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

On Saturday 15 September, Ramzan Kadyrov moved into Moscow’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium to watch the evening’s engages. Dressed in beige jeans and a white t-shirt with a matching 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 planning an assassination– as he made his route to the front row of the 35,000 -capacity arena. Set just a few feet away from the enclosure, Kadyrov and his cronies watched the evening’s pushes in a totally new train. Though used to attending motley 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+ beings within Chechnya ensuing in torture and summary executions – his attendance in the front row 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 fighting association, 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 slogan “Akhmat Sila”( Akhmat Power ).

Founded in 2015, the Akhmat MMA campaign club consists of an MMA promotion and various improve facilities throughout Chechnya and various other post-Soviet nations. The oppose organization is sponsored by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and abides the refer of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Fighters who are signed to the fight club’s official roster are paid monthly stipends that plow medical expenditures, develop expenses, and expedition fees. Depending on high levels of success achieved, soldiers are also gifted with expensive automobiles and other gaudy goods.

The Akhmat MMA fight club is operated by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel considered to be one of the most powerful mortals in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov formerly engaged in the Chechen conflicts 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 insurance digits in charge of his MMA promotion and campaign team 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 promotions within the Russian Federation. The battle sorority has signed several conspicuous fighters from other MMA organizations and has residence its promotional might and natural resources behind them. Five of these pushes 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 fights have established relationships with Kadyrov. For lesson, in 2015 former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum signed a” lucrative” cope to become an ambassador for Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA pushed organization. He, too, 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 was denounced by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “. Photograph: Karim Jaafar/ AFP/ Getty Images

Like numerous strongmen before him, Kadyrov applies boasts to deepen his religion of identity and bolster his honour as a benevolent leader who enjoys sports. Following the end of the Second Chechen War in 2000, the Kremlin reached an agreement with Chechnya that presented the republic increased financial support and resources in exchange for its complete patriotism to the Russian Federation. When Kadyrov rose to dominance seven years later, he took predominate of a semi-autonomous republic ripe for translation 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 finals, which took place in various cities across Russia, Kadyrov hosted the Egyptian national team and posed with superstar striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large crowd at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov assured the photo-op as the opportunity to rub shoulders with arguably the most popular Muslim athlete in the world, it was criticised by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “.

This was not the first time that Kadyrov paraded around with celebrities and conspicuous athletes. The strongman hosted the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Hillary Swank, Ronaldinho and countless UFC boxers such as former champions Frankie Edgar, Frank Mir, Chris Weidman, Alexander Gustafsson and current UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. By associating with famous luminaries and boxers, Kadyrov is able to enhance his personal likenes as the incarnation of Chechen paragons and masculinity. This use of soft capability facilitates maintain his stranglehold over Chechnya and confuse from the crimes committed by his regime.

While the UFC is aware of the polemic bordering the Chechen dictator and the UFC soldiers 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 comment. It should also be noted that the only occasion that the UFC publicly addressed the concern that some of their fighters were consorting with a brutal oppressor was in 2015, shortly after Werdum abode his role as an ambassador for the Akhmat MMA pushed club.

” It is important to note that UFC soldiers 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 prefer ,” the UFC said in a statement to Sports on Earth.” We do expect, however, all fighters to be mindful that their actions show well on themselves, the athletic and the UFC administration .”

According to a source close to the contest, Kadyrov and his entourage entered the realm with valid tickets. Nonetheless, while the source went on to add that the publicity tackle lent security measures to ensure the safety of those present in the arena, the UFC’s continued stillnes on their indirect association to Kadyrov is troubling.

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