7/3/07 8:28:09PM
Former UFC Heavyweight Champ Prepares for Comeback

By Loretta Hunt (

The cage is all the rage, as UFC heavyweight contender Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic is finding out the hard way. So, the feared striker has invited Ricco Rodriguez to join him in his Croatian homeland at the end of this month for a lesson in the nuisances of the Octagon.

“He’s asked me to come out and show him some of the ground-and-pound techniques, getting out and up from the bottom, the mechanics of the cage,” says Rodriguez, who has mastered key outings in both apparatus during his eight-year career. “We’ll be exchanging information. There’s absolutely a difference between the ring and a cage.”

Rodriguez, who utilized a ground-and-pound arsenal to capture the UFC Heavyweight Championship from Randy Couture in 2002, will assist the former PRIDE star in his training for his Sept. 8 UFC 75 bout against fellow stand-up artist Cheick Kongo in London, England. The fight will be Filipovic’s third career turn in a cage, after claiming a first round TKO over Eddie Sanchez last February and a surprise loss via head kick by Gabriel Gonzaga in April.

Cro Cop, a member of Croatia’s elite special police unit and a Parliament representative, has spent the majority of his career competing in the ring, rising to notoriety in K-1’s world-class kickboxing tournaments and PRIDE Fighting Championships. Cro Cop capped off a fruitful run for the Japanese promotion with a 2006 Grand Prix Championship before defecting to the UFC. Rodriguez reports the stone-faced assassin revered for his instantaneously crippling left high kick has imported a cage for his training complex in preparation.

The prestigious invitation comes at an opportune time in Rodriguez’s career as the heavyweight wages a comeback during the sport’s most lucrative time yet. Though the 29-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has been offered a steady stream of bouts, including a marquee fight against the world’s number one-ranked heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko in bodogFIGHT last December, Rodriguez has been adamant regarding his financial worth in a market in demand for the division.

“I know everybody hates when I say it, but for all the effort I’ve put in, I’d like to get a good paycheck,” he says.

At a time, Rodriguez was considered among the world's top heavyweights, demonstrating above average agility and athleticism for his weight division in performances against Andrei Arlovski, Paul Buentello, Jeff Monson, and Couture. In 2003, Rodriguez lost a highly contested unanimous decision over former PRIDE Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in Japan after challenging the jiu-jitsu legend all three rounds.

Rodriguez (25-6) lost the UFC title to a hungry Tim Sylvia at 2003’s UFC 41, and has since wrestled with a host of demons, including obesity, heavy partying, and drug use.

Topping out at 350 pounds when he dropped a decision to an unknown Robert Beraun in Arizona, Rodriguez earned four back-to-back victories in 2006, including a vindication rematch to Ron Waterman at July’s WFA 4 “King of the Streets.” Rodriguez was dealt a setback in November, when a California State Athletic Commission-administered drug test revealed the presense of cocaine. Rodriguez has since served a six-month suspension that completed in mid-May.

Rodriguez’s weight has gradually melted down to 265-270 pounds, where he’s hovering for a super heavyweight bout in November with American Top Team up-and-comer Antonio Silva, who underwent tumor removal surgery in June, at Pro Elite’s “EliteXC” promotion. Rodriguez aims to drop as far as his body will allow, possibly even to the svelte 235-pound frame he carried during the five-fight win streak he enjoyed in the Octagon leading up to taking the crown.

A recent father to one-year old son Ricco, Rodriguez’s experiences have been filmed for the last ten years for a pending documentary on his life. The film will include his rise to the UFC championship, his downward spiral, and his comeback, with training footage of him and legendary fighter Kazushi Sakuraba in Japan, his interactions with troubled training partner Mark Kerr of “The Smashing Machine” fame, and Rodriguez’s first day of boxing training with coach Saul Soliz in Texas, where the heavyweight now resides.
7/3/07 8:40:34PM
Good, looks like MIrko's serious about wanting the title...could mean trouble for the rest of the heavyweights. You can tell he wants that re-match with fedor to be for the title.
7/3/07 9:34:57PM
I agree. Im glad CC is taking this seriously now and making the proper preparations to be succesful in the octagon.
7/4/07 12:29:29AM
Cro Cop finally realizes that he's human and he can't just walk through a pool of world class fighters using nearly the exact same strategy all the time.
7/4/07 1:12:02AM
Yep, and thats a scary thing if your a heavy weight.
7/4/07 4:48:56AM
i definately can see cro crop getting a title in the ufc if he gets his ground game proper
7/4/07 8:56:07AM
We all knew how scary his stand up game was, but if he actually gets a decnet ground gaem going, I think he might actually give Fedor problems
7/4/07 2:45:24PM
It is good to see that CC has respect for the cage now and that he is improving himself, but it is also good to see that Ricco is starting to take fighting and training serious again. I hope that he is able to learn a few things from CC and get back on the path to the UFC.
7/4/07 3:19:07PM
Why would you go to this fata*s though i mean come on he really should go to someone who is dominant on the ground someone like Couture or Ortiz
7/4/07 6:53:44PM
He beat coture via GnP....
7/4/07 6:59:54PM
jesus is ricco still a cream puff ball?
7/4/07 7:23:54PM
losing weight. The point is, he's a ufc vet, with good wrestling, GnP, and whats more he can show Mirko escape tactics when he's taken down(IE: gonzaga, took him down hit him unanswerd, blurring his vision). If he can gain ground defense in the cage(learning how to use that cage to get up) he could dominate the heavyweight division, of course that depends on whether or not he takes his training seriously and always comes ready for a fight.
7/4/07 8:30:35PM
Waiting to return to the ring on September 8 against the Frenchman Cheik Kongo at UFC 75, Mirko Cro Cop has been paying top dollar to elevate the level of his training sessions. And in doing so he has called upon other top-competitors in the rings. The two most famous that he chose recently are Ricco Rodriguez and Sergey Kharitanov.

One could say that the reinforcements are living through distinct moments. While Kharitanov lost two of his last three fights (winning his last fight against Michael Russow at Pride 33), Rodriguez lost only one of his last eight fights, and has gone undefeated for four fights.

“He asked me to go there and show him some ground and pound techniques, how to get out from the bottom and get on top, the tricks to fighting in the cage,” said Ricco. “It will be an excellent exchange of information. There are many differences between fighting in a ring and in a cage," Rodriguez stated, referring to the famous UFC octagon.
7/4/07 8:31:29PM
Sergey Kharitanov is also helping Mirko^ Good stuff
7/5/07 2:45:12AM
He definitely beat Big Nog IMO, bad cesision. Glad to see he is finally getting back to form. Hope he sticks it out this time.
7/5/07 3:32:51AM
Yeah i guess some help is better than none and we all know Crocop needs the help on the transition to the cage.
7/5/07 7:39:32AM

Posted by TOMMYAYO05

Why would you go to this fata*s though i mean come on he really should go to someone who is dominant on the ground someone like Couture or Ortiz

Let's see, RIcco dominated Coutre and took his belt. Ricco trained for years with Tito. Ricco gave Big Nog all he could handle in 3 rounds at Pride. Have you ever seen him fight????
7/5/07 9:34:36PM
I'm excited/scared to see how MIrko does with his standup(best in mma IMO) and any sort of ground game. Hell if he can just figure out how to use the cage to get up instead of just laying there taking elbows it could be pretty sick what he might do to the HW div.
7/5/07 9:36:59PM
Topping out at 350 pounds

jesus christ
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