Time to say Goodbye

by Tim on March 2, 2019

Mirko Cro Cop

The sport of mixed martial arts is like a drug. This applies to all of us, no matter if we’re competitors, promoters, agents or journalists covering the events and the athletes. This makes it incredibly hard to walk away at the right time and on your own terms, especially if you are a legendary heavyweight warrior. Unless you are part of a very small circle, you are always chasing one last big paycheck, your promoter will tell you that they just need you this one final time, because of [insert random reason here] and of course you are also addicted to the cheers of the fans, the goosebumps you get when your music starts playing and the overwhelming feeling of joy and accomplishment when the ref steps between you and your opponent, waves the fight off and declares you the winner.

Mirko Cro Cop retired from professional fighting yesterday for a third time and it looks like this time it will be final. Following his fight with Roy Nelson at Bellator 216, the 44-year-old suffered a stroke and according to the reports online, he cheated death just very barely. Even for a hardened, grizzled old veteran who had built his once lean and athletic body into a muscular tank, the signals were too strong and the doctor’s opinion too definite to ignore: Fight again and you’ll die.

Cro Cop did not have an easy road in his career. When he started kickboxing in the mid-90s, he had the major misfortune of being born into a generation that spawned some of the greatest combat sports athletes of all time, legendary warriors like Ernesto Hoost, Peter Aerts, Semmy Schilt and Remy Bonjasky. As a result, he had some great runs in K-1, especially his 1999 campaign where he laid waste to Mike Bernardo, Musashi and Sam Greco before coming up short against an irresistible, prime Mr. Perfect in the Final. He started dabbling in MMA and eventually left K-1 for good in spring of 2003, having gained the reputation of an ultra-popular all-action fighter, but ultimately someone incomplete who had not managed to win the major price just yet.

All of this should change during his stint in PRIDE: With 18 wins from 27 fights and 13 of them coming by way of knockout, he became the second most winningest fighter in the promotion’s history. His mantra “right leg, hospital; left leg, cemetery” – as corny and tacky as it might have sounded – was one of the ultimate truths of the first six years of the new millennium and genuinely struck fear into the hearts of men. Ask Igor Vovchanchyn, Alexander Emelianenko and Wanderlei Silva!

In PRIDE, Mirko had legendary wars with some of the greatest names the sport had ever produced like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mark Coleman and Fedor Emelianenko. He challenged for the PRIDE Heavyweight Championship twice in 2003 and 2005, coming up short against Nogueira and the “Last Emperor” in what both were Fights of the Year, however. It seemed the flaw of being incomplete would remain when he entered the 2006 PRIDE Open-Weight Grand Prix, to this day the most highly decorated tournament in combat sports history. Cro Cop finally reversed his fortunes by knocking out Ikuhisa Minowa, Olympic gold medalist Hidehiko Yoshida, longtime middleweight kingpin Wanderlei Silva and forcing former UFC title-holder Josh Barnett to submit to punches on his 32nd birthday to finally engrave his name into the history books.

With the legendary PRIDE Fighting Championships coming to an end in 2007, Mirko continued his career in the UFC. Although never the same fighter inside the Octagon that he was inside the PRIDE ring, he had eleven fights over three stints with the UFC, winning four of them by knockout and one by submission (hat tip: Dean Lister).

After turning 40 years old, in the late fall and early winter of his career and just when everybody thought he was done fighting at a top-level, Cro Cop rose for a final time and finished his remarkable tenure on a ten-fight win streak that span five years and four different promotions. He humiliated and crushed Olympic gold medalist Satoshi Ishii twice in IGF, avenged his loss against Gabriel Gonzaga in the UFC and managed one more major coup that few people thought he was capable of: On NYE of 2016, he knocked out sumo wrestler Baruto with a knee to the body before knocking out highly-touted pre-tournament favorite and Greco-Roman wrestling world champion Amir Aliakbari to win the RIZIN Open-Weight Grand Prix as well.

Mirko Cro Cop is European and Worldwide combat sports royalty. He has given us countless unforgettable moments and memories over the last 20+ years. Although he will be sorely missed as a competitor, here’s a man who has more than earned the right to retire. I am sure we will see him again soon in some other role but for now: Goodbye, Mirko! All the best!

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Балчик

by Tim on October 2, 2018

Seaside resort by the Bulgarian Black Sea.

Балчик

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Bundesliga 2018-19, 1. Spieltag

by Tim on August 23, 2018

Die Bundesliga geht endlich wieder los! Ich habe mir den ersten Spieltag einmal genauer angesehen und einige interessante Wettquoten gefunden. Die Risikofreudigen setzen auf Nürnberg (sah traditionell in Berlin immer sehr gut aus) oder ein Leipziger Unentschieden in Dortmund. Mit 3,80 respektive 4,00 sind die Quoten äußerst attraktiv.

Wer mehr auf kalkuliertes Risiko steht, tippt darauf, dass Gladbach gegen Leverkusen nicht Unentschieden endet (das Rheinderby hatte in der Vergangenheit meistens einen Sieger), bzw. dass Freiburg gegen Frankfurt oder Mainz gegen Stuttgart jeweils zu Hause nicht verlieren. Sowohl die Eintracht, als auch der VfB zeigten vergangenes Wochenende im Pokal eine schwache Frühform und schieden gegen unterklassige Gegner aus.

Hände weg von allem was die Bayern betrifft (schlechte Quote), sowie von der Partie Wolfsburg gegen Schalke. Diese Paarung war in der Vergangenheit viel zu wechselhaft, um hier eine realistische Prognose abgeben zu können.

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The Count Resigns

by Tim on May 29, 2018

Bisping

Former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping has retired from the sport of mixed martial arts after a colorful and varied fifteen-year career. Granted, there’s the supernova of Conor McGregor, but I’d go as far as to claim there is no European fighter that has done as much for the sport as Bisping did, especially after he got drafted into the UFC in 2006. There are too many great stories to tell in one single post, but three occurrences really stood out to me personally.

During the early years of his UFC run, especially leading up to the first time they ran his hometown of Manchester and his first main event in Birmingham the year after, the amount of press he had to do was insane. Legend has it that he got booked into so many media appointments, he didn’t even have proper time to eat, but was seen getting down a few burgers at McD’s in between interviews.

Bisping played the cocky Brit character perfectly and the malice that was poured out on him after he got posterized by Dan Henderson in 2009 knew no limits. Suffering a knockout as devastating as this would have certainly broken many fighters. Bisping not only continued fighting for another ten years and had two successful runs in 2010-11 and the even more remarkable one in 2015-16 that carried him all the way to the title, he also got one back on Hendo by beating the American in his retirement match.

Having competed on the UK circuit at the same time in 2004-05, Bisping got to witness the greatness of Anderson Silva first hand as he effortlessly beat the infamous Lee Murray in their 2004 encounter. Silva went on to become the most dominant middleweight champion in UFC history. Even though he seemed way out of reach when Bisping hit his mid-career slump that saw him go 3-4 between 2012 and 2014, he never lost the dream of eventually facing “The Spider” out of sight. Although that when it happened, the Brazilian was already past his prime, but Bisping beat the greatest middleweight ever in one of the most memorable fights of 2016.

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Dealing with Defeat and Regret

by Tim on March 19, 2018

© Per Häljestam, USA TODAY Sports
📸: © Per Häljestam, USA TODAY Sports

At the end of every professional contest, there are only two possible states of being: WINNING and MISERY.

After being the hammer in his last two fights in Hamburg and Stockholm, this time Peter Sobotta came up short in his fight in London this weekend.

When you are as involved in the fight business as I am and you have watched thousands of fights over the years, either in person at the arena or live on television, you can easily see the reasons for defeat most of the time. A lack of time to prepare, an injury to the fighter, a large difference in experience or a bad style matchup can explain a defeat.

However, when you prepare as meticulously and disciplined as Peter did, you come in perfect shape, you have perfected the process of cutting and regaining the weight and you have a great team around you and you still end up on the losing end, defeat is difficult to swallow and it’s hard to really point a finger at a single reason for the loss.

Skill-wise, I have zero doubt Peter can beat Leon Edwards. He is better on the ground, stronger, throws harder and is more experienced. On Saturday however, he struggled with an opponent who was inactive for most of the fight and only waited for his opportunities to capitalize on his opponent’s mistakes. Unfortunately, Peter made too many of them that night.

“I should have gone forward more”, “I should have pressed for the takedown earlier” and “I should not have been so hesitant in many situations” were some of the regrets Peter had after the fight. It might sound corny, but we all make mistakes. We are a product of our mistakes. What matters though is the lesson to be learned from them. Learn and move on. Make progress. Get better. Don’t be filled with regret but with knowledge.

This defeat will not brand Peter as pathetic or as a permanent loser. He’s a man that has battled through more adversity both inside and outside the cage for all his life and who has overcome that adversity way more often than not. Somebody who has looked fear into the eye and said: “Let’s go!”.

Somebody who has fought grown men as a teenager. Somebody who has had performances that won “Fight of the Year” accolades. One of the elite few Europeans who fought their way back into the Champions League of MMA after being initially deemed not good enough and cast away. Somebody who has proven more than once that he can fight, win and finish at the highest level.

Peter rolled the dice on Saturday. At 31 years of age, it is his aspiration to challenge himself against the best. He fought and he lost. It means that he has something to overcome, a psychological barrier or a lack of mental preparation before he can show the world his best work. In fact, choking at the gates of the Top 15 means that he is at least midway in climbing the steps that lead to ultimate success.

Just being ready isn’t enough to crack the upper echelon of this division. You have to be prepared for significant change. Preparation demands mental and physical conditioning and conscious planning. An athlete who is just ready and not totally prepared always risks a loss. Peter will take a week off to regroup and then we will get back together and plan his future.

Even though he couldn’t win this fight that would have guaranteed him an even more exciting future at this time, it is absolutely remarkable how he put a whole nation on his back. The kind of support and encouragement Peter has received before and also after the fight is absolutely amazing. Win or lose, he is an idol and role model to people of all ages and origins. A true champion of life!

The great Pat Riley once said: “You have no choice about how you lose, but you do have a choice about how you come back and prepare to win again.” I am sure that soon the disappointment over this missed opportunity will turn into fuel to further bolster his many strengths, improve his weaker points and hunger to come back sharper, quicker and more lethal than ever!

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UFC Light Heavyweight Title Challenger: Volkan Oezdemir

January 20, 2018

Volkan Oezdemir fights for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship of the World tonight in Boston, Massachusetts. The “Eidgenosse” will write history as he will become the first-ever fighter from Central Europe to challenge for a UFC title. As with most top European fighters who started competing in MMA during the last fifteen years, I have […]

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December 16 Weekend Fight Recap

December 18, 2017

Disclaimer: This is going to be (another) rather extensive (W)-MMA-related rant, so if you are on the internet for cat videos and Christmas cookie recipes, this is not for you. Last weekend, I attended my first-ever female-only martial arts event, Poland’s Ladies Fight Night. I am in no way an early adopter or a pioneer […]

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Brave International Combat Week

November 20, 2017

Back in Germany after 3½ days in the Kingdom of Bahrain. During my time there, I managed to squeeze in back-to-back fight events and have a grand old time with Team Omer before, during and after his fight at Brave 9: The Kingdom of Champions. Alan came into the fight very well-prepared, both physically and […]

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Brave 9: Official Weigh-In

November 17, 2017

A few shots from the Official Weigh-In for Brave 9, which took place at the Khalifa Sports City in Bahrain on Nov. 16.

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The Stars of EuroFC – Where are they now?

October 1, 2017

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the first and at the same time last European Fighting Challenge event. Although the promotion was far too short-lived, the Espoo event was critically acclaimed and the roster I started to build during my 11-month stint with the organization, was arguably the finest group of free agents assembled in […]

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