds in smaller categories and get a brain hemorrhage. That makes it much more dangerous.
In MMA, you have chokes, levers, there is more emphasis on the body, on the legs, on takedowns, grabs. Of course, there are blows, but not 200 to the head. You shut down the opponent early and they don’t take damage, but when they keep getting hit, it’s bad.
Do you know someone who had serious problems after their career due to the blows they suffered?
I know a lot of them that are broken, really damaged. Everyone reacts differently, some have received more damage, some less, but we all receive it. Someone is genetically predisposed to be able to handle it better, but when the later years come, we will all suffer the consequences.
In the media, it is often emphasized in the black chronicle that someone is an MMA fighter, even if he has only entered the gym once. What profiles of people start MMA, with what motives?
People who do MMA professionally are the most withdrawn and polite. These are family people who train twice a day, who struggle to feed their families. Matej Batini? graduated from two colleges, now he is the FFC champion, an educated, cultured guy, calm and withdrawn.
And you have fools everywhere, in both basketball and football you will always find aggressive people, you can’t judge by that. I say that MMA is the most beautiful sport for recreation, to go through that warm-up protocol, light wrestling to sweat, do some self-defense, you feel good, there are zero injuries… It’s different at the professional level when you have to work and when you don’t feel like it works.
But whether better or worse people choose a sport based on their profile, that has nothing to do with it. Hitler loved painting, you would think he was a nice man. And this one must be an idiot because he fights in a cage, aggressive and crazy. Run away from that, stick to this painter. We can see things in black and white.
The idiot who raped the dogs works in the European Union, so the statute of limitations has expired, a disaster. He didn’t even do freestyle fighting, he did boxing. Maybe he collected badges or played chess.
And you play chess…
We all like to train our muscles, but few train our brains. It’s my passion, before the interview I sat at home and played chess. I like to play every day. I’m sorry that I’m self-taught, but I plan to take a mentor next year, a grandmaster, I would join a chess club. It is a game that must be studied.
For a self-taught player, I’m very good. Of course, I can’t compete with serious players, but every night before going to bed for an hour, the legendary games of Mihaj Talj, Magnus Carlsen, Kasparov, Karpov, Capablanca, Smislov… I love watching those masters.
Mihajl Talj is my favorite because of his playing style. He was world champion only once, but his way of playing was unforgettable, those sacrifices… He was the most aggressive player in history, and Carlsen himself says that he is his favorite player.
Do you prefer to watch a game of chess or a fight?
Honestly, the last fight I watched was Tom Aspinall vs Sergej Pavlovich. That really interested me, I wound my watch to wake up. In my opinion, Aspinall is the best UFC fighter today, he is really super dangerous, the set of skills at his disposal is complete.
Normally I don’t really watch fights. I don’t want it to appear that I want to promote myself as an intellectual, but chess is really a passion for me, I really love it. If someone told me right now that I can go back to a tournament and beat three top fighters in one night, or go to a chess tournament and beat Carlsen, the world champion, and Daniel Dubov, I’d rather beat three chess players. So they tell me that I’m lucky, that they ask for a rematch so that I can beat Carlsen one more time. I would applaud myself.
Do your sons have ambitions to follow the martial arts path? They say that the older Ivan is extremely similar to you.
No, he is in his third year of university, he is a very good student. He trains recreationally for himself, he is in the gym every day, and that is the best. As much as I might subconsciously want to, I would train him better than anyone, but better this way. It would be difficult for me to watch my child in that, it is a difficult and dangerous sport, it is better if he does not have that ambition.
But that’s also normal. In order for a man to start doing this, he must be hungry. Of course it’s good that he didn’t, he grew up in too good conditions. It’s a tough, bloody sport. I remember when I was in the Dom in Zagreb in 1995, we had some sparring and this guy hit me in the nose with his head and crushed it, I think there was a liter of blood. I didn’t even go to the doctor, I just lay there for two days and let’s move on.
After such an experience and such pain, most would say: “What do I need this for?” But I had no choice, and I loved it very much, I felt that it was my calling. Why would he have that? He has his own vision, he is interested in other things and that is normal.
In addition to Delia and Batini?, you also worked with Satoshi Ishii for a long time…
Satoshi no longer trains with us, he left. He is gone for 7-8 months, then comes back, then leaves again. Satoshi is a very nice man, a real Japanese, humble, modest, good as bread. But his problem is that he hardly fits. Japan cannot figure it out because he had a difficult childhood, he grew up in a judo boarding school.
He also had a parallel education there, trained 7-8 hours a day, became the youngest Olympic winner, but what is the price of that? They catch him in a suffocation grip like a kid, but there’s no patting, they knock him unconscious and then pour water on him. He says that he slept more times in training than in his own bed.
That brutality left consequences for him, he resented it all, he can’t settle down in one place for a long time and he doesn’t trust anyone. Whenever he calls me, I invite him to come, there is no bad blood. When everyone turns their backs on him, I will be his friend because he is a good man. But it doesn’t work like that, we can’t train together like that. He is malleable, but he doesn’t trust anyone.
How do you comment on Stipe Mio?i?’s situation? He was supposed to return after two and a half years, but it was postponed again due to Jon Jones’ injury. How long can such a break leave a mark?
It’s hard to say, it’s individual. He can come back to be run over by this one, and he can also provide a game to remember. I don’t know how he is doing, how much he’s been training. A break leaves its mark on a person, that’s for sure, but I can’t comment on that.
Is Jones the greatest of all time, as they say?
He has all the arguments. He is undefeated, champion in two categories, the highest number of defenses in the UFC… I know him personally, we met on trips, a great character, a prankster, but his temperament costs him and he often gets into trouble with the law. Out-of-the-box fighter, covered in all segments of the fight, has an unusual style in the stance, changes guards, has unusual strikes, superb takedowns, is a complete fighter. It could certainly be said that it is the biggest next to Fedora. Maybe I’m being too emotional here, but those two are definitely in the first place.