(Come on, man — think of all the good times you had here! Photo courtesy of daylife.com)
UPDATE, 12:35 p.m. ET: Cro Cop is official for UFC 99.
The UFC’s quest for foreign expansion is hitting some spike-strips, with two big-name fighters potentially slipping out of their grasp. First off, despite his blog-post enthusiasm that led everyone to believe he’d be returning to the Octagon at UFC 99, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic still hasn’t signed a contract with the UFC. As Dave Meltzer explains:
The UFC’s intention in re-signing Cro Cop was to get a major European name to sell tickets for their Germany card, so Filipovic’s value to the organization is dropping with each passing hour; if this goes on any longer, Heavy D and the Boyz may decide that Mirko isn’t worth the effort. As for that mysterious "holdup," Fightlinker speculates that DREAM may be negotiating with Filipovic to get him to appear on their summer fight card.
While Cro Cop’s UFC return is somewhat uncertain at this point, one fighter who definitely won’t be fighting in the UFC any time soon is Satoshi Ishii. Apparently the endless gifts of free UFC swag and the chance to meet Brock Lesnar weren’t enough to convince the 2008 Olympic Judo gold medalist to fight for an American organization, as he announced at a press conference in Tokyo today that he will be signing a multi-fight contract with Sengoku. Ishii explained that the reasons for his decision spanned everything from a desire to fight in front of his grandmother before she dies, to the possibility of facing Josh Barnett at some point.
Along with Yoshihiro Akiyama, Ishii was pursued by the UFC in hopes that he’d headline a future event in Japan; they made a website for it and everything. Instead, he comes over here, sucks some knowledge from Randy Couture, goes bird-dogging with Thiago Alves, and then goes home so he can fight for a B-level organization in his own country. What’s the Japanese word for chutzpah?