Why the Bellator MMA champion preferred Ukraine and went to war

Why the Bellator MMA champion preferred Ukraine and went to war

Yaroslav Amosov is driving from Irpin, Ukraine, through a difficult route. In a perfect world, he’d be in London, weighed in, and ready to defend his welterweight title against Michael Page at Bellator 281 on Friday.

“I was relaxing,” Amosov remarked calmly on FaceTime with MMA Junkie on Thursday. “Everything is fine – except for the section where a conflict is taking place.”

Amosov, on the other hand, is defending in a different way. He’s driven this route many times before. The tyres travel across sacred ground, the land where he grew up. The air is warm, and the sun is concealed behind a cloudy sky. Despite the chaos, Amosov maintains his calm approach, which has been his trademark during Bellator fight weeks.

Amosov isn’t afforded much relaxation these days. Since Feb. 24, when Russia invaded Ukraine, his country has been under attack. Amosov ushered his family to safety before he enlisted in the military days later.

When he had better conceivable excuses than many countrymen to perhaps opt out, Amosov still decided to stay. He could’ve packed up his bags and moved to his secondary home of Florida for training camp at American Top Team. Representing his country or raising awareness sound like passable reasons, right? That’s not Amosov’s style, so he chose otherwise.

Ukraine is a place Amosov is proud of. That’s why he carried blue and yellow every time he graced a cage halfway across the world. That’s why he chose to defend his country over his title. That’s why he chose to fight a different sort of battle than he’s used to.

“I did what I wanted to do,” Amosov said as he drove. “Yes, I understood I had a choice of leaving the country to train, but I don’t consider myself anyone special. I am just a regular citizen of this country as all the other guys that are at war right now.”

Unarmed combat is something Amosov is used to. War is an entirely different for the 28-year-old. Like many young Ukrainian men, the past two months have been the first time he’s worn a uniform and picked up a weapon for combat.

“During war, I was asking the guys on how to properly clean a gun,” Amosov said, with a smile. Eleven weeks into battle, Amosov isn’t thinking about Friday’s Bellator 281 fight between Page and Logan Storley for an interim title in his absence, no. It’s an afterthought that’s tabled like so many others. Life is different, and more than that, he’s adjusted to it.

People liked to refer to the “new normal” during COVID-19 restrictions or whatever else? Well, this is Amosov’s new normal. War is a way of life. It’s second nature. People around the world have put Amosov on a pedestal. His bravery is recognized at every opportunity by people across the world, but that doesn’t mean his courage masks his hurt. The landmarks he once knew are in pieces, or aren’t there at all from Russian bombings. People have died. Amosov has seen it first hand. It’s harrowing and haunting.

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