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Crocop

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02/19/15 - It's official: this April, three and a half years after his last UFC campaign sputtered out, Mirko Cro Cop will make his return to the Octagon. He'll face his old nemesis Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC Fight Night: Cro Cop vs. Gonzaga in the UFC's Polish debut.

Cro Cop will be 40 years old, and he'll be carrying with him three victories in MMA and seven in kickboxing since his release, as well as significant implications about the larger landscape of MMA promotion. At its best, Cro Cop's signing means great action for fans while also signaling greater opportunity for fighters; at worst, it suggests that MMA promotion has reached a desperate, regressive state. In part one of this consideration, however, we'll take a look at the small picture. Small as in television screens. As in, what we should hope to see on ours...

There are a few ways that the UFC could use Filipovic. Only one of them, however, makes proper use of his name and talent. The rest would merely serve as an extremely expensive way of putting hardcore fans into a deep depression.

The idea of a young talent announcing himself to the larger fanbase thanks to a victory over a storied opponent is a ubiquitous one. Ubiquitous and, I think, highly suspect. But whether or not it's a reliably profitable model for promotion is really a moot point. What's important to recognize is that, when it comes to Cro Cop specifically, it's a bad idea. Because for larger audiences to see a prospect's victory over Cro Cop as significant, they'd have to have an idea of what his significance is in the first place. And they probably don't. Casual fans likely didn't follow his PRIDE career, which is what made him an MMA legend in the first place. Meanwhile, those fans who do appreciate that history in full will also appreciate that Cro Cop is a competitor on the wane and that a win over him means a fraction of what it used to. What's more, the UFC already tried this with Cro Cop before, and it didn't pan out. Cheick Kongo, Roy Nelson, and Brendan Schaub all topped the PRIDE Grand Prix champion, and all of them failed to endear themselves to fans or go on to make an impact on the upper echelons of the division. In trying to use Cro Cop's name to build up other talent, the UFC saw the reputation of one of their most marketable fighters diminish and wound up gaining nothing (not even especially exciting fights) in return.

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