Mirko Filipovic could be fighting for the last time in the UFC on Saturday, which, realistically, is the case for most fighters. Same could be said of his opponent, Roy Nelson. Difference is, "Cro-Cop" is 37 years old and has looked his age in recent bouts with Frank Mir and Brendan Schaub. As Dana White has stated when not talking about anomalies like Dan Henderson and Kamal Shalorus (whose age can’t be gauged by something as simple as time), “it’s a young man’s game.”
As for Nelson? You might say he’s looked his size in his last couple of fights, which he’d been defiant about for so long before. His most recent loss was also against Mir, who, if nothing else, has a way of making guys look burned out and sludgy. Since then, Nelson has grown a beard and trimmed down to the curiosity of media ahead of UFC 137.
He still cuts a Falstaffian figure by MMA standards. And Cro-Cop, who looks like his intense, perfectly postured self days before their heavyweight clash, couldn’t help but sort of unintentionally jab Nelson in a Q&A session.
“After my last fight [with Schaub] I came home and took a long break -- like 12 hours -- then I started training again, next morning,” he said. “Because I am professional and I can’t let my body get some extra weight, become fat. I don’t think fans would appreciate that. So I trained hard and I really want to beat [Nelson], even though I like Roy. Actually we just shook hands [earlier] but this is nothing personal; it’s business and I want to beat him like he wants to beat me.”
In an indirect way, isn’t he saying that Nelson could be conceived as unprofessional for carrying around the extra pounds? Maybe. He does have an ornery streak. More likely, Cro-Cop was speaking of his own professionalism and expectations, and that choice of words -- perhaps unfortunate -- is just associative. Not that Nelson hasn’t heard it all before and laughed along the whole way.
As to whether or not Cro-Cop will retire after the fight, he said he wasn’t sure, but reiterated that his decision wouldn’t be based on the outcome.
“When I decide to stop fighting, I will say it loud and clear, for many reasons,” he said. “Thirty-seven years old, two kids, 75 fights [in MMA and K-1], a long and successful career. I can be proud of myself starting in a small village in my own garage, a self-made fighter. It has nothing to do with win or lose, but I will try my hardest to win.”