“I was at the weigh-ins, and when I saw ‘Cro Cop,’ he came up to me – the ‘Cro Cop’ I was never used to seeing in Japan, where he never spoke to anybody – he comes up and gives me a hug. The first thing he asks me is, ‘Are you going to be able wrap my hands?’ Then he tells me, ‘This is going to be my last fight.’… I got into the dressing room, and I got in there a little bit earlier than normal to wrap their hands. ‘Cro Cop’ and I literally sat there for a good five minutes and just chatted. It’s something I never really have had – and probably a lot of people haven’t had – the opportunity to do. The first thing I asked him is, ‘What are you going to do when you retire?’ He says, ‘Spend my money.’ Then he turns his chair around, and we’re making eye contact and talking, and he says, ‘You know, ‘Stitch,’ I’m tired. Today is 20 years from the time that I had my first fight. My body is beat up. I’ve had six surgeries. I got cut six weeks ago in training. I’m tired.’ … The thing that really got me, ironically, was he said, ‘I’ve been all over the world, but I’ve never seen anything because I’m always in my hotel room, locked down, or I’m always in the gym. When I’m training, everything is just training, training, training. It’s time for me to spend time with my family and rest.’ That came straight from his heart to me. I thought that was very sincere, and I was glad to be a part of that.”

— Cutman Stitch Duran on MMA Junkie telling the story about wrapping Mirko Cro Cop’s hands for the last time

Damn, that story almost brought a tear to my eye.

It’s been a rough road for Mirko Cro Cop in the UFC, and while I’m sure he would have liked to finish his career on a more positive note, it’s time.

I’m sure there will be “TUF noobs” that will always wonder what all the fuss was about, but whatever, Cro Cop was the man back in the day, high kicking people’s heads from the ring to the cemetery. That’s the Mirko Cro Cop I’ll always remember.

As for that other guy who “retired” at UFC 137. You know, BJ Penn. He’s decided to “take some time off to enjoy life, train and teach.” Unlike Cro Cop, I think he’s still got some gas left in the tank and I’m betting BJ will come to that same conclusion after a little downtime.

Image via Esther Lin for MMA Fighting