In a perfect world, mixed-martial artist Liudvik Sholinian would be wrapping up an intense training camp and getting ready to travel to London on March 19 to do what he loves – compete in the UFC.
Instead, a dark uncertainty looms over the 32-year-old Armenian from Ukraine, who is stuck in Kyiv as his world was turned upside-down last week due to Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine.
“Basically the situation right now is very stressful,” Sholinian told the Armenian Weekly in the Russian language via a translator. “Everyone is on pins and needles. Everyone is staying indoors, trying to watch the news and follow everything that’s going on. Most of all, I’m at home with my family making sure they’re safe.”
Just a few weeks before Russia fired its first attack, Sholinian was preparing to fight Nathaniel Wood in his second career bantamweight bout in the UFC. He was confident he would bounce back after losing his debut in 2021 and notch his first career victory in the world’s most famous mixed-martial arts promotion. A win would be a huge step in his young career and open up plenty of fortuitous opportunities in his future.
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But none of that matters anymore. Sholinian’s hopes and dreams have been put on hold indefinitely because of the harrowing realities of war. Men in Ukraine cannot leave the country, and the March 19 bout is in peril.
“I was actually looking forward to this fight,” he told the Weekly, “I’ve been training for it the hardest I’ve ever trained for a fight. As much as I’ve trained for this fight, it’s the last thing on my mind and I’m willing to give my entire career for this war to end today. Right now, I don’t think the discussion should be about the fight at all.”
News reports indicate there have been civilian deaths in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Sholinian said that while his family is safe at the moment, he is doing his best to move them out of the capital city.
“We’re hearing sirens, and we’re hearing bombs. From time to time we get tired of sitting at home, so I step outside for some fresh air,” Sholinian shared. “There are sirens going off, and I’m hearing bombs at the same time but the sirens have become the norm — and so have the bombings — so you’re just kind of getting used to it.”
The horrors of war are all too familiar for Armenians around the world, who experienced Azerbaijan’s aggression toward Artsakh less than two years ago. But unlike most Armenians in the Diaspora, Sholinian and other Armenians in Ukraine must now come to terms with military conflict in their backyard.
“Obviously when the war happened in Artsakh – that’s my other home – that was difficult to swallow,” Sholinian said. “But now that it’s happening in Ukraine, it’s sort of an unimaginable feeling that I can’t put into words. The two aren’t comparable, but both of my homes have been attacked in the last two years. I try to be a realist, and I try to be emotionally strong for myself and my family.”
Other notable Ukrainian athletes like boxers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko and Vasiliy Lomachenko have announced their intentions to join the military conflict on the battlefield, but Sholinian doesn’t plan to do so.
“At the end of the day, it all falls on the world leaders to put a stop to this or let it continue. People can sign up to fight. They can do whatever they want. I haven’t thought about it. I don’t get involved in politics. I just want this whole thing to be over as soon as possible.”