The presence of Ramzan Kadyrov in the front row of a UFC show foreground a troubling is connected with the Chechen strongman and the MMA promotion

On Saturday 15 September, Ramzan Kadyrov ambled into Moscow’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium to watch the evening’s crusades. Garmented in beige jeans and a lily-white t-shirt with a coinciding coat, the notorious Chechen strongman was surrounded by three of his most loyal bodyguards– one of whom has been accused of torture and another of plotting an assassination– as he made his method to the front sequence of the 35,000 -capacity arena. Set just a few feet away from the enclosure, Kadyrov and his friends watched the evening’s opposes in a totally new create. Though used to attending mixed martial arts happens 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 resulting in torture and summary executions – his proximity in the front sequence of a UFC event highlightings 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 combat association, Akhmat MMA. That night, Ankalaev overcame Marcin Prachnio by head-kick knockout in the opening round. During his post-fight interview 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 fighting team consists of an MMA promotion and several instruct facilities throughout Chechnya and numerous other post-Soviet districts. The push sorority is be supported by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and brings the epithet of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Boxers who are signed to the fight club’s official roster are paid monthly stipends that envelop medical expenses, prepare payments, and roam fees. Depending on the level of success achieved, boxers are also gifted with expensive gondolas and other obtrusive goods.

The Akhmat MMA opposed squad is performed by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel considered to be one of the most powerful followers in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov once engaged in the Chechen conflicts against Russia alongside Kadyrov himself, before being promoted 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 illustrations in charge of his MMA promotion and contend organization suggests that the Akhmat fight club is likely an extension of Kadyrov’s own government.

Through Kadyrov’s patronage and help, the Akhmat fight club has risen to become one of greater MMA training facilities and promotions within the Russian Federation. The battle squad has signed various notable soldiers from other MMA organizations and has residence its promotional might and 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 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 illustration, in 2015 former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum signed a” lucrative” batch to become an ambassador for Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA contended sorority. He, extremely, was gifted an expensive car 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 finals was condemned by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “. Photograph: Karim Jaafar/ AFP/ Getty Images

Like numerous strongmen before him, Kadyrov exploits sports to enhance his faith of identity and bolster his reputation as a benevolent commander who enjoys athletics. Following the completion of its Second Chechen War in 2000, the Kremlin reached an agreement with Chechnya that handed the republic increased financial support and resources in exchange for its ended loyalty to the Russian Federation. When Kadyrov rose to supremacy seven years later, he took predominate of a semi-autonomous republic ripe for changeover into his own personal fiefdom. As a result of Chechnya’s deal with the Kremlin, as well as Russian president Vladimir Putin’s continued support, Kadyrov has regulated over his parties with an iron fist. He has also been able to use athletics 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 stellar striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large crowd at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov understood the photo-op as a chance to rub shoulders with arguably the more 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 celebrities and noticeable athletes. The strongman hosted the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Hillary Swank, Ronaldinho and countless UFC soldiers such as former champs Frankie Edgar, Frank Mir, Chris Weidman, Alexander Gustafsson and current UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. By accompanying with far-famed celebrities and fighters, Kadyrov is able to enhance his personal image as the personification of Chechen models and masculinity. This use of soft dominance facilitates maintain his stranglehold over Chechnya and confuse from the crimes committed by his regime.

While the UFC is aware of the polemic encircling the Chechen dictator and the UFC boxers 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 experience that the UFC publicly addressed the concern that some of their fighters were partnering with a wicked tyrant was in 2015, shortly after Werdum admitted his role as the distinguished ambassador for the Akhmat MMA campaigned club.

” It is important to note that UFC fighters 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 choose ,” the UFC said in a statement to Sports on Earth.” We do expect, nonetheless, all fighters to be mindful that their actions reflect well on themselves, the boast and the UFC establishment .”

According to a source close to the happening, Kadyrov and his entourage entered the realm with valid tickets. However, while the source went on to add that the promotion undertake contributed 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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