Returning to MMA from war, Ukrainian champ Yaroslav Amosov tries to focus on Bellator 291 title fight
DUBLIN – After everything he’s seen, everything he’s experienced, everything that’s happened and continues to happen in his war-torn country, how can Yaroslav Amosov possibly focus on an MMA fight?
That’s the task in front of the Bellator welterweight champion, who will unify the 170-pound title when he meets interim champ Logan Storley in the Showtime-televised Bellator 291 main event Saturday at 3Arena. It’s a rematch of a November 2020 fight that Amosov won by split decision.
Amosov’s return to the cage comes on the heels of spending nearly 10 months serving in Ukraine’s military. When Russian forces invaded his country last February – almost one year to the day – Amosov put his MMA career on hold. And, quite frankly, put his life on the line to defend his country.
During one portion of his media day session with reporters Wednesday, Amosov reflected on his decision and how it impacted his wife.
“She’s scared. She understands maybe I don’t call today, maybe not tomorrow. We don’t know,” Amosov said. “When the war started, she listened to what happened, because the first attack was close to my city. She heard rockets, airplanes shooting. She listened to all of this. … Of course, she’s scared. All people scared.”
Eight months prior to the Russia-Ukraine war beginning, Amosov won gold by beating then-champ Douglas Lima in a lopsided unanimous decision at Bellator 260. Amosov was slated to make his first title defense vs. Michael Page, but the tensions back home prevented him from focusing on training before he ultimately withdrew.
As he gets set for his first competition in 19 months, Amosov said the fighting back home – which has resulted in the deaths of more than 7,000 Ukrainian civilians – does serve as motivation, but he admits his outlook is “a little bit different.”
“The situation in Ukraine now is motivation,” said Amov, who will return to Ukraine to fight after Bellator 291, but not after he sees his wife and son. “Sometimes I think I’m training, and I think it’s hard training for me, not very good. Then after I think, I know why I’m fighting. For (Ukrainian soldiers), it’s hard. For me, just training.”
He continued, “It’s now a little bit different, because I understand. Before I was only a fighter, a sportsman. The cage was my home. Now I understand it’s only sports. It’s a big motivation for me, of course. I train, hard training. But I understand it’s not No. 1.
“No. 1 is save your family, you know? Your people. It’s different.”
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For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for Bellator 291.