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MMA champ joins Russia’s war; now stationed in occupied Ukraine

Vladimir Mineev is reportedly stationed in the occupied eastern Ukrainian territory of Donetsk, where he is expected to take part in Russia’s ongoing offensive.

Fight Nights Global And Gorilla Fighting Championship In Moscow Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images

A mixed martial arts champion has joined Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

AMC Fight Nights middleweight titleholder Vladimir Mineev is reportedly stationed in Donetsk, a city in eastern Ukraine that is currently occupied by Russian forces.

The news was announced by AMC Fight Nights president Kamil Ghadjiev, who noted that Mineev was taking part in a “humanitarian mission” and is now set to become a “full-fledged soldier” in the ongoing war.

In September 2022, the 32-year-old with a 16-1-1 MMA record, received a summons to appear at a military registration and enlistment office as part of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s partial mobilization order—the country’s first mobilization since World War II. However, Mineev, who served as a paratrooper in Russia’s Airborne forces for several years before transitioning to a career as a professional fighter, reportedly did not “fall under the criteria for partial mobilization.”

Nevertheless, despite losing his younger brother, Pyotr, who was killed in the early days of the Russia-Ukraine war, Mineev volunteered to sign a contract with the army on the condition that he be allowed to take part in one last kickboxing bout before joining the war. He trained for the bout in the occupied city of Mariupol in Ukraine and went on to defeat Brazil’s Fernando Rodriguez by TKO on Nov. 18, 2022.

“It was such a difficult year for me. You all understand what I mean,” Mineev told the crowd in Moscow following his win. “And it is, in fact, just the beginning for me. I want to take a break in my sports life. You know that I received a summons, I have objective reasons not to go there. But for myself, I have already made a decision and I am going to fulfill it.”

Mineev is not the first MMA fighter to join the ongoing war. Bellator welterweight champion Yaroslav Amosov withdrew from a scheduled title fight and joined Ukraine’s forces at the start of the war while Poland’s Tomasz Walentek was killed while volunteering in the war effort against Russia.

Maksym Kagal, a Ukrainian kickboxing champion and member of the ultra-nationalist Azov regiment that includes neo-Nazis, was also killed while fighting Russian forces during the siege of Mariupol in March 2022.

About the author: Karim Zidan is an investigative reporter for Bloody Elbow focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. His is also a contributor to The New York Times and The Guardian. (full bio)

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