The presence of Ramzan Kadyrov in the front row of a UFC show foreground a disturbing link between the Chechen strongman and the MMA promotion

On Saturday 15 September, Ramzan Kadyrov walked into Moscow’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium to watch the evening’s fightings. Garmented in beige jeans and a white t-shirt with a matching coat, the notorious Chechen strongman was surrounded by three of his most loyal collaborators– one of whom has been accused of torture and another of storying an homicide– as he made his room to the front sequence of the 35,000 -capacity arena. Seated just a few feet away from the cage, Kadyrov and his cronies watched the evening’s contends in an entirely new decided. Though used to attending mixed martial arts contests on a near-weekly basis in his native Chechnya, this was the first time that Kadyrov was present at a Ultimate Fighting Championship show.

Given Kadyrov’s well-documented human rights abuses- the latest of which includes a deadly crackdown on LGBTQ+ people within Chechnya arising in torture and summary executions – his attendance in the front sequence of a UFC event foregrounds a concerning link between the authoritarian and the world’s largest MMA promotion.

Kadyrov’s decision to attend the UFC’s first ever show in Moscow is due to the presence of Magomed Ankhalaev, a UFC light heavyweight promise from Dagestan who represents Kadyrov through the dictator’s oppose golf-club, Akhmat MMA. That night, Ankalaev overcame Marcin Prachnio by head-kick knockout in the opening round. During his post-fight interrogation in the octagon, Ankalaev thanked Kadyrov for his support and finished off with Kadyrov’s now-infamous slogan “Akhmat Sila”( Akhmat Power ).

Founded in 2015, the Akhmat MMA campaign golf-club consists of an MMA promotion and several learn facilities throughout Chechnya and various other post-Soviet commonwealths. The campaign fraternity is sponsored by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and produces the figure of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Soldiers who are signed to the fight club’s official roster are paid monthly stipends that covering medical overheads, course rates, and circulate costs. Depending on high levels of success achieved, soldiers are also gifted with expensive vehicles and other pompous goods.

The Akhmat MMA campaigned club is performed by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel considered to be one of the most powerful soldiers in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov formerly opposed in the Chechen battles against Russia alongside Kadyrov himself, before being heightened to commander of the Chechnya’s Special Forces, the’ Terek’ Chechen SWAT unit, as well as Kadyrov’s private security detail. Kadyrov’s decision to place one of his most influential insurance illustrations in charge of his MMA promotion and campaign society is demonstrated that the Akhmat fight club is likely an extension of Kadyrov’s own government.

Through Kadyrov’s patronage and corroborate, the Akhmat fight club has risen to become one of the largest MMA training facilities and advertisements within the Russian Federation. The contend organization has signed several conspicuous boxers from other MMA organizations and has placed its promotional might and resources behind them. Five of these battles have moved on to sign with the UFC: Magomed Bibulatov, Abdul-Kerim Edilov, Ruslan Magomedov, Said Nurmagomedov, and Magomed Ankalaev. Four of those boxers remain under contract with the UFC, despite the undeniable link between them and Kadyrov, while Edilov- who reportedly menaced an HBO journalist in Chechnya– was reportedly exhausted from his UFC contract in August 2018.

Other UFC fights have established relationships with Kadyrov. For instance, in 2015 former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum signed a” lucrative” transaction to become an ambassador for Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA fight society. He, too, was gifted an expensive automobile for his services to the authoritarian, though has since deleted the video of the car from social media.

Ramzan
Kadyrov’s photo-op with Mohamed Salah during the 2018 World Cup was decried by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “. Photograph: Karim Jaafar/ AFP/ Getty Images

Like many strongmen before him, Kadyrov applies boasts to improve his faith of identity and bolster his honour as a gracious governor who enjoys boasts. Following the end of the Second Chechen War in 2000, the Kremlin reached an agreement with Chechnya that rendered the republic increased financing support and resources in exchange for its terminated allegiance to the Russian Federation. When Kadyrov rose to power seven years later, he took reign of a semi-autonomous republic ripe for alteration into his own personal fiefdom. As a result of Chechnya’s deal with the Kremlin, as well as Russian chairwoman Vladimir Putin’s continued support, Kadyrov has ruled over his beings with an iron fist. He has also been able to use sports like MMA and soccer to further cement his reign.

For example, during the 2018 World cup finals, which took place in various cities across Russia, Kadyrov hosted the Egyptian national crew and posed with virtuoso striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large army at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov realized the photo-op as the opportunity to rub shoulders with arguably the most popular Muslim athlete in the world, the information was criticised by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “.

This was not the first time that Kadyrov paraded around with fames and notable contestants. The strongman hosted the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Hillary Swank, Ronaldinho and countless UFC boxers such as former champs Frankie Edgar, Frank Mir, Chris Weidman, Alexander Gustafsson and current UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. By associating with far-famed luminaries and soldiers, Kadyrov is able to enhance his personal persona as the realization of Chechen paragons and manlines. This use of soft strength facilitates maintain his stranglehold over Chechnya and confuse from the crimes committed by his regime.

While the UFC is aware of the polemic surrounding the Chechen dictator and the UFC soldiers who represent him, the promotion has chosen to remain silent regarding this potential public relations nightmare. As of the time of reporting, the UFC has not responded to the Guardian’s request for note. It should also be noted that the only time that the UFC publicly addressed the concern that some of their fighters were consorting with a fierce tyrant was in 2015, soon after Werdum admitted his role as an ambassador for the Akhmat MMA pushed club.

” It is important to note that UFC fighters operate as independent business partners , not employees, and that subject to their contractual commitments to UFC they are free to conduct business and to participate in activities as they pick ,” the UFC said in a statement to Boast on Earth.” We do expect, however, all boxers to be bearing in mind the fact that their actions manifest well on themselves, the sport and the UFC formation .”

According to a source close to the occurrence, Kadyrov and his suite entered the realm with valid tickets. Nonetheless, while the source went on to add that the advertisement undertook added security measures to ensure the safety of those present in the realm, the UFC’s continued stillnes on their indirect association to Kadyrov is troubling.

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