At 36 years old, veteran mixed martial artist Mirko Cro Cop (27-8-1) is suiting up for battle one more time as he takes on 27-year-old American fighter Brendan Schaub at UFC 128 in Newark, N.J. this coming Saturday.
After the fight with Schaub, Mirko will have done battle for the 39th time in his professional mixed martial arts career. In addition to mixed martial arts, Mirko has also competed 28 times in professional kickboxing. Having close to 70 professional fights over a span of 15 years is definitely going to be hard on the human body, and the case is no different for Mirko.
After losing to Junior Dos Santos at UFC 103 in 2009, Mirko was contemplating retirement. He went as far as to say he should have retired after winning the Pride Grand Prix in 2006, and that his body wasn't the same as it used to be.
Now, close to two years later and having fought three times in that span, Mirko is still pushing onwards with his UFC career.
When one looks at Mirko's age, the number of fights on his body and the fact that he has already achieved so much in the sport it begs the questions: Why is Mirko still fighting, and how much longer will he go?
Although Mirko had seen a lot of success while in Pride and in kickboxing, UFC gold has eluded him. The Octagon hasn't been a very forgiving place for Mirko.
Mirko is in his second stint with the UFC after being cut in his first run due to dropping two straight. In his first loss, Mirko lost to Gabriel Gonzaga who knocked the Croatian out with a high head kick, something Mirko had made his name with while in Pride.
Mirko's second straight loss was to UFC gatekeeper Cheick Kongo.
After being cut, Mirko won three fights and had one no contest against Alistair Overeem before signing back on with the UFC for his second run.
In his last 10 fights, Mirko has gone 5-4 with the no contest and most of his victories during this run, particularly in the UFC, haven't looked spectacular. In Mirko's last fight against Frank Mir, both fighters were timid and it was in the last minute that Mirko threw a flurry which was countered by a knockout knee from Mir.
Although the UFC heavyweight title is one of the few things missing from Mirko's mantelpiece, it seems like chasing the UFC title would be the equivalent to looking for a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow for the Croatian.
Not to disrespect Cro Cop in any way—the man is a living legend—but, in all honesty, his days as a professional fighter are numbered, and the fact of the matter is it is very difficult to get a UFC title once a fighter's career has taken a dive.
Of course, this isn't to say it is impossible. Randy Couture is still hanging around at 47 years of age and he had UFC gold around his waist at 44. However, not many people are like Couture, and for all intents and purposes, Mirko probably isn't like Couture either.
Maybe it isn't just a strap Mirko is chasing, maybe he wants to finish his career leaving no stone unturned.
Mirko's run in the UFC has never lived up to expectations, and maybe he wants to try and leave the Octagon on a respectable note for himself and his fans. No one can fault a man for wanting to right his wrongs, but when it involves getting beat up, it certainly becomes tough to watch for the fans of this legend.
The bottom line is Mirko's time to turn around people's memories of him in the UFC is short and maybe long gone already. Mirko definitely has to take things one fight at a time similar to how a fellow veteran Matt Hughes has done over the last couple of years.
Should Mirko win against Schaub and put on an exciting performance, there is no reason why he should not continue to fight until his next loss.
It is really hard to put a number on retirement when it comes to fighting.
However, another loss for Mirko would and should spell the end of this legendary fighter's career, and that is said with utmost respect for a true warrior and legend like Mirko Cro Cop.
Leon Horne has been contributing to Bleacher Report for two years now. He focuses mainly on mixed martial arts, but he has also written about tennis, football and hockey. Just send him a message if you want to talk sports or discuss any opportunities. You can follow him on Twitter for updates:
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!