UFC news, rumors: Mirko Cro Cop fiasco with USADA; Rashad Evans not retiring yet
The legendary heavyweight fighter is planning to fight still despite questions of if he should be allowed
The decision to sign legendary heavyweight Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, despite a two-year USADA ban that never saw him actually exit the sport, has brought a stream of criticism to Bellator MMA.
The 43-year-old Filipovic (36-11-2, 1 NC) was suspended in November 2015 after admitting to using human growth hormone ahead of a scheduled UFC bout with Anthony Hamilton. Despite announcing his retirement days before the news broke, "Cro Cop" continued to fight internationally with Rizin in Japan and currently boasts an eight-fight win streak.
Since Bellator, like Rizin, doesn't have a policy in place to work with USADA, which serves as an exclusive testing partner to UFC, Filipovic signed on to face Roy Nelson (23-15) atin London, in a rematch of their 2011 UFC bout which "Big Country" won via third-round TKO.
The controversial signing even drew the ire of Nelson, despite the fact he accepted the fight. Nelson, 41, told MMA Junkie on Saturday that although he believes Filipovic has been improving with age, "I think he's back on the special supplements, better supplements than usual."
Upon hearing the comments, Filipovic fired back swiftly in a Facebook post on Sunday.
"Dear Roy Nelson, you don't have to worry that I'm using any 'special supplements' as you claim," Filipovic wrote. "The only 'special supplements' I'm using is two hard and bloody trainings per day, five days a week. And I will be tested, like all others, during preparations for the fight and before and right after the fight.
"So you can be calm and start thinking of some good excuses after I beat up your fat, disrespectful ass. You have enough time to May 25 and do me a favor please and shave that disgusting beard. Look like professional fighter and show respect to your opponent. Good luck!"
In an interview with MMAnytt.se on Friday, Bellator president Scott Coker defended his promotion's decision not to respect Filipovic's USADA ban.
"Here's the thing, Mirko fights in Rizin, in Japan, and USADA has relationship with the UFC and they're in Japan all the time," Coker said. "Why didn't they go after him two years ago when he started fighting in Rizin? This is a question just because he's fighting for Bellator at our 200th event?
"To me it's like, if you wanted to take action, you should've took action a long time ago, because to me, honestly, when we booked it, we didn't even know there were issues. He's already fighting so we thought he was able to fight."
Although state commissions typically respect the sanctions handed down by USADA in the United States, Filipovic was never suspended specifically by any state. His fight in London will be regulated by the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation out of Connecticut, which according to president Mike Mazzulli, plans to administer immediate tests but considers his 2015 sanction "a thing of the past."
- Former UFC light heavyweight champion "Suga" Rashad Evans has decided to continue fighting despite a current four-fight losing skid. Evans (19-7-1), who lost his last two fights by split decision after moving down to middleweight, will return to 205 pounds on June 9 when he faces Anthony Smith at UFC 225 in Chicago. UFC confirmed the initial report from ESPN. Smith (28-13), who is 4-2 in UFC, will also be moving up from middleweight.
- Less than one month out of his long-awaited lightweight championship bout against interim titleholder Tony Ferguson at UFC 223 in Brooklyn, New York, unbeaten Khabib Nurmagomedov enjoyed a moment with a fellow prominent Russian athlete. Nurmagomedov (24-0), who trains with American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose, California, attended Saturday's NHL game between the Sharks and the Washington Capitals at SAP Centre. Following the 2-0 victory from the visiting Capitals, Nurmagomedov was invited to the locker room by Alexander Ovechkin, who presented him with a hockey jersey featuring the last name of "The Eagle" on the back. Both athletes shared the picture on social media.
- UFC light heavyweight Jimi Manuwa remains interesting in a crossover boxing match and believes that British heavyweights David Haye and unbeaten unified champion Anthony Joshua are realistic possibilities. The 38-year-old Manuwa (17-3), who is set to Jan Blachowicz in a rematch on March 17 at UFC Fight Night in London told ESPN UK on Sunday that he nearly came to terms on a Haye fight in 2017 until the former two-division titleholder chose Tony Bellew instead. Haye and Bellew will meet in a rematch on May 5. "Speaking to Dana [White], he was up for it and he liked the numbers," Manuwa said. "It would have been a massive, massive fight for London." Manuwa, who is ranked No. 4 at 205 pounds by UFC, did add the caveat that any fight with the 6-foot-6 and 250-pound Joshua would need to take place in the Octagon.
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