Mirko Cro Cop FilipovicAlthough the recent news that Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic had been released from his UFC contract at first appeared to be a case of the UFC cutting its losses, the Croatian heavyweight vows that he’ll return to the organization.

Last week the upstart DREAM promotion, which was created by former PRIDE staffers and the MMA division of FEG’s K-1, announced that Filipovic had been released from the remaining three fights of his UFC contract and had signed with them. The UFC reportedly wanted Filipovic to restructure his lucrative deal (he was paid $350,000 for his debut at UFC 67) but ultimately allowed him to walk. Both sides maintain that the split was amicable.

After a successful career in PRIDE, Filipovic signed with the UFC and defeated Eddie Sanchez but then suffered upsets to Gabriel Gonzaga and Cheick Kongo. He stated that his decision to leave before a fourth fight took place in the UFC was partially because he was ready to fight now — but the UFC couldn’t schedule him for a bout anytime before May.

“I have already mentioned that I will take part in three fights for DREAM and that then I will return to the UFC,” Filipovic told the website javno.com. “And to all Internet know-it-alls, I say to put gloves on and to enter the ring or the cage themselves before insulting (any) fighter. I repeat, I am not avoiding the UFC, and will come back by the end of the year.”

Although Filipovic expects to go 3-0 before returning to the UFC, at least one opponent could present a problem: Fedor Emelianenko. Filipovic says he wants to fight the highly ranked Russian before returning to the UFC.

The two fighters met once before — at PRIDE Final Conflict 2005 — and Emelianenlo scored a unanimous-decision victory to snap Filipovic’s seven-fight win streak.

Although there’s been no official announcement about the fight, Emelianenko is signed to a non-exclusive deal with M-1 Global, and the organization at least initially seems open to the idea of allowing him to compete in DREAM — possibly in a co-promoted show.

Regardless, Filipovic says he just wants to get back on the winning track and redeem himself in the UFC.

“For the last two years I’ve been in some kind of mental blockade,” Filipovic said. “I was empty before fights, depressed, I hated myself.

“I’m sorry to have disappointed my English fans who welcomed me like a king. That’s why I want to come out in front of them again. I can’t turn back time, but my time will come again.”

(Touch of gloves: MMAjunkie.com reader “Ace”) 

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