I’m a Ukrainian MMA star and saw Russia try to invade my hometown… but I won’t give up my dream of winning PFL season

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BRAVE Ukrainian MMA star Olena Kolesnyk watched first-hand as Russia attempted to invade her hometown of Odessa.

But with a quest to win the Professional Fighters League’s $1million prize cheque and championship belt, Kolesnyk was forced to flee.

Ukrainian Olena Kolesnyk is in the PFL semi-final

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Ukrainian Olena Kolesnyk is in the PFL semi-finalCredit: @OlenaKolesnyk
Olena Kolesnyk fled war-torn Ukraine to train in Las Vegas

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Olena Kolesnyk fled war-torn Ukraine to train in Las VegasCredit: @OlenaKolesnyk

The lightweight fighter had moved to the capital for training but in February she left for the safety of Las Vegas.

Kolesnyk, 32, told SunSport: “When the war started, I was in Kyiv, so I saw everything with my eyes. Then after one week, I flew here.”

She added: “All my friends and all my family are in Ukraine. I speak to them everyday.” 

Kolesnyk last year signed with the PFL, MMA’s only promotional with a league format.

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Fighters have a two-bout regular season, where points are earned per method of victory.

The top four then progress to the playoffs, which is a semis and final with victors bagging the life-changing $1m cheque.

Last year, Kolesnyk lost twice but this season she progressed to the last four with wins over Abby Montes, 22, and Vanessa Melo, 34.

And she did so all while her country remains at war, leaving behind her loved ones.

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Kolesnyk said: “It’s hard, I won’t hide it. What I can do is inspire some people from my country not to give up. 

“It’s everything to me, it’s kept me focussed on the main goal, on the fight, so I’m really happy to be where I am now.” 

Kolesnyk faces Larissa Pacheco, 27, on August 20 in London in a rematch of the fight she lost last year.

But revenge is not the only thing on her mind when she makes the trip to London for the first time.

Kolesnyk said: “I’m excited. It’s my dream to see London. I’ve never been, it will be my first time ever, so I can’t wait.

“Everyday I’m counting the days until my flight. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, so whatever I can find about him will be good. 

“Maybe a Warner Brothers museum. Of course, I want to see Big Ben. There’s a lot of places in London I’d like to visit.” 

Olena Kolesnyk pictured training in Las Vegas

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Olena Kolesnyk pictured training in Las VegasCredit: @OlenaKolesnyk

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