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From defending his country to defending his title: Yaroslav Amosov returns for Bellator 291

Ukraine's Yaroslav Amosov returns to the cage to defend his Bellator welterweight championship title on Saturday.

Friday marks the grim one-year anniversary of Russia launching a full-scale invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, which prompted Amosov to join countless compatriots in taking up arms to defend his besieged nation.
His hometown of Irpin on the outskirts of Kyiv was bombarded in the first few weeks although Amosov was among the Ukrainian troops who retook control of the suburb in late March.
But the death and destruction he witnessed at close hand in the ongoing war has altered the worldview of Amosov, who will make his comeback to the octagon against Logan Storley at Bellator 291 on Saturday.
"It's hard to watch people run for safety, it's hard to watch parents pick up their kids and try to get them to safety, it's hard to watch kids dying, people dying and your friends dying," said Amosov via a translator.
"That's been my last year. When you go through a war, it puts things in perspective and you start to realise what's important.
"Before for me, it was always about sport, training and getting better, which I still do but my priorities have drastically changed. You really just start to evaluate your life and what are issues and what are not.
"What I think about and focus on now is how soon can we have some peace?"
While there is no direct military action currently in Irpin or its surrounding areas, Amosov has no plans to bring his family back from Poland, having made the painful decision to evacuate his wife and infant son out of Ukraine before he joined the territorial defence.
He highlights the infrastructural problems still facing the town while there is also the lingering threat of indiscriminate Russian missile attacks.
But he was persuaded by those nearest and dearest to him to get back to MMA and is now set for his first fight since June 2021 when he faces Storley for a second time in Dublin.
"It was hard to leave and return to training but luckily it was the overwhelming support, advice and push that I got from my friends and family that told me it's better to return to sport, it's better to use my platform to deliver the message of what is happening in Ukraine," he said.
"My hometown, it's still not a safe place. There's no running water, electricity, heat, plus these random rocket attacks Russia is launching all over Ukraine. For now, my family is staying in Poland."
Amosov - who buried his 170lb belt in his family home, which was reduced to ruins when he came back to retrieve the title after the Russian occupation - has won all 26 MMA contests but had arguably his toughest test against Storley, who lost a back-and-forth fight by split decision in November 2020.
"It feels great to be back, I'm excited," the 29-year-old said. "I miss the feeling leading up to the fight, fight week, stepping into the cage, I've missed it all."

As for his plans after the fight, he added: "I'm going to go to Ukraine but I'm going to go through Poland, I'd like to see my wife and my kid, give them a hug, spend a little time with them and then I'm going to go to Ukraine."

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