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Mirko Cro Cop says he will fight winner of Rizin heavyweight tournament next year in farewell fight

Mirko Cro Cop has planned out his farewell fight. Yet, expect to see a lot more of the MMA legend, beginning in December.

Cro Cop told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that he will face the winner of a Rizin heavyweight tournament on the promotion’s annual New Year’s Eve show in 2018. Before that, though, Cro Cop will return to fighting against Tsuyoshi Kohsaka on Rizin’s show Dec. 30 in Saitama, Japan.

The plan, as currently constituted, will involve Cro Cop fighting Kohsaka next month, then competing again on a Rizin card in either April or July. Then he will face the Rizin tournament winner in December 2018 to cap his illustrious career. Cro Cop, 43, said he wants to fight twice before his final bout to stay active and in shape with the hopes of putting on a fine performance in his going-out party.

“Sometimes the end needs to come,” Cro Cop said. “I think this time will be it. It’s harder and harder for me to be motivated for training.”

Cro Cop (35-11-2, 1 NC) said the original plan was for him to face Fedor Emelianenko in his final fight. The two men fought in PRIDE for the heavyweight title in 2005, with Emelianenko winning by unanimous decision. But Emelianenko lost by first-round knockout to Matt Mitrione at Bellator NYC in June and that foiled the plans, Cro Cop said.

“It would be a perfect fight,” Cro Cop said. “Fedor is a true legend of the sport. One of the biggest, maybe the biggest MMA fighter ever. It doesn’t matter. He lost a fight against Mitrione. It doesn’t matter. He will always be marked as one of the biggest — for me, the biggest MMA fighter of all time.”

Cro Cop said he was “so sad” to see Emelianenko, 41, laying on the ground in the aftermath of the fight with Mitrione. He said a legend like Emelianenko “deserves to leave the sport with a victory.” “The Last Emperor” will be competing in Bellator’s heavyweight tournament next year.

We may never get the Cro Cop vs. Emelianenko rematch as Cro Cop’s career is drawing to a close. There’s no word yet on who he might fight in April or July of next year.

Cro Cop, whose real name last name is Filipovic, said a knee surgery derailed him earlier this year, keeping him from training hard for 2-1/2 months. But he’s back in the gym now, working hard in preparation for Kohsaka. Cro Cop, the 2006 Pride World Open-Weight Grand Prix champion, said he has been working with bigger, faster and younger training partners at his Croatia gym.

“They are kicking my ass,” Cro Cop said. “At least, they are trying to kick my ass. That’s what keeps me sharp.”

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