Polish MMA fighter killed defending Ukraine during Russian invasion

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…

By: Karim Zidan | 2 years
Polish MMA fighter killed defending Ukraine during Russian invasion
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

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.

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About the author
Karim Zidan
Karim Zidan

Karim Zidan is a investigative reporter and feature writer focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. He has written for BloodyElbow since 2014 and has served as an associate editor since 2016. He also writes for The New York Times and The Guardian. Karim has been invited to speak about his work at numerous universities, including Princeton, and was a panelist at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival and the Oslo Freedom Forum. He also participated in the United Nations counter-terrorism conference in 2021. His reporting on Ramzan Kadyrov’s involvement in MMA, much of which was done for Bloody Elbow, has led to numerous award nominations, and was the basis of an award-winning HBO Real Sports documentary.

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