A Polish MMA fighter became the latest combat sports athlete to perish during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
According to reports, Tomasz Walentek was participating as a volunteer combatant in the Donbass region of Eastern Ukraine when he was killed following artillery shelling in the region.
“It is with great sadness that we received the information about the death of Tomek, who was a Polish volunteer fought in the international defense legion of Ukraine and died there,” Poland’s MMA Association announced on Twitter. “Tomek took part and won the Second MMA Championships organized in Gliwice. Rest in peace.”
Walentek was a member of the International Defense Legion of Ukraine, which was created by President Volodymyr Zelensky to welcome foreigners who wished to join the fight against the Russian occupation.
In the wake of Walentek’s death, several Polish MMA figures have paid their respects on social media, including KSW veteran Łukasz Jurkowski, who tweeted “Rest in peace, warrior…”. The fighter’s MMA coach Piotr Jeleniewski also posted a short tribute to his student on Instagram.
“See you,” Jeleniewski said.
The Polish MMA fighter is not the only combat sports athlete to die fighting on the frontlines of Russia’s war in Ukraine. A Ukrainian kickboxing champion fighting with far-right Azov regiment was killed in Mariupol last March while a Ukrainian two-time amateur boxing champion was killed alongside three other soldiers in an attack by Russian forces.
There are also a handful of notable athletes who continue to fight for Ukraine, including Bellator welterweight champion Yaroslav Amosov. Others like Oleksandr Usyk were granted permission to leave the Ukrainian army to prepare for upcoming bouts.