Nine-time Soviet Union and three-time world sambo champion Alexander Pushnitsa has died at the age of 73 ©FIAS

Three-time world champion sambo fighter Alexander Pushnitsa has died at the age of 73, and has been described as a "legend" of the sport.

Pushnitsa was crowned world champion in 1974, 1979 and 1983 in the men's under-90 kilograms category, and was a nine-time national champion in the Soviet Union, including seven consecutive gold medals from 1974 to 1980.

An additional silver was won at the 1981 World Sambo Championships.

He was a two-time European champion in 1976 and 1984, and captained the Soviet national sambo team from 1975 to 1987,

Awards won by Pushnitsa included the Dynamo Sports Club's highest honour "for merit in the development of the Dynamo Society", and a gold medal from the Omsk region for his "special services".

The annual all-Russian sambo tournament held in Omsk was named after Pushnitsa to recognise his contribution to the sport.

The All-Russian Sambo Federation (VFS) announced that Pushnitsa had died in Omsk last Friday (January 27) following a battle with cancer, and expressed its "sincere condolences to the relatives and friends".

The International Sambo Federation (FIAS) has also paid tribute to Pushnitsa, describing him as a "legend of Soviet and world sambo" and praising him for his "hard work, a huge capacity for work and a desperate desire to win".

Alexander Pushnitsa has been described as a
Alexander Pushnitsa has been described as a "legend of Soviet and world sambo" by FIAS ©FIAS

"Today, the entire sambo community and martial arts lovers have suffered an irreparable loss," FIAS said.

"The good memory of the outstanding sambist, sincere and wonderful person Alexander Mikhailovich Pushnitsa will forever remain in our hearts."

VFS President Sergey Eliseev shared his memories of Pushnitsa.

"Alexander Mikhailovich is our legend, there are only a few of them left, he personifies real sambo of the Soviet times," Eliseev told Russian state news agency TASS.

"He was born and lived in his beloved city of Omsk, held a tournament for his prizes, united all the veterans around him.

"Alexander Mikhailovich was a kind, decent person, a true friend."

Pushnitsa was buried at the Staro-Severnoye Cemetery in Omsk, where the region's vice-governor Oleg Zaremba added to the tributes.

"He is an unsurpassed champion, an excellent athlete, coach, mentor," Zaremba said, as reported by TASS.

"He taught not only athletes, he taught all of us, taught us to be people."