WWE wrestler Roman Reigns has announced he is giving up his Universal Champion title because he has leukaemia.
The 33-year-old star revealed on Monday that he was first diagnosed with the disease in 2008 at age 22.
Reigns, real name Leati Joseph Anoa’i, said the leukaemia had returned, meaning he can no longer “be that fighting champion”.
He apologised to the crowd in Providence, Rhode Island, for not being the champion his character aimed to be.
He said: “That’s all lies and it’s a lie because the reality is my name is Joe and I’ve been living with leukaemia for 11 years and unfortunately it’s back.”
“Because the leukaemia is back, I can’t fulfil my role.
“I can’t be that fighting champion and I’m going to have to relinquish the universal championship.
“I’m not going to lie, I’ll take every prayer you can send my way but I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m not looking for you to feel bad for me because I have faith,” he continued.
Reigns, a former professional American football player who has appeared in the last four main events at WrestleMania, reassured fans that Monday would not be his final time in a WWE ring.
He said: “I want to make one thing clear: By no means is this a retirement speech because after I’m done whupping leukaemia’s ass, I’m coming back home.”
Fans and other wrestlers sent messages of support using the hashtag #ThankYouRoman, which has been trending on Twitter.
Wrestling journalist Scott Fishman said: “Roman Reigns just bared his soul on his fight with leukemia to the world.
“The fact he has endured this struggle privately for so long on top of putting out stellar matches and work. Warrior. Think we can now say we are all cheering Roman.”
WWE superstar Chad Gable tweeted: “Roman Reigns exemplifies everything I believe a true leader should be.
“Proud to have shared a locker room with him, and I’ll be proud to share it with him again after he wins this battle.”
Reigns is a four-time world champion in WWE having held the WWE World Heavyweight Championship three times and the Universal Championship once.
Since 2014, WWE has attempted to establish Reigns as their next “face of the company”.