In 1996, two years after his father died and "and left me and my mother all alone without a dollar in our pocket," 21-year-old Mirko 'Cro Cop'Filipovic got his start in K-1 kickboxing tournaments.
"It was the only way to drag me and my mother out of misery. That's how I started. I wanted to beat people because I wanted to get more and more money to ensure financial independence for me and for my family. That's all."
"If somebody recognize me on the street or they don't recognize me, I don't care. I would prefer that they don't recognize me. Unfortunately, in my country, everybody recognize me. I cannot hide, but it's hard to live without privacy."
"Fedor was untouchable until one year ago, and today nobody's talking about him. He lost three times in a row. He was a great champion, great fighter, but he lost three times in a row and nobody talks about him. Only the fans who followed him his whole career respect what he did with his career, but that's the name of the game. I don't want it to happen to me."
"I must win this fight," he said over and over again. "...I will have to beat him, and I will do it. I trained six months for this fight. I will do it."
"First I have to beat Roy Nelson. And second, we have to make a deal (with the UFC)."
"Some people, many people, buried me alive because I lost twice in a row. I just want to prove to everybody that I'm still Cro Cop. ...I want to raise from the grave. That's what I want to prove to everybody. That's my motivation."
"I want to feel that feeling when the referee raises my hand. I want to take that shower -- it's a special moment for me, taking that shower after my victory, and I'm so happy. I go back to the hotel and the next day I'm so happy. I don't even think about [money] until the UFC bookkeeper calls me a few days later to transfer the money."
"I want to retire as the old Cro Cop. I don't know if I will be able to do it, but I will die trying. Nothing is hard for me. I will die trying."
And if he loses?
(I wil) say to people, 'I apologize, and I'm sorry I waste[d] your time.' That's all I can say and that's exactly what I will say. I will disappear from the UFC and I will apologize, first to the headquarters of the UFC, because I was treated like a king, I was paid well, and unfortunately I didn't justify the treatment. I didn't justify the treatment. I don't want live on an old glory. That's why, believe me, I trained really hard for this fight."