There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic hasn’t been the same guy in years. For whatever reason, his performances in the UFC don’t hold a candle to his performances in PRIDE. He beat the lower-level heavyweights like Eddie Sanchez, Mostapha Al-Turk and Anthony Perosh, but turned into a stepping stone for the “young lions” of the heavyweight division.

Needless to say, time is running out. Next Saturday, Cro Cop takes on heavy hitting kickboxer Pat Barry at UFC 115, but there’s no guarantees he’ll ever return to the Octagon once it’s over. It’s the last fight on his current contract, and if he loses or looks awful winning, chances are Zuffa won’t have another contract waiting in the wings for Mirko to sign, or at least not one he’s willing to accept.

If Cro Cop’s worried about it though, he’s not letting on. He says he’s concentrating on the fight and his knee is finally back to 100%, allowing him to put people in the cemetery with his left kick of death once again.

“I had a very bad injury two years ago. The knee was completely broken. I had three surgeries for the knee and of course it reflected on my kicking. I was afraid to kick, it was still very fresh. But I decided to take the risk for the [UFC 99] Cologne fight one year ago,” he said yesterday.

“If you noticed I didn’t even try to do a kick with my German opponent [Al-Turk], and I didn’t try – or I tried only once to kick Junior dos Santos because I didn’t feel very stable in kicking. I didn’t feel like my leg was good so I just didn’t kick it. So of course it frustrated me a lot but it was my decision to enter the cage. It was my decision to accept the fight. Nobody forced me to do that. But thank god it’s behind me now and my legs are okay now.”

“The wound was still fresh. It was only less than six months after the surgery so it was ‘suicide’ according to the doctor. But I decided to take the fight and I decided to take another fight with Dos Santos, which wasn’t a smart idea in that condition. But I’m just a fighter, you know, and I like the sport. I like fighting. I like competition but obviously you need to make decisions with the head, not with the heart.”

“But the leg is finally completely recovered. It was a very hard injury, you know, so it really took time. Now it is one and a half years since I had the operation and now it’s finally okay. Now it’s finally okay. And finally a few months ago I started with the full [power] kicking.”

We’ve definitely heard this before (and before that and…) so I’m not getting my hopes up. Pat Barry, on the other hand, isn’t letting Cro Cop’s disappointing UFC performances influence his approach to the fight. He doesn’t think Cro Cop’s skill level has fallen, he just thinks everyone else’s has finally caught up.

Anybody says that Crocop is out of his prime can feel free to fight him for me next Saturday. I don’t mind.

I will defend that to end. I’ve had almost arguments with people who have said, “Oh, he’s not the man he (used to) be.” I’ve had arguments with people saying that because I don’t like that; I don’t like hearing that.

In my eyes, he is the man he’s always been. It’s just that everybody else has gotten better. It makes it a little more difficult nowadays.

I’m kinda torn on this one. On one hand, I’m with Fightlinker, I’m riding the Cro Cop bandwagon until the wheels fall off and the damned thing explodes into flames, but on the other, Pat Barry is an awesome dude with a badass last name. We’re like family or something, so even if Mirko loses again, it shouldn’t feel like a Cro Cop left kick to the liver like it has every other time he showed up looking like he wishes he was somewhere else.

Image via Sherdog