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

On Saturday 15 September, Ramzan Kadyrov strolled into Moscow’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium to watch the evening’s fightings. Garmented in beige jeans and a grey t-shirt with a parallelling coat, the notorious Chechen strongman was surrounded by three of his most loyal collaborators– one of whom has been accused of torture and another of planning an assassination– as he made his practice to the front row of the 35,000 -capacity arena. Sat just a few feet away from the enclosure, Kadyrov and his friends watched the evening’s battles in a totally new direct. Though used to attending mixed martial art 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 most recent of which includes a deadly crackdown on LGBTQ+ parties within Chechnya developing in torture and summary executions – his proximity in the front sequence of a UFC event highlights a concerning is connected with the despot 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 campaign fraternity, Akhmat MMA. That night, Ankalaev defeated 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 fight club consists of an MMA promotion and various training facilities throughout Chechnya and various other post-Soviet regimes. The campaign fraternity is sponsored by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and makes the refer of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Fighters who are signed to the fight club’s official roster are paid monthly stipends that clothe medical expenditures, set costs, and travelling fees. Depending on high levels of success achieved, soldiers are also gifted with expensive autoes and other pompous goods.

The Akhmat MMA fight golf-club is performed by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel to be one of the most powerful people in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov once fought in the Chechen wars 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 protection fleshes in charge of his MMA promotion and oppose club is demonstrated 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 promotions within the Russian Federation. The battle squad has signed various conspicuous boxers from other MMA organizations and has residence its promotional might and resources behind them. Five of these engages 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 peril an HBO journalist in Chechnya– was reportedly secreted from his UFC contract in August 2018.

Other UFC crusades have established relationships with Kadyrov. For instance, in 2015 former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum signed a” lucrative” spate to become an ambassador for Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA engaged squad. He, too, was gifted an expensive gondola for his services to the authoritarian, though has since deleted the video of the car from social media.

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

Like numerous strongmen before him, Kadyrov exploits athletics to improve his faith of personality and bolster his reputation as a gracious lead who enjoys sports. Following the end of the Second Chechen War in 2000, the Kremlin reached an agreement with Chechnya that payed the republic increased financing support and resources in exchange for its complete love to the Russian Federation. When Kadyrov rose to power seven years later, he took reign of a semi-autonomous republic ripe for alteration into his own personal fiefdom. As a result of Chechnya’s deal with the Kremlin, as well as Russian chairman 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 finals, which took place in various cities across Russia, Kadyrov hosted the Egyptian national team and posed with ace striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large gathering at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov recognized the photo-op as the opportunity to rub shoulders with arguably the more popular Muslim athlete in countries around the world, the information was criticised by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “.

This was not the first time that Kadyrov paraded around with luminaries and notable players. 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 associating with famous celebrities and soldiers, Kadyrov is able to enhance his personal image as the embodiment of Chechen models 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 contention smothering the Chechen dictator and the UFC fighters who represent him, the publicity 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 request for statement. It should also be noted that the only season that the UFC publicly addressed the concern that some of their fighters were spousing with a ferocious oppressor was in 2015, shortly after Werdum consented his character as an ambassador for the Akhmat MMA pushed club.

” It is important to note that UFC fighters operate as independent business partners , not employees, and that subject to their contractual commitments to UFC they are free to conduct business and to participate in activities as they choice ,” 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 athletic and the UFC administration .”

According to a source close to the incident, Kadyrov and his suite entered the arena with valid tickets. However, while the source went on to add that the advertisement 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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