Cro Cop’s Protege and Japanese Fighter Satoshi Ishii Becomes Croatian Citizen

Daniela Rogulj

Satoshi Ishii can officially be called a Croatian fighter!

Meet Satoshi Ishii, a 32-year-old Japanese judoka fighter and mixed martial artist who is known as Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipović’s protege. Ishii visited Croatia for the first time in February 2017, and shortly after that decided to move to Zagreb permanently. Over time, Ishii bought an apartment and started the process of obtaining Croatian citizenship. As of Monday, Ishii can be called Croatian, reports on March 18, 2019.  

While Ishii has celebrated his last few battles in the ring with a Croatian flag, he will now be able to fight for his new country and be considered a fighter from Croatia. Ishii took to his Instagram to announce the exciting news and thanked everyone who made this possible. 

Ishii will already have his first opportunity to be presented as a Croatian fighter this Saturday when he will debut in the KSW cage in Poland. There he awaits a fight against the former heavyweight champion of this promotion, Fernando Rodrigues. 

Rarely is an MMA fighter as active as Ishii. Just in the last 11 months, Cro Cop’s protege had five grappling fights, and in the last two years, seven in ultimate fighting. 

“I want to fight as much as possible because fighting makes you sharp. That is advice from my mentor Mirko Filipović who, while still performing at Pride, had eight fights in one year,” Ishii said to Večernji List announcing his fight in Poland on Saturday.

Ishii added that Mirko is also famous in Poland.

“Saša Milinković will be with me as my MMA coach and Kristijan Peja, my boxing coach. They are members of the Cro Cop Team, and that is the team that Cro Cop chose for me.”

Ishii said that Cro Cop is his friend and brother, and did not want to comment on his retirement.

“It’s Mirko’s life, that’s his decision, and I do not want to comment on that. I am his friend, he is my brother, he treats me very well, and that’s why I do not want to talk about it in the media. What I want to say I can always tell him in the hall, by a phone call or SMS.”

Though he didn’t hesitate to speak about his new citizenship.

“I recently received a Croatian passport, and now I’m a Croat. Since my home country of Japan does not allow dual citizenship, I must renounce my Japanese passport.”

But why did Ishii do it? Isn’t it better to be a citizen of one of the economically most powerful countries in the world than a citizen of one of the poorest EU countries? 

“Even though I won the Olympic gold for Japan in 2008, I began to feel that Croats and people from other Balkan countries are more supportive than my Japanese people.”

How hard was it to make that decision?

“Not too hard. I am born in Japan, I lived there until I turned 22, but I can deal with that decision. It will still be sentimental for me for some time, but I can live with that.” 

And how hard was it to learn Croatian?

“I still study Croatian once a week. Now I understand 50 percent of what people around me are saying, but it’s hard for me to speak it. I need time to translate it into my head, so I’m slow, and the way I say Croatian words is funny for people to hear.”

Ishii has been living in Croatia for more than two years.

”I bought an apartment in Borčec, a few minutes from the Cro Cop Hall where I train. In an apartment of a hundred square meters, I have two bedrooms and two garages. And, more importantly, I have great neighbors. Whenever there is a party, they treat me with cookies or something like that. They are all very polite and quiet people.”

He will also have company in the summer.

“My girlfriend, an American girl Kristin Mikkelson, will also live with me in August. She visited me in February, and she experienced Zagreb and Croatia as a place where she could live. She liked the sense of security she had here; she enjoyed that it’s quiet here, and the food in Croatia was delicious.”

Though Kristin is not just an ordinary girl, but is world-famous in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

“She is a two-time world champion in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the category up to 60 kg. Our idea is to open a grappling club for women in Zagreb.”

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


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment