Mirko Cro Cop left the UFC after his third consecutive loss by way of knockout, it was widely assumed that the then-37-year-old had competed for the last time in his MMA career.
The PRIDE megastar did step away from MMA, but he would not retire from combat sports. In March, the Croatian returned to the world of kickboxing with a unanimous decision win against Ray Sefo. He finished up the year with another pair of victories before deciding that he wanted another MMA bout.
Back in August, I expanded on an interview that Cro Cop did with USA Today. He discussed the incorrect assumption that people made about his fighting career after parting ways with the UFC
"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 (Cro Cop) said. "I never said that. I think the best thing to say is that I was born to fight."
At that point, the Croatian was preparing for his third kickboxing bout of the year and predicted that he would dip his toe back into the MMA pool shortly afterwards.
On New Years Eve, Cro Cop took on Shinichi Suzukawa, a former sumo wrestler who was making his professional debut. As would be expected in a contest between a legend and someone who possessed zero MMA experience, the former title contender made quick work of his opponent.
It's nice to see Cro Cop fighting again, especially in bouts where he likely won't take any concussive blows.
Cro Cop is already booked for another kickboxing contest in March. Although no announcement has been made about an opponent, Mirko has shown interest in a bout with Gokhan Saki.
Liverkick.com has linked Cro Cop to two more MMA contests in 2012. Negotiations are ongoing for a February 15 bout against UFC veteran Dennis Stojinic. That bout would take place in Bosnia. Additionally, Pedro Rizzo is signed up to fight Cro Cop at Royal FC in May.