One of the hardest-hitting heavyweights ever to take part in the K-1, Mike Bernardo has passed away at the age of 42. Tragically, it seems he took his own life at his home in South Africa today.

Police in his home city of Cape Town are yet to officially confirm Bernardo’s cause of death, but his students have been sending each other messages of support and comfort via social networks, with repeated references to Bernardo having suicided.

A source in the kickboxing industry has also told Fighters Only that Bernardo is thought to have taken his own life. Friends have expressed surprise not least because Bernardo was a committed born-again Christian who was thought to take great solace in his faith.

Bernardo’s storied kickboxing career saw him enter several K-1 Grand Prix tournaments at a time when giants walked the earth. He fought all the greatest names of the sport and his victories included Mirko ‘CroCop’ Filipovic, Andy Hug, Francisco Filho, Branco Cikatic and Peter Aerts.

Among the high points of his 54-18-3 career was a stoppage win over the aforementioned CroCop in 2000. The victory was all the sweeter as it revenged a previous win that CroCop had taken over him in the first round of the preceding years tournament.

A sometime heavyweight boxer, Bernardo also won the vacant WBF belt when he stopped Dan Jerling from Czechslovakia in the sixth round in May 2000, making the millennial year the peak of his combative career. He retained that belt with a 41-second knockout of American Peter McNeely in Cape Town on June 8, 2001 but was stripped of his belt in May 2002 because of inactivity.

His fighting career ended in 2004 and he was seemingly happy as he went into retirement to concentrate on coaching upcoming fighters at his Cape Town gym. Todays news has rocked the kickboxing world and his peers have been paying tribute throughout the day.

Earlier today Fighters Only spoke with CroCop, who said he “can’t believe” the news. “It is a tragedy,” he added. American kickboxing legend Duke Roufus was also upset, posting several heartfelt Twitter messages and turning down interview requests for the day as he sought to be alone with his thoughts.