Together, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic and Fedor Emelianenko were once counted among the most feared and sought-after professional fighters on the planet. The two legendary figures, along with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, ruled the roost in Pride FC's premier heavyweight division throughout the early 2000's, and even collided in mid-2005 for what many still list as one of the most-anticipated heavyweight fights in MMA history at Pride Final Conflict.
Of course much has changed in the years since. Emelianenko is retired, while Filipovic has turned his gaze back toward kickboxing in preparation for his GLORY debut this Saturday at GLORY 14. Yet Emelianenko was present for Filipovic's most recent foray into MMA -- a disappointing first-round submission loss to now-UFC heavyweight Oleksiy Oliynyk in October -- and the generally reserved Russian came away from the experience with some harsh criticism for his former Pride running mate.
Following Filipovic's loss, Emelianenko remarked to Russian media that something inside the Croatian "broke," and that he did not "have either the physical condition or mental attitude" and was "not the same fighter as he was before." Not surprisingly, Filipovic did not appreciate the sentiment.
"I like Fedor and I respect him a lot, but it's not his job, it's not his concern to act like my mother and to give any kind of advice, especially to me," Filipovic said flatly on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "I think I'm old and I believe wise enough that I will know when it's time to go. What happened to me in that fight, it could happen to anyone. Really, I don't know why Fedor said it."
Filipovic accepted full responsibility for his loss to Oliynyk, which took place in Emelianenko's home country of Russia. Although Filipovic characterized the entire situation as a "weird" mistake caused by a common sequence he drills in training, in which he allows sparring partners to grab hold of his neck.
"He (Oliynyk) just caught me. I paid the price and that's it. I will never be caught again in neck crank. Never. I learned my lesson," Filipovic explained.
"Later on I heard that Fedor is saying this and that. I don't think he should do it. Of course he has the right to give his opinion, he's a legend of mixed martial arts. But I didn't like his comment, to tell you the truth. ... I never gave a comment on his fights. Every loss of Fedor's, I [felt] like it was my own.
"At the end of the day, we used to fight together in the Pride ring, so many time we shared a dressing room. I was fighting in his town and he didn't show up for the press conference. If Fedor came to my hometown, I would find him a few days before, I would take him to lunch, dinner, whatever, shake hands to see him. And I saw him only in the ring. But that's him. I think and feel differently."
Filipovic took particular exception to Emelianenko's comments which speculated that the Croatian was fighting long past his expiration date, and would be better served in retirement.
"A fighter is too old when he cannot recover between two trainings," Filipovic said in response. "So if I had a hard training (session) tonight, and by tomorrow I cannot recover, I feel tired and I cannot explode anymore, I feel slow, my body just cannot recover, it means that the end is near. That's one thing. The second thing is when your body is not able to recover between two rounds. So in one minute, when you cannot decrease your pulse, your pulse is too high or too close to the maximum pulse and you're not able to recover anymore, the best solution is to retire. But I feel really great and I'm doing training like crazy. My cardio is great."
Regardless, Filipovic says that while he hasn't spoken to Emelianenko in person about the situation, he's over it for the most part, and was simply disappointed to hear such negative criticism come from the mouth of someone he believed to be a friend.
"I don't have his phone number, he doesn't have my phone number. We are not in contact, but I always liked him as a fighter, and especially, we have good memories from Japan, both of us," Filipovic said. "At the end of the day we were brothers in arms, sharing a few times the dressing room. I was sorry for every loss he had. I was shocked and I was so sad, and at the end of the day I didn't expect that for him. But enough about Fedor. I really wish him all the best. I'm not mad at him, I just think he shouldn't have [said] that kind of a comment to me."