Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, a living legend in kickboxing and MMA, has retired from competition after a shoulder injury forced him to bow out of UFC Fight Night 79 in Seoul, South Korea.
It is not the first time the heavyweight has walked away from fighting, but at age 41 and facing what appears to be the latest in a string of significant injuries, this seems to be his last.
Now it's two in the morning, and I can not fall asleep, I [am thinking] thoughts and swirling my career in front of my eyes. I am aware that I have come to the end of my martial times, but training with pain I want no longer. ...This is not a temporary decision because I was unhappy due to all of that, but it's my final decision and it's best for me.
Cro Cop—so nicknamed for working as a law enforcement officer in his native Croatia—rose to prominence in the late 1990s and early 2000s, first as a K-1 kickboxer and then in Japan's Pride FC MMA promotion. He was best known for his thunderous head kick, which garnered him several knockouts in both sports.
Over the years, Filipovic defeated MMA luminaries like Mark Coleman, Josh Barnett and Wanderlei Silva. In 2006 Cro Cop won the prestigious Pride Open Weight Grand Prix title, which required him to defeat Ikuhisa Minowa, Hidehiko Yoshida, Silva and Barnett in succession. In 2005 he lost to Fedor Emelianenko in an epic battle that is still considered one of the best fights in sport history.
Filipovic entered the UFC later in his career, in 2007 at the age of 33. He did not fare well, relatively speaking, in the cage environment and stepped away from MMA after Roy Nelson knocked him out in 2011.
In 2012, after a stint spent solely in kickboxing, Cro Cop returned to MMA, and in 2015 made his way back to the UFC, avenging a famous head-kick knockout loss to Gabriel Gonzaga with a TKO win of his own.
As it turns out, that was Cro Cop's final fight.
He was set to face Anthony Hamilton on November 28, but apparently the shoulder injury was too much. It also appeared to be just one of many degenerative injuries with which the venerable fighters is dealing:
I tried to save a shoulder injury and repair in all possible ways: daily therapy, injections of blood plasma and various cocktails of drugs but didn't work out. The only cure would be a break of two to three weeks, and that I could not afford in the midst of final preparations. Throughout the summer I spent traveling...to one of the famous doctor[s] for chronic inflammation. ...I have to stop twice during the travel due to pain in these tendons that hurt me terribly in sitting position, right knee which was operated four times, too. And now even the shoulder, back not to mention. ...But that is the price that must be paid.
If this is indeed his final retirement, Cro Cop leaves MMA with a record of 31-11-2 (1).