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Cro Cop signs three-fight deal with UFC

Mirko Cro Cop has signed a three-fight deal with the UFC, opening the door for him to reclaim his status as one of the top heavyweights in the world.

UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta confirmed the signing during a Q&A session Saturday at the UFC Fan Expo in Las Vegas. MMAFighting.com has also confirmed with FEG that Cro Cop's rumored fight at DREAM 10 on July 20 against "Mighty Mo" has been called off.

At this point clearly out of the top ten, the concern was if Cro Cop (25-6-2) could remain relevant as a heavyweight if he were to choose DREAM over the UFC. The Japanese promotion has a collection of talented and top-ranked fighters in the lighter divisions but the heavyweight division is almost non-existent. Currently, the top ten rankings are comprised of fighters with the UFC, Affliction and Strikeforce.

Cro Cop won last month at UFC 99 in Germany by stopping Mustapha Al Turk in the first round. Although the win was stained by an illegal eye poke, Cro Cop was on his way to victory in the fight and put forth a strong performance especially considering he was returning from knee surgery.

Then came the surprise within hours when UFC president Dana White told the media that Cro Cop had already signed with DREAM. And it wasn't until two weeks ago when Ferttita flew to Cro Cop's home in Croatia to reportedly make the 2006 PRIDE Open-Weight champion "an offer he couldn't refuse" that it appeared his future with the UFC was not entirely over.

Cro Cop will receive an immediate test on Sept. 19 at UFC 103 in Dallas when he faces up and comer Junior Dos Santos (8-1) out of Team Nogueira. Dos Santos holds wins over Fabricio Werdum and Stefan Struve in the UFC and would be a solid win for Cro Cop.

By returning to the UFC, Cro Cop is showing that he meant it when he said he wants to prove he can still fight at highest level.