Nelson (22-15 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) admits Cro Cop (36-11-2 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) simply wasn’t on his radar. The Croatian heavyweight never has fought for Bellator and has been executing his craft in Japan in recent years while flirting with the idea of retirement.
Nelson happily accepted the offer, though. He already owns a third-round TKO of Cro Cop from UFC 137 in October 2011, and Nelson said there was no reluctance in running it back.
“Cro Cop was actually a surprise,” Nelson told MMAjunkie. “I was supposed to fight ‘Rampage,’ but he didn’t want to fight so they went out and got Cro Cop. I’m all about rematches. I’ve been trying to get them through my fighting career, but I’m all about it. It’s the one thing I always wish I had, so I want to give someone else a chance.”
Bellator 200 takes place May 25 at The SSE Arena in London. The card airs via same-day delay on Paramount.
As soon as the matchup between Nelson and Cro Cop was announced, some concerns began to surface. At the tail end of his UFC run in 2015, Cro Cop admitted use of a banned substancearound the time of a drug test administered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. He was handed a two-year suspension, which Cro Cop essentially ignored by going to Japan and fighting under the Rizin FF banner.
At 43, Cro Cop has been in strong form. His eight-fight winning streak dating back to August 2014 is the longest of his MMA career, and although the results coincide largely with fighting in unregulated territory, Nelson did acknowledge that Cro Cop still has lots of skill, even if he’s getting some outside help.
“I think Cro Cop’s definitely always improving with age, but I think he’s back on the special supplements, better supplements than usual,” Nelson said. “Throughout my whole fight career, the only reason people want to fight me or have a chance to beat me, is if they get something. It’s something I just know that everybody is just on it. It’s one of those things where it’s an uphill battle. If you can help prevent it, cool. But at the end of the day I just go out there and fight whoever they want me to fight.”