In an inspirational performance, Ukrainian MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter Yaroslav Amosov regained the Bellator welterweight championship belt, which he had vacated last year in order to defend his country.

Amosov, 29, won a unanimous decision, dominating his American opponent Logan Storely before a packed 3Arena crowd in Dublin, Ireland, on Feb. 25. The two fighters had already met in November 2020, with a close split-decision victory for Amosov.

After the first fight against Storely, Asimov won the Bellator championship (a rival promotion to the better known UFC) against Brazilian Douglas Lima in June 2021. A native of Irpin, near Kyiv, Amosov was scheduled to defend his title against American Michael Page in May 2022, but on Feb. 24 Russia attacked his hometown while he was in training, so he joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU).


The champion posted a dramatic video on Instagram less than a month into the war from the suburbs of Kyiv under an artillery bombardment. His message for Russia, in Russian, was clear:

“You are not saving us. We are protecting ourselves from you. Russian troops have come to our territory claiming they’re saving us,” he said.

“Horrific things are happening here,” he added. “Our country will protect itself. Our country will win. Our nation is united and our country is the best in the world.”

Belt raised again after the Battle of Kyiv

As the AFU was liberating the towns around Kyiv, Amosov entered his damaged home in Irpin, where his mother had hidden his championship belt in the basement. He retrieved it in a symbolic gesture that was not lost on Ukraine’s fight fans.

Indeed, the arc of his career in many ways reflects that of his country’s struggle against Russia. After he recovered his belt, his friends and brothers-in-arms convinced him to go back and defend it on the world’s stage, in order to bring more attention to his country’s fight.

He walked out into the cage in Dublin to the song “Dodomu” (Home), by Ukrainian band Kalush, featuring rapper Skofka.


The championship bout lasted the full five rounds, but Amosov dominated from the outset, patiently wearing his opponent down with relentless combinations. In the first round he cut Storely’s right eye and took away a significant part of his vision. In the second round a couple of deft calf kicks put Storely’s lead left leg out of commission and forced him to switch to a southpaw stance, which then opened him up to a repeated kicks to the mid-riff.

Every time Storely, an elite college wrestler, tried to take Amosov down and turn it into a grappling match, the Ukrainian stuffed the shot with ease. 

Amosov’s first post-fight comment in the cage was: “Ukrainian people, I love you.” In halting English, he added: “One year ago yesterday crazy Putin started a war in my country. He wants to kill kids and Ukrainian people.”

After choking up for a moment he thanked the Ukrainian army for its defense of his country, then thanked all those who have helped Ukraine. “Please don’t forget what’s happening in my country,” he said. “Today this crazy guy [Putin] is attacking my country, but we don’t know what he’ll do tomorrow.” 


After recovering from the fight, Amosov intends to spend some time with his wife and young boy, then go back to the AFU before defending his belt.

This was the 27th professional MMA victory for the undefeated champion. Before entering MMA, he had been a combat sambo champion.

On the undercard, another undefeated Ukrainian, 25-year-old welterweight Dmytro Hrytsenko, notched his eighth pro win on against Italian Daniele Scatizzi. Hrytsenko, who is Amosov’s teammate, had been in uniform only 10 days prior to his fight.

“I couldn’t prepare properly,” Hrytsenko said, “because in the Armed Forces I was constantly at formations, exercises and the like. I trained like Rocky Balboa – running and punching bare knuckled against guys’ palms in the basement.”

Ukraine’s other combat sports heroes

Amosov and Hrytsenko are by no means the only Ukrainian combat sports athletes to put their careers on hold in order to serve in the AFU.

Heavyweight champion boxer Oleksandr Usyk’s situation was very similar to Amosov’s. While still a champion at the top of his game, he gave it up to don a uniform and protect his country. Usyk, like Amosov, had the added incentive that the Russians were attacking his home in Vorzel – two towns over from Irpin, with Bucha sandwiched between them.


At the urging of Usyk’s brothers-in-arms – who said the boxer could do more for Ukraine by fighting in the ring – he defended his championship against Anthony Joshua in August 2022.

Former lightweight boxing champion Vasyl Lomachenko also paused his career to defend his country. Then, in October 2022, he returned to the ring to beat Jamaine Ortiz.  

While Ukrainians have been a major force in the boxing ranks since the Klitchko brothers’ active years, MMA belts have eluded them.

Recently the sport of MMA has been dominated by Dagestanis, Russians and Chechens, many with ties to the anti-Ukrainian Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

Now MMA fans are getting exciting about a potential dream fight between Amosov, the Ukrainian warrior, and someone from Kadyrov’s stable – maybe even Kadyrov’s friend Khamzat Chimaev.

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