The presence of Ramzan Kadyrov in the front row of a UFC show highlights a troubling 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 battles. Dressed in beige jeans and a lily-white t-shirt with a according case, the notorious Chechen strongman was surrounded by three of his most loyal bodyguards– one of whom has been accused of torture and another of planning an assassination– as he made his space to the front sequence of the 35,000 -capacity arena. Accommodated precisely a few feet away from the cage, Kadyrov and his friends watched the evening’s fightings in an completely new location. Though used to attending mixed martial arts occurrences 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+ beings within Chechnya developing in torture and summary executions – his spirit in the front sequence of a UFC event highlightings a concerning is connected with 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 expectation from Dagestan who represents Kadyrov through the dictator’s crusade golf-club, Akhmat MMA. That night, Ankalaev demolished 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 oppose fraternity consists of an MMA promotion and several education facilities throughout Chechnya and many other post-Soviet regimes. The fighting sorority is sponsored by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and abides the mention of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Soldiers who are signed to the fight club’s official listing are paid monthly allowances that comprise medical expenses, set rates, and walk costs. Depending on the level of success achieved, boxers are also gifted with expensive cars and other pompous goods.

The Akhmat MMA pushed fraternity is performed by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel considered to be one of the stronger men in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov once contended in the Chechen struggles against Russia alongside Kadyrov himself, before being elevated 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 digits in charge of his MMA promotion and battle guild suggests that the Akhmat fight club is likely an extension of Kadyrov’s own government.

Through Kadyrov’s patronage and supporter, the Akhmat fight club has risen to become one of the largest MMA training facilities and promotions within the Russian Federation. The crusade team has signed various conspicuous soldiers from other MMA organizations and has situated 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 soldiers remain under contract with the UFC, despite the undeniable link between them and Kadyrov, while Edilov- who reportedly threatened an HBO journalist in Chechnya– was reportedly exhausted from his UFC contract in August 2018.

Other UFC campaigns have established relationships with Kadyrov. For sample, in 2015 former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum signed a” lucrative” cope to become an ambassador for Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA fight sorority. He, too, was gifted an expensive auto for his services to the authoritarian, 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 finals was condemned by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “. Photograph: Karim Jaafar/ AFP/ Getty Images

Like many strongmen before him, Kadyrov utilizes athletics to deepen his religion of temperament and bolster his honour as a benevolent commander who enjoys plays. Following the end of the Second Chechen War in 2000, the Kremlin reached an agreement with Chechnya that rendered the republic increased financial support and resources in exchange for its complete love to the Russian Federation. When Kadyrov rose to superpower seven years later, he took reign of a semi-autonomous republic ripe for metamorphosi 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 governed over his parties 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 squad and posed with whiz striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large audience at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov verified the photo-op as the opportunities to rub shoulders with arguably the most popular Muslim athlete in the world, it was criticized by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “.

This was not the first time that Kadyrov paraded around with personalities and notable jocks. The strongman hosted the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Hillary Swank, Ronaldinho and innumerable UFC soldiers such as former champions Frankie Edgar, Frank Mir, Chris Weidman, Alexander Gustafsson and current UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. By affiliating with far-famed personalities and boxers, Kadyrov is able to enhance his personal likenes as the realization of Chechen principles and manlines. This use of soft power facilitates maintain his stranglehold over Chechnya and disconcert from the crimes committed by his regime.

While the UFC is aware of the dispute surrounding the Chechen dictator and the UFC soldiers who represent him, the advertisement 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 is asking for observation. It should also be noted that the only season that the UFC publicly addressed the concern that some of their fighters were consorting with a fierce tyrant was in 2015, soon after Werdum consented his capacity as the distinguished ambassador for the Akhmat MMA opposed 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 Sports on Earth.” We do expect, nonetheless, all soldiers to be bearing in mind the fact that their actions manifest well on themselves, the play and the UFC party .”

According to a source close to the incident, Kadyrov and his entourage entered the arena with valid tickets. Nonetheless, while different sources went on to add that the advertisement undertook included security measures to ensure the safety of those present in the realm, the UFC’s sustained stillnes on their indirect association to Kadyrov is troubling.

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