Cro Cop and Rampage Jackson return as UFC bring on questionable nostalgia

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    MMA fighter Rampage Jackson fighting in the UFC again (Image: supplied)

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    Don’t worry, your RSS reader isn’t feeding you stories from 2007. Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipović have indeed re-signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

    With both men and clearly well into the twilight of their careers and at various times, flirting with retirement, the obvious question is why?

    Money, legacy, the undying desire to prove their mettle – there are many reasons for fighters to continue fighting past their athletic prime.

    Whether or not they actually should be fighting is another matter as both men have seen their skills and physical attributes regress from their glory years, resulting in some disturbing losses.

    Cro Cop, at 40-years-old, lacks the speed that once made him the most feared striker in MMA. This deficiency has meant the timing and set-ups he has spent a life-time honing are now slightly off and the darting footwork he used to corner and KO opponents in the ring has been replaced by a plodding, fruitless chase in circles around the cage.

    He has cited injuries for the trio of KO losses he ended his last UFC tenure with, but if Cro Cop is still not up to speed then we are unfortunately likely to see more knock-outs for the Croatian.

    At 36-years-old, Rampage’s once-feared slams are long gone, the dynamic ground and pound that saw him through his best years has vanished and we are left with an over-reliance on power and a shadow of his cover-and-counter boxing game. But Rampage, unlike Cro Cop, has not paid a particularly high price for his losses – there has been some lopsided losses seemingly caused by waning motivation, but no string of troubling knock-outs. A general feeling of apathy for the fight game is reversible but brain injury is not.

    Pointing out these flaws is not to discount these legends entirely. If there is any lesson to be learned from the stunning career resurgence of the 40-year-old Mark Hunt, it is that you can’t count a veteran fighter out if they are able to draw upon their fight IQ and adapt their game to their age.

    For the UFC, their reason for bring back the veterans is to secure their status as a monopoly.

    Since UFC parent company Zuffa purchased rival MMRA promotion Strikeforce in 2011 and subsequently shuttered it in 2013, the Ultimate Fighting Championships has been the only name in the MMA game.

    Although they have promoted some memorable bouts for hardcore fans, the gap between current second-tier promotions Bellator and World Series of Fighting and the market leader UFC is enormous. Until recently, UFC brass had no reason for concern regarding the potential of rival promotions.

    That was until Strikeforce founder and former CEO Scott Coker took the reigns of Bellator and effectively used former UFC stars Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonner to build record ratings for the promotion.

    UFC president Dana White initially gave his blessing for UFC Hall of Famer Stephan Bonner to leave his UFC contract to go and “beat the s–t” out of White’s long-term nemesis Ortiz, but he wouldn’t have anticipated Coker following up that successful event by dropping names like Cro Cop and all-time great Fedor Emelianenko. The name dropping ended up leading nowhere but it would have given the UFC a scare. Signing Filipović out from under Bellator indicates that we won’t see any more endorsements from White and that he is attempting to nip that momentum in the bud.

    To be clear, the risk represented by Bellator’s momentum is not that they are going to make a challenge for the UFC’s overall position in the market. The risk is that if Scott Coker can continue to increase ratings, his ability to pay fighters will also increase. That will cost the UFC dearly.

    If more prospects are enticed to build their careers in Bellator, the UFC will need to engage in bidding wars or otherwise outlay an outrageous sum of money to bring them over later, as they did with ex-Bellator fighters Hector Lombard and Eddie Alvarez. You can bet that Dana White doesn’t want either of those things happening.

    It’s important to note, however, that the UFC isn’t only doing this to run the competition out of town. Cro Cop and Rampage are still marketable names and, remembering that not every fight in mixed martial arts needs to have implications for rankings or titles, there are a lot of matches to be made and a lot of tickets to be sold.

    Indeed, one enticing fight has already been made – Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipović will rematch Gabriel Gonzaga in UFC Fight Night headlining bout Poland on April 11. It’s not anywhere near a title eliminator fight this time around but you can be certain that fans will tune in to see Cro Cop given the chance to avenge his ironic, brutal head kick KO loss.

    Regardless of how Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Filipović fare in their respective comebacks, as fight fans let’s be thankful that we are given the opportunity to be entertained by them again. Just hope that they are matched with other legends and not thrown to young wolves to build highlight reels and records.

    Daniel Herbertson is a journalist, photographer and a videographer and has covered mixed martial arts and combat sports for over a decade. He has worked for the likes of ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Spike TV and and spent over six years following the fight game in Japan. Dan is now based back in Melbourne.

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    The Crowd Says (6)

    • Roar Rookie

      January 28th 2015 @ 8:51am
      Squidward said | January 28th 2015 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      Unless rampage is fighting other old blokes the newly deep again LHW division will eat him alive

    • Editor

      January 28th 2015 @ 8:56am
      Tristan Rayner said | January 28th 2015 @ 8:56am | ! Report

      Welcome Dan! Great to have you writing for The Roar.

    • January 28th 2015 @ 10:15am
      astro said | January 28th 2015 @ 10:15am | ! Report

      After watching that Dan Henderson fight over the weekend, I can’t say I’m particularly hyped to hear the UFC is bringing back more of the older guys!

      • January 28th 2015 @ 4:33pm
        nickoldschool said | January 28th 2015 @ 4:33pm | ! Report

        Same here astro. Almost feel sorry for these guys. MMA isn’t a sport where I enjoy 40 something dudes make a come back and I don’t want Mickey Rourke type of fights in the sport.

    • Roar Guru

      January 28th 2015 @ 5:24pm
      Andrew George said | January 28th 2015 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

      I think its a bit reactionary to sign Cro Cop – he was clearly on the way out when he left the UFC. Obviously this is a reaction to

      The sport loves holding on to the good ol’ Pride days. The truth was that that those days were plagued with match fixing and knee deep in athletes on everything but roller skates . They should embrace the fact that those days are over (with the exception of the venerable Mark Hunt) and look forward to the new are of supreme all round clean athletes like Chris Weidman and Jon Jones (. I look forward to Weidman dismantling a clean Vtior Belfort to put s stamp on the end of the TRT gunslinging days … there are enough of the old guard still around (UFC 183 is a great example) to go back to the future who are still competitive and clean …

    • Roar Guru

      January 28th 2015 @ 6:28pm
      Isaac Nowroozi said | January 28th 2015 @ 6:28pm | ! Report

      Surprised to see these two back in the UFC, especially Cro Cop. Rampage is in mid thirties, and while I don’t think he will be able to hang with the elite of the Light Heavyweight division anymore I think he still has some fights left him.

      Cro Cop on the other hand, left because he felt he couldn’t keep up with the guys in the UFC anymore, and I don’t see him doing very well on his return. Be that as it may, there may be an interesting fight or two for him (Alistar Overeem maybe?)

      at the end of the day, these guys are big names in mma, and people would tune in to see them, so you can see why the UFC brought them back. (take cm punk for example, people would want to see him fight, and he has never fought before.)

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