COLOGNE, Germany - Croatian heavyweight Mirko (Cro Cop) Filipovic says he is returning to the UFC to properly showcase his skills as a fighter - and to erase the memories of his initial disappointing 1-2 run with the mixed martial arts organization two years ago.
"The UFC was the black spot in my career and my life," he told a conference call Tuesday. "And I'm the man who dedicates his life to fighting. I just want to justify the trust that (UFC president) Dana White gave me two years ago, calling me to the UFC after I went from Pride."
"I have maybe the strongest and best motivation," he added. "I just want to return on the top. I just want to prove everyone that they were wrong . . . I was never motivated like this (before in my career)."
Filipovic (24-6-2 with one no contest) takes on England's Mostapha Al Turk (6-4) on Saturday at UFC 99 in his first fight in the organization since losing to Cheick Kongo at UFC 75 in September 2007.
Filipovic, 34, was considered one of the best heavyweights in the world when he came over to the UFC in early 2007 on the heels of winning Pride's open weight championship in Japan. A devastating striker, the former K1 fighter was once famously quoted as saying "right kick hospital, left kick cemetery."
But he could not reproduce that deadly form in the cage.
He beat lightly touted Eddie (The Manic Hispanic) Sanchez via first-round TKO at UFC 67 in February 2007. But two months later he was knocked out via a highlight-reel head kick by Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 70. And he left the organization following the UFC 75 loss via decision to Kongo, who outwrestled the Croatian.
Filipovic, who has notched two wins and a no contest since that Kongo loss, said he has since worked on his wrestling and clinch game and installed a cage at his gym.
"But training is not the key. I used to train hard all the time. The key is the head. That's the key to success."
He acknowledged his past problems in the Octagon were mental rather than physical.
"I just think I wasn't that old Mirko Cro Cop that I used to be. I don't know the reason," he said. "I spent so many times thinking about it. Maybe I was just empty right after I won the Pride Grand Prix. I don't know. To tell you the truth I don't know.
"Maybe I wasn't adapted enough for the fight in the cage. Maybe I wasn't hungry enough."
"I really think I fixed those (problems)," he added. "It was a head problem, not body. It was a problem with my head. Why I wasn't motivated, it's hard to say but it's definitely behind me."