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 ambled into Moscow’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium to watch the evening’s pushes. Dressed in beige jeans and a white t-shirt with a parallelling case, the notorious Chechen strongman was surrounded by three of his most loyal cronies– one of whom has been accused of torture and another of scheming an assassination– as he made his method to the front row 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 location. Though used to attending mixed martial art phenomena 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 ensuing in torture and summary executions – his spirit in the front row 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 potential from Dagestan who represents Kadyrov through the dictator’s contend association, Akhmat MMA. That night, Ankalaev defeated 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 slogans “Akhmat Sila”( Akhmat Power ).

Founded in 2015, the Akhmat MMA fighting fraternity consists of an MMA promotion and several practise facilities throughout Chechnya and numerous other post-Soviet commonwealths. The contend golf-club is be supported by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and tolerates the figure of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Boxers who are signed to the fight club’s official roster are paid monthly stipends that covering medical overheads, instruct payments, and advance costs. Depending on high levels of success achieved, boxers are also gifted with expensive autoes and other pompous goods.

The Akhmat MMA crusaded association is operated by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel considered to be one of the most powerful guys in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov once engaged in the Chechen struggles against Russia alongside Kadyrov himself, before being hoisted 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 protection figures in charge of his MMA promotion and fighting golf-club suggests that the Akhmat fight club is likely an extension of Kadyrov’s own government.

Through Kadyrov’s patronage and subsistence, the Akhmat fight club has risen to become one of greater MMA training facilities and advertisements within the Russian Federation. The campaign squad has signed various noticeable soldiers from other MMA organizations and has residence its promotional might and resources behind them. Five of these opposes 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 warned an HBO journalist in Chechnya– was reportedly released from his UFC contract in August 2018.

Other UFC combats have established relationships with Kadyrov. For precedent, in 2015 former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum signed a” lucrative” deal to become an ambassador for Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA opposed association. He, more, was gifted an expensive car for his services to the oppressor, though has now been deleted the video of the car from social media.

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

Like numerous strongmen before him, Kadyrov applies athletics to intensify his religion of identity and bolster his reputation as a gracious president who enjoys plays. Following the completion of its Second Chechen War in 2000, the Kremlin reached an agreement with Chechnya that returned the republic increased financial support and resources in exchange for its ended allegiance to the Russian Federation. When Kadyrov rose to power seven years later, he took reign of a semi-autonomous republic ripe for changeover into his own personal fiefdom. As an expression of the results of Chechnya’s deal with the Kremlin, as well as Russian chairwoman Vladimir Putin’s continued support, Kadyrov has governed over his beings with an iron fist. He has also been able to use plays like MMA and soccer to further cement his reign.

For example, during the 2018 World Cup, which took place in various cities across Russia, Kadyrov hosted the Egyptian national unit and posed with hotshot striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large gathering at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov attended the photo-op as the opportunity to rub shoulders with arguably the more popular Muslim athlete in countries around the world, it was criticised by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “.

This was not the first time that Kadyrov paraded around with celebrities and remarkable contestants. The strongman hosted the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Hillary Swank, Ronaldinho and innumerable UFC soldiers such as former endorses Frankie Edgar, Frank Mir, Chris Weidman, Alexander Gustafsson and current UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. By accompanying with famed celebrities and fighters, Kadyrov is able to enhance his personal image as the incarnation of Chechen ideologies and masculinity. This use of soft supremacy helps maintain his stranglehold over Chechnya and disconcert from the crimes committed by his regime.

While the UFC is aware of the contention encircling the Chechen dictator and the UFC soldiers who represent him, the advertising has chosen to remain silent regarding this potential public relations nightmare. As of the time of submission of reports, the UFC has not responded to the Guardian’s is asking for observation. It should also be noted that the only meter that the UFC publicly addressed the concern that some of their fighters were partnering with a nasty oppressor was in 2015, soon after Werdum abode his capacity as an ambassador for the Akhmat MMA engaged club.

” It is important to note that UFC boxers operate as independent business partners , not hires, and that subject to their contractual commitments to UFC they are free to conduct business and to participate in activities as they select ,” the UFC said in a statement to Boast on Earth.” We do expect, nonetheless, all soldiers to be mindful that their actions show well on themselves, the play and the UFC administration .”

According to a source close to the occasion, Kadyrov and his entourage entered the arena with valid tickets. However, while the source went on to add that the promotion tackle lent security measures to ensure the safety of those present in the arena, the UFC’s continued silence on their indirect association to Kadyrov is troubling.


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