Legendary MMA fighter Mirko 'Cro Cop' Filipovic forced to retire at 44 after suffering a stroke

A stroke suffered just two weeks removed from his Bellator 216 win over Roy Nelson will cause MMA and kickboxing legend Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic to retire from fighting at age 44. 

Filipovic (38-11-2, 1 NC) shared the news with Croatian outlet Nova TV on Friday, just hours after he was released from Dubrava Hospital in Zagreb.

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"It's over, I hope I will not cry, but that is it. Next is inevitable retirement," Filipovic told Nova TV. "I had a stroke and had bleeding on the brain. I got out of the hospital today and that's why I wanted to come here to show people I feel good, I had incredible luck with the stroke, the leak could have gone left and right. I had a vein discomfort, it burst from mechanical stimulus. This had nothing to do with fighting, just the neck was overloaded. 

"I have to fight for my life now."

The former Pride Open-Weight Grand Champion and UFC veteran closes his career on a 10-fight win streak dating back to 2013. Filipovic, who outpointed Nelson to win his lone Bellator appearance after signing a one-fight deal, wasn't without controversy over the twilight of his career. 

Filipovic, who went 5-6 within UFC between 2007 and 2015, was suspended for two years by USADA and had his UFC contract terminated in 2016 after he admitted to using human growth hormone to rehab his injured shoulder. But instead of serving the suspension, "Cro Cop" fled to Japan where he fought six times over the next two years under the Rizin banner. 

Doctors told Filipovic he must refrain from training or physical contact for three months while taking medication to avoid another stroke. He hopes to continue training upon his full recovery, but remains steadfast on retirement. 

Filipovic went on to address the retirement further in a post on Instagram to his fans. 

"This is a warning I took seriously," Filipovic said, translated to English. "I thank you all who followed me during my career and were with me and in victories and in defeat. I've had a rich and very long career and I really have no regrets. Thank you all."

Filipovic will be forever remembered for his devastating head kicks, which he famously described as "right leg, hospital; left leg, cemetery." Along with winning the 2006 Pride Grand Prix, he was the 2012 K-1 World Grand Prix champion and the 2016 Rizin Open-Weight Grand Prix champion. 

In 2005, he also took part in the biggest heavyweight bout in MMA history when he lost a three-round decision to Fedor Emelianenko for the Pride title. Filipovic turned pro in kickboxing in 1996 and made his MMA debut in 2001. 

A former special forces police officer in his native Croatia, Filipovic also served for five years as a member of his nation's parliament. 

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Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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