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

On Saturday 15 September, Ramzan Kadyrov stepped into Moscow’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium to watch the evening’s opposes. Dressed in beige jeans and a lily-white t-shirt with a pairing jacket, the notorious Chechen strongman was surrounded by three of his most loyal collaborators– one of whom has been accused of torture and another of scheming an assassination– as he made his lane to the front row of the 35,000 -capacity arena. Seated just a few feet away from the cage, Kadyrov and his friends watched the evening’s combats in an entirely new location. Though used to attending mixed martial arts occasions 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 most recent of which includes a deadly crackdown on LGBTQ+ people within Chechnya developing in torture and summary executions – his attendance in the front row of a UFC event highlightings a concerning is connected with the oppressor 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 expectation from Dagestan who represents Kadyrov through the dictator’s oppose guild, 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 mottoes “Akhmat Sila”( Akhmat Power ).

Founded in 2015, the Akhmat MMA battle fraternity consists of an MMA promotion and several train facilities throughout Chechnya and numerous other post-Soviet territories. The engage guild is be supported by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and endures the reputation of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Soldiers who are signed to the fight club’s official listing are paid monthly stipends that embrace medical expenses, grooming expenses, and wander fees. Depending on high levels of success achieved, soldiers are also gifted with expensive gondolas and other ostentatious goods.

The Akhmat MMA pushed society is performed by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel to be one of the most powerful husbands in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov once pushed in the Chechen wars 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 security representations in charge of his MMA promotion and engage sorority suggests that the Akhmat fight club is likely an extension of Kadyrov’s own government.

Through Kadyrov’s patronage and subsidize, the Akhmat fight club has risen to become one of the largest MMA training facilities and advertisements within the Russian Federation. The contend golf-club has signed several remarkable soldiers from other MMA organizations and has targeted its promotional might and natural resources behind them. Five of these campaigns have moved on to sign with the UFC: Magomed Bibulatov, Abdul-Kerim Edilov, Ruslan Magomedov, Said Nurmagomedov, and Magomed Ankalaev. Four of those fighters 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 liberated from his UFC contract in August 2018.

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

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

Like numerous strongmen before him, Kadyrov employs athletics to enhance his sect of identity and bolster his honour as a benevolent governor who enjoys plays. Following the end of the Second Chechen War in 2000, the Kremlin reached an agreement with Chechnya that afforded the republic increased financial support and resources in exchange for its complete patriotism to the Russian Federation. When Kadyrov rose to strength seven years later, he took reign of a semi-autonomous republic ripe for transformation 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 parties 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 team and posed with star striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large mob at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov heard the photo-op as the opportunity to rub shoulders with arguably the most popular Muslim athlete in the world, the information was criticized by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “.

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

While the UFC is aware of the polemic smothering the Chechen dictator and the UFC soldiers who represent him, the publicity 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 epoch that the UFC publicly addressed the concern that some of their fighters were partnering with a hateful oppressor was in 2015, soon after Werdum abode his role as the distinguished ambassador for the Akhmat MMA opposed club.

” It is important to note that UFC soldiers 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 Sports on Earth.” We do expect, nonetheless, all boxers to be bearing in mind the fact that their actions reflect well on themselves, the boast and the UFC group .”

According to a source close to the occurrence, Kadyrov and his entourage entered the arena with valid tickets. Nonetheless, while the source went on to add that the advertisement attempt 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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