There is no doubt a dirty little overlap between hedonism and masochism, where the two meet in that grey zone where self-harm can be experienced as pleasure. Of course, masochism traditionally has a sexual connotation, but the experience of deriving pleasure from one’s own pain can exist as a perfectly tame pattern of self-defeating behavior. So when Mirko Cro-Cop explained on Facebook that he is returning to the twice-disappointing UFC for his “own pleasure,” one couldn’t help wondering if he’s got a touch of masochism flitting about in his otherwise hedonistic Croatian brain-stream.
“I didn’t sign because of a huge contract, but exclusively for my own pleasure,” he typed. “I can’t wait for my fight for which I’ll be ready as a beast! I owe that to myself and my fans. I got a chance to, in a sports sense, right some things, if I can do that, great, if not, still good, at least I’ll know that I tried and that I gave it my all.”
Still, other than these returns to the poisoned well, there is really no evidence that Cro-Cop is a neurotic maniac bent on self-destruction. He’s not drinking makeshift potato vodka in a jail cell next to Alexander Emelianenko, for instance. He’s always been a healthy, intelligent and non-controversial figure. And importantly, his fight against Pat Barry at UFC 115 probably best illustrated why Mirko’s love for fighting isn’t some backwards illusion. Even though Barry knocked Cro-Cop down twice in the first round, the Croatian responded by giving Barry high-fives. They even paused mid-fight to embrace, upsetting fans who thought a more aggressive Barry could have finished Mirko early. But despite those jarring shows of post-traumatic affection, Cro-Cop obliterated his wounded friend in the third, proving that his compulsion towards victory outweighed his pleasure in defeat.
The Barry fight may have been a synchronistic blueprint for Mirko’s later career, a prophetic microcosm of sorts. After all, he was knocked down twice by Barry, and he has been twice knocked away from the UFC. But despite appearing to some like a man who can’t resist the allure of an abusive ex-lover, Cro-Cop is probably just a persistent warrior who knows he can still win in the third round.