“It’s hard to say,” Cro Cop admits. “I’m excited because I don’t know how to do anything else but fighting. It doesn’t mean that I’m desperate or that I didn’t make money enough to secure my life and the life of my family; it’s just that I don’t know anything else to do. In a certain way, fighting keeps me alive. And I’m aware that one day when I stop fighting, part of me, a big part of me, will die with that decision. And that’s what still motivates me.”
It’s an intriguing look into the psyche of a fighter, one who has been living this life longer than he hasn’t been. As Cro Cop points out, for over two decades, “I’ve been living like a soldier and living by the book. I don’t consume alcohol, I go to sleep on time, I wake up on time. Every fighter had good and bad days, and of course it happened for me to lose some fights which I’m sorry for very much because I’m that kind of person that I hate to lose. But you never saw me fat, saw me unprepared, never saw me with my hair too long, or that I didn’t shave. That’s something that I would never allow, and I think that I am a big, big professional, and that makes me happy and makes me proud.”
As he conducts this interview, he is getting his legs worked on by his conditioning coach to prepare for another sparring session with Barry. The years of toil and the numerous surgeries have been a reminder that his 40th birthday is closing in, but when he thinks of the alternative to fighting, there’s nowhere else he would rather be.
“I wake up every morning at 6 o’clock,” he said. “Even if I can afford to sleep ‘til 10, even if I can go to my own coffee bar to have coffee and hang around until 2. I can have lunch, take a nap after lunch, and then go back to the coffee bar and play cards with my friends. But that’s not the kind of life that I want. Even if this is much, much more harder. I sparred for the last six weeks and there were a million small injuries. I’ve been punched to the head, kicked to the body, I’ve blocked kicks, so everything hurts.”
He stops suddenly, and gathers his thoughts to make a strong a point as he can.
“You ask me if I need it,” he continues. “No, I don’t need it to survive. But that’s the only life I know and that’s the life that makes me happy. Nothing less, nothing more.”
Those are the words of a fighter, and though Cro Cop may have lost some fights, he has never lost that spirit and desire. It’s why after his last bout, a third round knockout loss to Brendan Schaub at UFC 128 in March, he returned home to Croatia and was back in the gym the very next day. If you think he’s showing up for a paycheck, you would be wrong. If there’s anything left for him to give in the Octagon, he’s going to give it on Saturday night.