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

On Saturday 15 September, Ramzan Kadyrov sauntered into Moscow’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium to watch the evening’s combats. Dressed in beige jeans and a lily-white t-shirt with a matching 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 plotting an homicide– as he made his road to the front row of the 35,000 -capacity arena. Set just a few feet away from the cage, Kadyrov and his cronies watched the evening’s combats in an entirely new give. Though used to attending mixed martial art 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 latest of which includes a deadly crackdown on LGBTQ+ parties within Chechnya arising in torture and summary executions – his existence in the front sequence of a UFC event spotlights 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 expectation from Dagestan who represents Kadyrov through the dictator’s engage sorority, Akhmat MMA. That night, Ankalaev demolished 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 oppose sorority consists of an MMA promotion and several grooming facilities throughout Chechnya and various other post-Soviet regimes. The battle team is sponsored by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and abides the reputation of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Boxers who are signed to the fight club’s official roster are paid monthly stipends that encompas medical expenses, learn costs, and roam costs. Depending on the level of success achieved, boxers are also gifted with expensive automobiles and other pompous goods.

The Akhmat MMA campaigned society is performed by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel to be one of the most powerful mortals in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov formerly contended in the Chechen campaigns 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 insurance people in charge of his MMA promotion and fighting squad is demonstrated that the Akhmat fight club is likely an extension of Kadyrov’s own government.

Through Kadyrov’s patronage and support, the Akhmat fight club has risen to become one of the largest MMA training facilities and promotions within the Russian Federation. The fighting society has signed several noticeable boxers from other MMA organizations and has placed its promotional might and 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 peril an HBO journalist in Chechnya– was reportedly released from his UFC contract in August 2018.

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

Like numerous strongmen before him, Kadyrov uses sports to intensify his religion of temperament and bolster his reputation as a gracious ruler who enjoys boasts. Following the completion of its Second Chechen War in 2000, the Kremlin reached an agreement with Chechnya that opened the republic increased financing support and resources in exchange for its terminated allegiance to the Russian Federation. When Kadyrov rose to influence seven years later, he took predominate of a semi-autonomous republic ripe for conversion into his own personal fiefdom. As an expression of the results of Chechnya’s deal with the Kremlin, as well as Russian president Vladimir Putin’s continued support, Kadyrov has governed over his people with an iron fist. He has also been able to use boasts 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 unit and posed with hotshot striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large army at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov viewed the photo-op as a chance to rub shoulders with arguably the more 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 conspicuous players. The strongman hosted the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Hillary Swank, Ronaldinho and innumerable UFC boxers such as former champions Frankie Edgar, Frank Mir, Chris Weidman, Alexander Gustafsson and current UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. By accompanying with famed celebrities and fighters, Kadyrov is able to enhance his personal image as the embodiment of Chechen ideologies and masculinity. This use of soft power helps maintain his stranglehold over Chechnya and distract from the crimes committed by his regime.

While the UFC is aware of the arguing surrounding 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 submission of reports, the UFC has not responded to the Guardian’s request for commentary. It should also be noted that the only duration that the UFC publicly addressed the concern that some of their fighters were consorting with a vicious oppressor was in 2015, soon after Werdum consented his character as an ambassador for the Akhmat MMA crusaded 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 elect ,” the UFC said in a statement to Boast on Earth.” We do expect, nonetheless, all fighters to be mindful that their actions manifest well on themselves, the athletic and the UFC formation .”

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