K-1 And Pride Pioneer Branko Cikatic Has Passed Away
One of the most decorated stars in Japanese MMA has died. After a battle with Parkinson’s, 65-year-old Branko Cikatic passed away this week.
“Bad news this morning when I woke up, the great Branko Cikatic has passed away,” Bas Rutten posted on Facebook. “Wow, such a strong fighter, I remember watching him fight in the “Jaap Eden Hal” in Holland, he and Ernesto Hoost (another great fighter) had some crazy matches there. 87 wins, 82 KO’s, that should say it all.”
Training for martial arts at the age of 12, Cikatic became one of the most accomplished kickboxers in the world. After winning over 152 amateur contests, he became a pro and didn’t look back. Cikatic stormed through the competition in the K-1 Grand Prix in 1993 (three opponents in one night) to become the first tournament winner. The Croatian ended his career, a majority of it in Japan, with over 87 wins, 82 of them via knockouts.
Cikatic was 39 when he made a name for himself in the world of kickboxing. He ended up joining MMA in 1998, becoming one of the top names for the debuting Pride. The rules of Pride FC and MMA in general was something he was not accustomed to. Facing Ralph White at Pride 1 in a kickboxing match, Cikatic kicked him while he was on the ground, disqualifying himself. Cikatic then fought in two MMA fights for the promotion. Facing one of the best heavyweight fighters in Mark Kerr, Cikatic was disqualified for holding the ropes to avoid a takedown and by throwing illegal elbows to the back of the head.
He returned at Pride 7 in 1999, facing a familiar face in K-1 star Maurice Smith. Smith beat Cikatic via submission, his last MMA fight for the promotion.
He later became one of the coaches of 2012 K-1 Grand Prix, 2006 Pride World Open-Weight Grand Prix, IGF and 2016 Rizin World Openweight grand Prix Champion Mirko Cro Cop. Over the years Cikatic suffered from a pulmonary embolism and an infection that led to sepsis before his Parkinson’s worsened.
“The Croatian Tiger” left an impact on the combat sports world that can never be forgotten.