Max Vorovski (32) is probably one of the most undervalued athletes in Estonia. He began practising martial arts at the age of eight but has had to put up with poor financial support and a series of unfortunate events throughout his career. Nonetheless, he has managed to create a name for himself in the world of kickboxing, and over the past few years, Dagcoin has continued to have his back.

In his own words, his teenage life wasn’t easy. “I got easily irritated and I couldn’t control my emotions, nor my reactions. I had the tendency to get violent once provoked, and of course, I followed the steps of my older friends, even when it would have been wiser not to. Therefore I sometimes find it difficult to express the gratitude I owe to kickboxing. So many of my beliefs are based on what I learned through this sport, mainly, of course, self-discipline and respect for others.

Max is the polar opposite of the image that comes along with his choice of career and sport. Instead of a murmurous, harsh-handed, and unpredictable martial arts professional, he’s a restrained, humble and utterly down to earth man sitting across the table. All this despite (or thanks to) a rather difficult emotional and professional path.

Every professional kickboxer in the world probably dreams of making it to the kickboxing elite league, Glory. Max was close to getting a contract signed twice, but life had other plans for him.

Before getting a chance to take part in Glory, things took a tragic turn as Ramon Dekkers, the kickboxing legend, trainer, and friend, suddenly passed away in 2013. Max had been living in Breda, Holland for three years and training under Dekkers when the tragic event occurred. The incident had such a severe emotional impact on Max that he returned home to Estonia and decided to turn down the offer from Glory.

The second time Glory offered Max a chance to compete, he was struck with unfortunate health problems.

After the first unsuccessful attempt to make it big, Max decided to start training and competing on his own. Instead of a professional team, he had friends and family accompanying him to competitions. He managed to win six consecutive matches against ruling world champions. This, of course, did not go unnoticed by Glory, who for the second time offered Max a chance to compete.

On the day of the fight, Max woke up with a 39-degree fever and tonsillitis. Only through pure willpower he managed to force himself to the ring but lost the fight to Yassine Ahaggan 1:4.

“Kickboxing has taught me that self-pity doesn’t create value in your life. Being unhappy and not doing anything about it doesn’t take you anywhere. You have to collect what’s left of you and force yourself through hardships. What needs to be remembered is what got me to where I am, and to have a clear vision of what’s next and how to get there. This doesn’t only apply to sports but to life in general,” states Max, on why he has never surrendered to any sort of pain in his life.

One thing Max always does after a fight is thanking the opponent: “A dignified winner knows what his opponent will have to go through after the match. To see your wife or mother in tears because of the injuries or for your child not to recognize you, how you handle that and still find the strength to return to the ring is what shapes a real winner.”

That is why Max finds the bashing culture very problematic. In his eyes trash talk should not be tolerated by the sports community, as for him, kickboxing is first and foremost about respect and discipline, not about showing off and clout.

In his opinion success doesn’t come from the perfect routine and fast reactions, but rather from a smart strategy and mental balance. “My aim is never to seriously hurt or cause permanent health damage to another. In my training, I never let pupils who do not have professional ambitions fight against each other.

Also, I no longer react physically to a provocation because I know what this might cause. As an athlete, your aim can never be to deliberately hurt someone. The person you are actually facing in the ring is yourself. It all starts and ends with one person and that’s you. How you leave the ring, whatever the result, will determine who you are as a person and what is it you still need to work on yourself,” says Max.

This is why Max also finds it extremely important to talk about bullying at schools. In his eyes, the perfect people to touch these topics are athletes like himself.

“You have to bring the bully to the ring so they’d know what it means to get hurt. And the ones being bullied, need to learn how to protect themselves.” This, however, is only one way to approach the problem of bullying.

In reality, it’s a multi-faceted situation where the bullies normally come from difficult families, or the issue is rooted in something deeper.

Practice, however, can offer a support system to a child. Students need to be disciplined, but not only that, they also need a friend who’ll listen and be there to give advice. “I was lucky enough to have trainers who grew to be my confidants and through that, I found purpose in life,” says Max on the importance of dedicated trainers.

This makes it all the more surprising that Max has come to a decision to quit kickboxing and turn to classical boxing. “I have been a professional kickboxer for 17 years and I feel it’s time for a change,” he says, adding that today he has grown even more fond of boxing.

“Traditional boxing requires cleverness. If in MMA and kickboxing you’ll have an advantage based on pure physical strength, then in boxing you need to have a very thorough strategy. You can not win only by hitting someone.”

Also, the fact that boxing offers more opportunities and higher competition funds. Classical boxing is an Olympic sport and has a different kind of audience.

“Boxing tends to be loved by a more colourful and mature audience. While in MMA it’s acceptable to hit your opponent who is already lying on the ground, in boxing this is prohibited. So there’s less violence and more sport,” says Max on why he came to the decision to quit kickboxing after 17 harsh, but successful, years.

Today, more than ever, he feels that certain sports have lost the essence of respect for the opponent as for sport in general. Instead, we see a parade of big but vulnerable egos playing a dangerous game.

This might be one of the reasons why very often, martial arts are seen as a violent sport. However, the violent seeming blows and kicks are mainly polished techniques and decisions which have to be made within a fraction of a second which will then determine the further course of the match. Max, however, believes that people who are happy and satisfied with their lives should not think about going professional at all.

“Within these sports you need willpower. Not only in the ring but in life in general - willpower to live. This willpower comes mostly from hardships. Kickboxing gives you the opportunity to use this power consciously and purposefully. Not on the streets.”

Over the last 10 years, the popularity of kickboxing has consistently been growing in Estonia. There are world-class fighters such as the sibling duo Mosairs, Kevin Renno, Edvin-Erik Kibus, Andra Aho, and others.

Despite all this, financing is still poor and there’s a lack of professional trainers, managers, teams et al. Max says, on one hand, this is caused by the poor reputation and on the other hand the lack of work within the community itself.

“Firstly, kickboxing is not an Olympic sport. Secondly, we as athletes need to show the public that we’re not animals. If you cannot control your emotions like a professional, you’ll never be successful. Of course, sometimes the emotions get the best of you, but what you should learn in practice is to not pay attention to them.” Max says that if this kind of level in kickboxing has been reached within the current conditions then it can only get better from here.

That’s why he is thankful that Dagcoin has been supporting his journey for the last few years and believing in his mission.

In addition to changing his path in sports, together with Dagcoin his dream of a sports school will come true.

“I want to become a trainer. I have dedicated my whole life to kickboxing and now I want to pass this knowledge on.”

Max is a father to a five-year-old daughter, who, for the sake of her parents, has chosen dancing over kickboxing. “I’m not familiar with any professional kickboxer who’d want their children to choose the same path and go professional,” he laughs. He’s happy that his daughter is into dancing but if she decides to start (kick)boxing, she’ll have the full support of her father.

In Max’s words, sport is akin to meditation which forces you to live in the moment, 100%. Understandably you need to take good care of your health but if you love what you do and strongly believe in achieving anything you want, you’ll push through whatever obstacle lies on your way and in the end, leave the ring of life as a champ.