Cro Cop Recalls Student Days in Zagreb, Working as Security Guard, and Red Nikes

Daniela Rogulj

Updated on:

March 3, 2019 – After news broke on Saturday that Croatian MMA fighter Cro Cop, or Mirko Filipović, was forced to retire from the ring after suffering a stroke, the outpour of support and praise for the celebrated fighter has not come to a halt. 

The MMA legend has been showered with stories by fighters and friends in the last 24 hours, which has brought true gems to the surface from Filipović’s early days as a student in Zagreb, long before he embarked on his magnificent 25-year-career, reports 24 Sata on March 3, 2019. 

Some of you might be aware that the student dorm Stjepan Radić in Zagreb is the most famous home in Croatia; a place where generations and generations of students spend their university days. It is where you party, learn, socialize and enjoy the benefits of student life.

But not many people know that at the Sava, which is the popular nickname for the great dorm, lived the strongest man in Croatia. Yes, you guessed it, Mirko Filipović. 

Namely, Cro Cop came to the Sava in 1994, with 400 marks in his pocket given to him by his mother. He spent a year there and lived illegally while working on the side to survive.

Four years ago, Mirko visited his old home and gave a lecture to the students. The legendary Kino Forum was not big enough to host all of the curious ears. About 400 people packed the small room to listen to Filipović speak. 

“At that time, I worked as a security guard and attended the Police Academy. My first roommate looked like Kurt Cobain, and then I got a second roommate that was the complete opposite. That room was cleaned day and night. On one occasion I returned from work at 3 or 4 in the morning and found him cleaning the windows. I liked it,” said Cro Cop, who lived in the 7th Pavilion, in room 22.

“Of course I like him. I’ve been watching him fight for a long time. I think of him as a positive person and an excellent fighter, his left high kick will be recorded in history,” says Ivan, who has lived near Mirko’s old room for years.

The students love Mirko, because of his personality, and because of his modesty – he came from nothing and introduced himself to the martial arts world as a big star. Of course, the students diligently followed his fights, and everyone is devastated to hear that he’s been forced into early retirement. 

“His first match I saw was in 2008 when he defeated Japan’s Mizuno, and definitely the favorite match is the win against Gonzaga in the return match. Goodness, how he broke him.  I’m sorry he had to go this way because I know he is a fighter in the heart, but health has no mercy. The most important thing is that everything went well. He achieved ten wins in a row, so he went out like a hero,” added the student.

Student life on the Sava is most famous for going out and hanging out. Student Wednesday, for example, is an event that never goes missed – students are quite innovative. In their small rooms of 13 m2, they are known to cram up to 20 people!

Mirko, however, did not like going out because he was diligently training at the time he lived in the dorms.

“I do not drink alcohol. And then I did not like going out, just like now. I just think it’s a waste of time. I train on Friday and Saturday, so I prefer to rest,” said Cro Cop.

One of the most famous anecdotes associated with Mirko and Sava are his red sneakers. 

The Croatian fighter lived in the dorms, worked as a security guard and earned a living. His great wish was a beautiful pair of Nike sneakers he finally managed to afford. However,  living on the ground floor of a student dorm had its disadvantages. 

“I bought beautiful red Nike sneakers. And put them on the window, just naive. The next morning they were gone. I thought that maybe they fell, but no, no. One of the toughest moments of my stay at the Sava,” Mirko said with laughter.

“If I could return to those days with this mind now, I would do it right away. I would not change anything; everything would be the same. I just want to repeat that period,” Cro Cro Cop said as nostalgia for past times overcame him. 

This was just the beginning for the greatest Croatian fighter. Only two years later, in 1996, Mirko had his first fight when he defeated the legendary Le Banner.

The Sava still has the strongest man in Croatia.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.


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