Few could have predicted back in 2005 when Mirko Filipovic and Fedor Emelianenko collided in the biggest heavyweight fight in MMA history that both men would still be going strong 13 years later, nonetheless still fighting under the same umbrella.
While each man has faced his fair share of false retirements in the years since their clash, the 43-year-old “Cro Cop” and 41-year-old Emelianenko have remarkably combined to win 14 of their last 15 fights. Both are also currently alive in Bellator’s Heavyweight Grand Prix, with Emelianenko readying for a semifinal matchup against Chael Sonnen and “Cro Cop” set to rematch Roy Nelsonat Bellator 200 for the right to become the first alternate into the bracket — all of which means there is a conceivable scenario in which a long-discussed Emelianenko vs. Filipovic rematch could actually take place under the Bellator banner.
Such a matchup would be a nostalgic blast to the past for fight fans who remember the madness that surrounded their legendary first meeting at Pride Final Conflict 2005, which Emelianenko won via unanimous decision.
But more than a decade removed from that magical night at Saitama Super Arena, Filipovic thinks the time may have passed to write a second chapter in his rivalry with Emelianenko.
“People are asking me all the time about that, but I don’t think about that right now. And I don’t think that fight will happen,” Filipovic said Thursday on a Bellator 200 conference call.
“It’s hard to say. There is no — I don’t have some special desire to fight him anymore, like I had before. Never say never, but I don’t think that fight will ever happen.”
The fact that Emelianenko vs. Filipovic II is even a realistic topic of discussion is remarkable considering where Emelianenko was in his career as recently as last year.
The Russian legend struggled mightily against light heavyweight veteran Fabio Maldonado in 2016, then suffered a 74-second loss to Matt Mitrione in his Bellator debut one year later. Because of that, Emelianenko was effectively an afterthought when Bellator’s heavyweight tournament was first announced, however things changed at Bellator 198 when Emelianenko scored a thunderous 48-second knockout of former UFC champion Frank Mir.
The performance showed that Emelianenko may indeed still have some gas left in his tank — although “Cro Cop” isn’t ready to proclaim Emelianenko as back just yet.
“Well, it was a good fight. If he’s back or not, I don’t know,” Filipovic said. “It was too short. The fight was too short, but good for him.”
Filipovic’s own career revival is as equally extraordinary to Emelianenko’s, if not more so. “Cro Cop” has won eight consecutive fights via stoppage since 2014, knocking out the likes of Muhammed Lawal, Baruto Kaito, and old rival Gabriel Gonzaga during that undefeated run. His upcoming Bellator 200 debut against Nelson serves as a rematch of a 2011 fight that Filipovic lost via third-round stoppage, perpetuating the revenge tour theme that began with Filipovic’s victory over Gonzaga.
As his age creeps upwards, “Cro Cop” says his motivation for continuing to compete in such a volatile sport is simple.
“It makes me happy,” Filipovic said. “That’s the most simple answer I can give to you. It just makes me happy.
“Right now I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I’m a professional fighter and I enjoy fighting, and that’s it. There is no need for further philosophizing and some higher [point].
“I train everyday, I train around the world, I fight all around the world. The last fight I had was in Tokyo, the next one will be in London. So I feel great. It makes me happy.”
After unsuccessfully retiring numerous times, Filipovic indicated that he is done setting an end date for himself in MMA. He plans to complete as long as he feels able to, and each outing could conceivably be his last.
“It’s hard to say,” Filipovic said. “In this business, it’s hard to say. I said a few times already, ‘I’m done, I’m done,’ and at the end day, I always decided to extend my career.
“I will just do it as long as it makes me happy, and as long as my health allows me to keep fighting. So it can be one or two fights, it can be three, I don’t know.
“There are a lot of injuries in this sport, so you never know, especially at my age. I am 43, but I feel so good right now.”
Filipovic also noted that he holds no ill will towards Nelson for the defeat “Big Country” handed him back in the pair’s UFC days, meaning there will be no promise of vengeance when Filipovic and Nelson lock horns for a second time on May 25 in London, England.
“That’s not my style, promising anything,” Filipovic said. “I am in very good shape and I’m looking forward to the fight. Roy is a great guy, very tough fighter, great fighter, iron chin, and I will have to do my best to beat him.”