Home athletes have excelled on day one of the GAMMA European Championships in Kyiv ©GAMMA

Home athlete Anatolii Zhurakivskyi excelled on the opening day of the Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts (GAMMA) European Championships, which are being held in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

 Zhurakivskyi defeated Slovakia’s Alex Surik with a second-round stoppage in the under-70.3 kilograms elite men’s mixed martial arts (MMA) division.

"It felt great to win because it was a big responsibility as it’s the first time to have the European Championships here on the big stage and in the Ukraine," he said.

"I am very happy to be the first winner, it’s a big honour for me.

 "I am glad to be a part of these Championships – I am really enjoying my experience here."

Zhurakivskyi was back in the ring at the Palace of Sports a few hours later competing in his second match of the day, this time overpowering Azerbaijan’s Turan Ahmadov in the quarter-finals.

France’s Florian Rousseau, who trailed from the start of his bout in the same weight category, surprised Turkish opponent Rinat Rizman with a second-round chokehold to score his country’s first victory at these Championships.

"It’s been four years that I didn’t fight so it’s a good recovery," said Rousseau.

"The Championships are really well-organised.

"I was already in Singapore (for the GAMMA World Championships 2019) as a coach and now here as a fighter, and we are very satisfied with everything."

Athletes from 14 nations are competing in the GAMMA European Championships that got underway today in the Palace of Sports in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv ©GAMMA
Athletes from 14 nations are competing in the GAMMA European Championships that got underway today in the Palace of Sports in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv ©GAMMA

His compatriot Alix Jeanguillaume, meanwhile, improved to an impressive 13-0 record in MMA and Kenpo bouts this year - including three gold medals – as he defeated Adam Janca of the Czech Republic in the under-77.1 kg elite men’s MMA division.

Earlier a Parade of Nations had featured all the athletes from the 14 participating countries: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, and Ukraine.

"We are very glad that we can give this platform to our athletes to be able to compete and equally as happy to be able to meet our friends again and share our common passion," said GAMMA President Alexander Engelhardt.

"Ukraine has a strong history and future in mixed martial arts.

"We met with the Ukrainian Minister of Youth and Sport to discuss this, not only for the athletes who compete at the highest level but about GAMMA and the grassroots and inclusivity so that everyone can be included in this great sport."

People’s Deputy of Ukraine Liudmyla Marchenko addressed the athletes: "I would like to wish you good luck and hope that you enjoy this amazing tournament.

"You are all already winners because you are here today."

Welcome speeches were also delivered by the President of the Ukrainian Federation of MMA (UF-MMA) Volodymyr Teslia, GAMMA vice-president Carlo Di Blasi, President of the Boxing Federation of Ukraine Volodymyr Prodyvus and UF-MMA vice-president Denys Perch.

Action tomorrow will include athletes competing in striking MMA, a new discipline introduced by GAMMA that prohibits ground fighting.

As such, it is considered the perfect gateway into traditional MMA for athletes looking to transition from purely striking styles such as boxing, kickboxing and muaythai.

The finals are scheduled for November 9, where medals will be awarded in 16 weight categories - nine for men and seven for women.