The presence of Ramzan Kadyrov in the front row of a UFC show highlights 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 battles. Garmented in beige jeans and a lily-white t-shirt with a matching coat, the notorious Chechen strongman was surrounded by three of his most loyal henchmen– one of whom has been accused of torture and another of storying an assassination– as he made his lane to the front row of the 35,000 -capacity arena. Accommodated just a few feet away from the cage, Kadyrov and his chums watched the evening’s fightings in a totally new set. 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 latest of which includes a deadly crackdown on LGBTQ+ parties within Chechnya ensuing in torture and summary executions – his existence in the front sequence of a UFC event spotlights 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 promise from Dagestan who represents Kadyrov through the dictator’s oppose team, 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 slogan “Akhmat Sila”( Akhmat Power ).

Founded in 2015, the Akhmat MMA push association consists of an MMA promotion and various grooming facilities throughout Chechnya and many other post-Soviet countries. The fight club is sponsored by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and stands the identify of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Boxers who are signed to the fight club’s official listing are paid monthly allowances that envelop medical expenditures, learn payments, and pas costs. Depending on the level of success achieved, fighters are also gifted with expensive cars and other ostentatious goods.

The Akhmat MMA campaigned golf-club is operated by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel considered to be one of the stronger souls in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov once contended in the Chechen crusades 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 protection representations in charge of his MMA promotion and fighting golf-club is demonstrated that the Akhmat fight club is likely an extension of Kadyrov’s own government.

Through Kadyrov’s patronage and supporting, the Akhmat fight club has risen to become one of the largest MMA training facilities and publicities within the Russian Federation. The crusade sorority has signed various noticeable fighters from other MMA organizations and has targeted its promotional might and natural resources behind them. Five of these fightings 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 liberated from his UFC contract in August 2018.

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

Like numerous strongmen before him, Kadyrov expends sports to improve his faith of identity and bolster his reputation as a benevolent commander who enjoys athletics. Following the end of the Second Chechen War in 2000, the Kremlin reached an agreement with Chechnya that handed the republic increased financing support and resources in exchange for its ended loyalty to the Russian Federation. When Kadyrov rose to superpower 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 chairperson 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 stellar striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large gathering at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov accompanied the photo-op as a chance to rub shoulders with arguably the most popular Muslim athlete in countries around the world, the information was criticized by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “.

This was not the first time that Kadyrov paraded around with fames 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 champions Frankie Edgar, Frank Mir, Chris Weidman, Alexander Gustafsson and current UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. By accompanying with famed fames and soldiers, Kadyrov is able to enhance his personal persona as the manifestation of Chechen standards and manlines. This use of soft ability facilitates maintain his stranglehold over Chechnya and distract from the crimes committed by his regime.

While the UFC is aware of the dispute circumventing the Chechen dictator and the UFC boxers 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 comment. It should also be noted that the only hour that the UFC publicly addressed the concern that some of their fighters were consorting with a ferocious tyrant was in 2015, shortly after Werdum countenanced his capacity as an ambassador for the Akhmat MMA opposed 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 select ,” the UFC said in a statement to Sports on Earth.” We do expect, however, all fighters to be bearing in mind the fact that their actions show well on themselves, the play and the UFC organisation .”

According to a source close to the happen, Kadyrov and his suite entered the realm with valid tickets. However, while the resources went on to add that the advertisement tackle included 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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