He was born in the town of Gorna Oryahovitsa, Bulgaria. On 20 July 1898, in New York City, he earned the title "Champion of America". In the next year in Vienna, he became the European Champion in Greco-Roman wrestling. In 1900, during the Exposition Universelle in Paris, he defeated the Frenchman Paul Pons and became a world champion.
Since 1963, a yearly tournament in the name of Nikola Petrov has been organized in Bulgaria. In 1998, he was proclaimed an Honoured Citizen of Gorna Oryahovitsa.
In his 25 year wrestling career, he was defeated once by Marijan Matijević.