Cro Cop 'lucky' after stroke, retires from MMA

One of mixed martial arts' all-time greats has called it a career.

Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, at one point considered one of the most feared strikers in the sport, announced his retirement on Croatian television Friday. ESPN confirmed the news with Cro Cop.

Filipovic said he suffered a stroke following his unanimous decision win over Roy Nelson last month at Bellator 216, and, as a result, he has been advised by his doctors to never fight again.

"I was very lucky," he told ESPN. "I must not take punches to the head ever again."

Filipovic, 44, has flirted with retirement in the past, but said this time he really is done.

"I had bleeding in the brain," an emotional Filipovic told Dnevnik Nove TV in Croatia. "I came out of the hospital today and that's why I wanted to come here to see people feeling good. I had an unbelievable luck in the accident."

He said the stroke did not come as a result of his recent fight against Nelson, but rather a neck issue that had been bothering him for several months. Filipovic said the stroke will not be life-threatening as long as he never fights again.

"I will never enter the ring again," he said. "I cannot let someone hit me."

Filipovic retires with a 38-11-2 (1 NC) professional MMA record. He is best-known for his run in the now-defunct PRIDE FC organization, where he battled the likes of Fedor Emelianenko, Josh Barnett, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and many others from 2001 until he signed with the UFC in 2006. A decorated striker, "Cro Cop" found success in not only MMA but kickboxing, as well. He won the 2012 K-1 World Grand Prix and had a 26-8 kickboxing record.

A former member of the Croatian parliament, Filipovic once described his lethal striking as, "Right leg, hospital; left leg, cemetery." The quote followed him throughout his career and turned him into one of the most beloved fighters in the history of the sport.

In addition to his K-1 title, he also won the 2006 PRIDE Open-Weight Grand Prix, the 2016 Rizin Open-Weight Grand Prix and the Inoki Genome Federation championship.