Yaroslav Amosov (26-0-0) is fighting Logan Storley (14-1-0) for the Bellator Welterweight World Title on Saturday night. A feat so huge a normal person would crumble under the weight of expectation. Yet, Asomov is fighting for so much more than just a belt.
He is fighting for his country, for defiance, and because his loved ones need him to show strength in the face of unimaginable adversity.
His birthplace Irpin, just outside the capital Kyiv was decimated leaving his home in ruins, only for the World Champion to go back there and dig his belt out of the rubble.
Speaking at Bellator’s pre-fight media event earlier today, the Ukrainian described the chaos that occurred as the war broke out.
“It was four in the morning, and my friend called and said, ‘the war is starting.’ So I rang my mother and told her the war is starting and she said ‘Yaroslav, you’re crazy, you must not have got enough sleep.'”
But it wasn’t a lack of sleep, the Russians were invading. So Amosov and his family and friends drove for 36 hours without a break, going 41 hours without sleep to flee the conflict. At which point Amosov said goodbye to his family, turned round and went to fight.
The result was a lengthy stint away from the cage, however insignificant it may seem in the context, which could influence how the fight for the belt plays out.
However, Amosov doesn’t believe there will be many cobwebs to dust off.
“When I was an amateur fighter, I used to fight every month, sometimes every weekend, and that gave me a great experience. But now I don’t like fighting that much, three fights in one year is the absolute maximum.
“Now I’m recovered, and I miss this game. I’m ready”.
His opponent, Storley, recognises the Ukrainians lay off could play a role in the fight but said he still wants to put on the best show possible.
“I know I’ve made the jump. I know that he’s been training for about six months. I want the best Amosov, that’s what I want, and know that’s what he wants”
The American was named the interim champion during Amosov’s time in the military after his victory over Michael ‘Venom’ Page at Wembley Arena last year.
In fact, his only loss came against the Ukrainian when these two fought back in 2020. As a result, if he deals Amosov his only career loss, Storley could be thrust into the conversation of best welterweights on the planet.
From the looks of things, however, this would be a vastly unpopular result among fighters and fans alike.
Many of the Irish fighters from SGB Ireland, where Amosov has been training over the last few days, complemented the Ukrainian’s demeanour and quality when quizzed about his sessions at the gym.
Peter Queally said, “He’s a nice fella. I haven’t trained with him, but Gunni [Gunnar Nelson] trained with him a lot and said he’s absolutely amazing, which we knew already.”
And Gunni isn’t lying. Only the legendary Khabib Nurmagomedov has a longer unbeaten run in MMA history at 29-0-0, meaning a win for Amosov would bring him two behind arguably the greatest fighter of all time.
However, the mood in the room was that Amosov didn’t care about such trivial things. After all, when you’ve seen innocent women and children strewn across the concrete, records and belts probably feel arbitrary.
So much so that the Ukrainian confirmed that after his World Title bout, he would return to the front lines. Everyone in the room seemed in awe of the welterweight’s bravery, and as they should, because Amosov has now transcended sporting stardom to become a real-life hero.
Away from the engrossing main event storyline, the fight card displays some of Irish MMA’s finest young talent, including the 6-0-0 featherweight Ciaran Clarke.
Clarke is touted for big things in Ireland, so much so that a documentary filmed about his rise through the MMA ranks, eventually airing at his hometown cinema in Drogheda.
Despite the hype, Clarke is refusing to get swept up in attention.
“My mentality is that I’m 0-0. I’m the underdog always. I feel if I start thinking of other things, well that’s when fighters go down.”
As a result, Clarke won’t be calling anyone out after the fight, although he made it clear that he would fight anyone, anywhere, evidenced by the fact he’s never turned down a late-notice fight offer.
It seems as if the rising star has a smart head on his shoulders, perhaps a mentality imposed on him by legendary coach John Kavanagh, but he will need to get used to the spotlight as if he wins on Saturday night, it’s not going away any time soon.