When fighters talk about the end of their career, they usually end up saying one of two things. It’s either, “I’ll do this until my body completely fails me and they drag me from the cage,” or “I definitely won’t be doing this much longer. I plan on going out on top.”
While the latter almost always wiser, the former often ends up being reality. If for no other reason than that figuring out when you’re “on top” can be nearly impossible. Fighters in the midst of a run of success rarely want to leave it behind for the unknowns of a post-combat career. Fighters who have bounced back from a loss with a big win often feel like they’ve only just gotten a chance to show what they can still do. Very rarely does the combination of time and triumph come together in a way that gives an athlete a solid exit point.
For Mirko CroCop, it seems that point is now.
In a recent interview with Nova TV, Mirko ‘CroCop’ Filipovic announced his retirement from MMA, and while this isn’t the first time, it seems like it will probably be the last (transcript via CroatiaWeek.com):
“That was definitely my last tournament. I have health problems and this is definitely the end of my career.”
“I know I have announced my retirement before, but this is definitely it”, he said.
It’s not hard to see why CroCop’s first flirtation with retirement was short lived. After re-signing with the UFC (and picking up a win over Gabriel Gonzaga), Mirko was slapped with a USADA anti-doping violation (stemming from his self-reported treatment of a shoulder injury). The violation was going to see him suspended from competition for two years. Instead, CroCop chose to retire.
In that time, however, he was able to successfully negotiate his way out of his UFC contract and his USADA suspension. Shortly afterward, CroCop announced his return to fighting with RIZIN FF and a slot in the promotion’s 2016 Grand Prix.
CroCop opened the tournament with a submission win over MMA neophyte Hyun Man Myung, and then went on to knock out ‘King Mo’ Lawal, Baruto Kaito, and Amir Aliakbari. Those last two wins both coming on December 31st and crowning CroCop as the RIZIN 2016 Grand Prix Champion.
It may not be a UFC heavyweight title, but for the 42-year-old former K1 and Pride World Grand Prix Champ it’s a fitting high note for calling it quits.