In 2001, Mirko Filipovic entered the world of Mixed Martial Arts. In a bout with Kaziyuki Fujita, at the K-1 Andy Hug Memorial Event, he finished his opponent in 39 seconds. An MMA legend was born.
For the better part of a decade, the prodigal son of Zagreb, Croatia tore through opponents like a man possessed. First-round knockouts of Mark Coleman, Wanderlei Silva, and Alexander Emilianenko helped to solidify his place in MMA history as one of the all-time greats.
However, since entering the UFC, his performance has suffered. Adapting to the cage has proven difficult for the veteran of the ring. And a devastating KO by Gabriel Gonzaga in 2007 left emotional scars that still plague him.
Although in his mid-thirties, it would be premature to put the Croatian pugilist out to pasture. Yet, it would seem that the man who once struck fear in the hearts of opponents is now at a crossroads in his gloried career. Many top heavyweights in the UFC are over 250 pounds. The man from Zagreb is about 220.
A fighter of his size, his skill-level, and his age must realize that his continued success in the sport weighs heavily on his ability to adapt to new and changing situations. He might consider dropping to the light heavyweight division. Given his lightning strikes, his speed and agility are pivotal to his performance.
Shedding weight and joining the ranks of the 205-pounders could be a good move for Cro Cop. A lighter frame suits his style, and there are few men in that division who can match his stand-up abilities. He could regain his status as a juggernaut of the sport. At the very least, he could go out in a blaze of glory.
As a heavyweight, he may struggle and fumble his way right out of the UFC. In that event, he’ll have to choose another promotion with less talent, or retire. That would mean ending his career with a whimper.
In short, he must redefine his place in the sport, and reinvent himself as a fighter. Otherwise, he’ll follow T-Rex into the evolutionary abyss.