Maksym Kagal chose to stay and defend his country over pursuing a successful sporting career - and he paid the ultimate sacrifice.
The brave Ukrainian kickboxing world champion was sadly killed in combat during the Russian invasion, sparking a mass outpouring of tributes to the talented athlete.
It's understood Kagal was fighting on the frontline in the besieged city of Mariupol as part of Ukraine's Azov Battalion unit when he died.
He was just 30 years of age.
His kickboxing coach Oleg Skirta confirmed the heartbreaking news.
"Unfortunately, the war takes the best," he said in a statement posted on Facebook.
"On 25 March, while defending the city of Mariupol as part of the Azov Separate Special Forces Unit, Maksym Kagal died.
"Sleep well, Brother, rest in peace, we will avenge you."
Skirta also described Kagal as "the first world champion among adults in the team of Ukraine, and just an honest and decent person."
Upon hearing the news, people flocked to social media to pay their respects to the kickboxer.
#Ukraine's world kickboxing champion Maksym Kagal died defending #Mariupol. He was 30 and chose to defend hie country over the sport career.- Oleksandra 'Sasha' Ustinova (@SashaUstinovaUA) March 28, 2022
Glory to Ukrainian Heroes#NoFlyZoneOverUkraine #DefendDemocracy pic.twitter.com/N1kzdhreeq
Kagal was one of many professional sports stars who took up arms to defend Ukraine against Russia.
Most notably, current crop of boxers Oleksandr Usyk and Vasiliy Lomachenko joined up with former world champions the Klitschko brothers to fight on the frontline.
Ex-tennis players Alexandr Dolgopolov and Sergiy Stakhovsky have also gone back home to protect their country as well as a bunch of other athletes.
So sad to hear that Maksym Kagal, ISKA kickboxing champion has been killed defending his country. He may have lost this battle, but in the end will have won the war for his beloved Ukraine. He is a hero. May his memory be a blessing. Glory to Ukraine.:flag_ua:- :flag_ua:Slava Ukraini!:flag_ua: (@VouVon) March 27, 2022
The United Nations has confirmed that well over 20,000 people, including innocent civilians as well as Ukrainian and Russian troops, have now lost their lives as a result of the conflict.
Livelihoods and homes have been destroyed in various locations across Ukraine, but it seems the city of Mariupol has taken a particularly huge hit.
According to reports, 90 per cent of building and structures within the city have been either destroyed or damaged as Russian forces continue to advance into the country at will.
It's estimated that around 10 million homes have been abandoned in Ukraine.
Featured Image Credit: Twitter
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