At 37 years old, Croatian combat-sports legend Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic believes he will again compete in MMA.
Despite walking away from the Ultimate Fighting Championship after an October loss to Roy Nelson, Filipovic told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
) and USA TODAY Sports that he is training in the sport and envisions a return to MMA.
"Concerning my retirement from the UFC, I said it was my last fight for the UFC and last fight on the present contract, but I did not say, 'I won't keep fighting,'" Filipovic said. "I never said that. I think the best thing to say is that I was born to fight."
After leaving the UFC, Filipovic had surgery to repair torn muscles and tendons in his arm. He has returned to training and said he feels like an athlete reborn.
"I feel like a little kid," Filipovic said. "I'm so happy. I'm training every day. I usually train twice a day, and Thursdays and Sundays are supposed to be my days off. But even on those days I'm training at least once. I have to do at least one session each day to be happy."
Filipovic (27-10-2) is under contract with K-1, a kickboxing promotion hosting a 2012 World Grand Prix that boasts a $1 million grand prize. The company will visit Los Angeles in September, and Filipovic next will appear in a round-of-16 fight in Tokyo in October.
Filipovic is 2-0 in kickboxing matches since leaving the UFC. The former Croatian police officer said he was offered an MMA fight for September but was forced to turn it down when he could not settle on contract terms.
However, after the K-1 tournament is over, "Cro Cop" said he would begin to field offers for an MMA contest.
"If you ask me, when I look deep into my soul, of course I would like to fight MMA again," Filipovic said. "People don't get it. Martial arts is my life."
Filipovic has competed in professional combat sports since 1996.
He fought 10 times for the UFC and 24 times for the now-defunct PRIDE organization, including a tournament championship in the 2006 PRIDE Open-Weight World Grand Prix. He is also a two-time K-1 World Grand Prix finalist.
"K-1 was my first love, but even as recently as this week I was sparring kickboxing, and it was so difficult not to throw them on the ground and look to ground and pound," he said. "Even while I'm preparing for the K-1 grand prix, I'm training on the ground with grappling several times each week.
"My motivation now is to prove to everyone that I'm still capable of being in the cage. I'm not old. I'm 37, but I can do things that fighters 10 years younger cannot.
"I will prove that, or I will die trying."