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Photo via twitter/nobu_sakakibara

Fresh off his triumph on New Year’s Eve—winning Rizin FF’s inaugural Openweight Grand Prix—K1 and Pride legend Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic told Croatian TV of his retirement plans following his stirring knockout win over Amir Aliakbari.

Alongside beating Aliakbari in the tournament final, he rolled back the years by defeating Hyun Man Myung by submission, along with both Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and Estonian sumo wrestler Baruto by knockout on course to winning the Rizin Openweight Grand Prix—ten years after winning the Pride Openweight Grand Prix following victory over UFC heavyweight Josh Barnett.

Cro Cop has announced his retirement on plenty of occasions before now. In 2012, following a TKO defeat to Roy Nelson, the Croatian announced he had retired from MMA to revisit his kickboxing roots. He was then set to retire from fighting altogether in 2013 in Zagreb, Croatia, at an event aptly named “Cro Cop Final Fight.” However, that show soon merged with K-1 to become the first ever K-1 World Grand Prix to be held outside of Japan. Beating names such as Jarrell Miller, Pavel Zhuraylev and Ismael Londt along the way, Cro Cop won the K-1 World Grand Prix for the first time—thirteen years after his 1999 effort which saw him finish a runner up.

The Croatian kickboxer had been bitten by the combat sports bug and even returned to the UFC in 2015 for a third time despite vowing not to. Cro Cop avenged his humiliating 2007 loss to Gabriel Gonzaga, finishing the fight down on the floor with a series of violent elbow strikes to be awarded a TKO victory.

At UFC Fight Night 79, Cro Cop was set to face Anthony Hamilton in second fight from his latest stint in the UFC. But, it was announced he was injured and his intentions to retire from MMA. The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the UFC’s drug-testing partner, released a statement a day later saying he had been provisionally suspended from fighting for a potential drug violation. The Pride legend later revealed he had been using a human growth hormone (HGH) to recover from injury, and while no evidence of that was found in his USADA testing, the organisation suspended the Croatian from fighting for two years as a result of his admission. Of course, he went back on his word and didn’t retire at all—instead signing for Rizin, the Japanese-based fight promotion which is a Pride reincarnate.

Aged 42, Cro Cop has won close to everything worth winning in his two disciplines of kickboxing and MMA—with his latest triumph at Rizin materializing in spite of a number of health issues. Despite the numerous retirement red herrings thrown our way in the past, it looks like we could well be bidding a fond farewell this time around—though, he will consider a grand farewell fight should he successfully rehabilitate his knee despite promising his family to quit fighting altogether; this is Cro Cop, after all.

Talking to Croatian TV network Nova TV (as translated by, Cro Cop said: “I signed a contract for 15 fights with Rizin! I’m kidding, of course. This is definitely my last major tournament, my last tournament, definitely this is the end of my career. I have health problems and I cannot continue.

“The only option remains some farewell fight, but this is only if I rehabilitate my knee. I never want to go through what I went through during the preparation for this tournament. I know that I have often said I am ending my career, but this is really the end. It will be difficult, that’s for sure. People who know me tease me because of how many times I have retired, but I promised my family that this time it is final.”

No matter how Cro Cop’s retirement plans pan out, he will surely be remembered and recognized as one of the greatest heavyweights to ever compete in both kickboxing and MMA.

During his combat sports career, the kickboxer has won a K-1 and Pride Grand Prix (in addition to his latest Rizin Grand Prix victory)—the only person to do so despite the two organizations’ constant crossover—and is one of two fighters to win a world championship in both MMA and kickboxing, the other being Alistair Overeem. Cro Cop was also the IGF world heavyweight champion.

In kickboxing, he squared off against the likes of Bob Sapp, Ray Sefo, Remy Bojansky, Mark Hunt, Peter Aerts, Ernesto Hoost and the late great Andy Hug. Meanwhile, we saw Cro Cop face MMA stars such as Hunt (again), Wanderlei Silva, Josh Barnett, Fedor Emelianenko, Alex Emelianenko, Frank Mir, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Heath Herring, Igor Vovchanchyn, Mark Coleman, Alistair Overeem, Hong Man Choi and the late great Kevin Randleman.

Cro Cop may have been slightly non-committal in his retirement announcement after saying he is open to a farewell fight. But, if New Year’s Eve 2016 is set to be the last time we see Cro Cop compete—culminating with the sight of the Croatian thrusting the Rizin Grand Prix trophy aloft—it’s hard to think of a better send-off.

Check out these related stories:

Rizin 3: Combat Sports Comfort Food

Quick Results: Rizin FF Openweight Grand Prix 2016, Finals

Quick Results: Rizin FF Openweight Grand Prix 2016, Quarterfinals

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