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

On Saturday 15 September, Ramzan Kadyrov marched into Moscow’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium to watch the evening’s pushes. Garmented in beige jeans and a grey t-shirt with a matching jacket, the notorious Chechen strongman was surrounded by three of his most loyal henchmen– one of whom has been accused of torture and another of scheming an homicide– as he made his behavior to the front row of the 35,000 -capacity arena. Set only a few feet away from the cage, Kadyrov and his friends watched the evening’s combats in a totally new establish. Though used to attending mixed martial art affairs 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 presence in the front row of a UFC event highlights a concerning link between 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 combat organization, 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 slogans “Akhmat Sila”( Akhmat Power ).

Founded in 2015, the Akhmat MMA contend team consists of an MMA promotion and several course facilities throughout Chechnya and various other post-Soviet governments. The oppose guild organised by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and allows the call of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Soldiers who are signed to the fight club’s official listing are paid monthly allowances that encompas medical overheads, improve expenditures, and movement fees. Depending on the different levels of success attained, soldiers are also gifted with expensive automobiles and other extravagant goods.

The Akhmat MMA contended fraternity is operated by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel considered to be one of the stronger humen in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov once contended in the Chechen wars 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 insurance people in charge of his MMA promotion and fight 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 the largest MMA training facilities and publicities within the Russian Federation. The fight sorority has signed various conspicuous soldiers from other MMA organizations and has residence its promotional might and natural resources behind them. Five of these combats 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 liberated from his UFC contract in August 2018.

Other UFC crusades have established relationships with Kadyrov. For example, in 2015 former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum signed a” lucrative” spate to become an ambassador for Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA opposed club. He, too, was gifted an expensive vehicle for his services to the despot, 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 was criticized 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 honour as a benevolent president who enjoys athletics. Following the end of the Second Chechen War in 2000, the Kremlin reached an agreement with Chechnya that payed the republic increased financing of and resources in exchange for its terminated allegiance to the Russian Federation. When Kadyrov rose to strength seven years later, he took predominate of a semi-autonomous republic ripe for change into his own personal fiefdom. As an expression of the results of Chechnya’s deal with the Kremlin, as well as Russian chairman Vladimir Putin’s continued support, Kadyrov has regulated over his people 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 squad and posed with virtuoso striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large audience at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov viewed the photo-op as a chance to rub shoulders with arguably the more popular Muslim athlete in the world, it was criticized by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “.

This was not the first time that Kadyrov paraded around with fames and notable athletes. The strongman hosted the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Hillary Swank, Ronaldinho and innumerable UFC fighters such as former champs Frankie Edgar, Frank Mir, Chris Weidman, Alexander Gustafsson and current UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. By affiliating with famed luminaries and soldiers, Kadyrov is able to enhance his personal persona as the incarnation of Chechen models and masculinity. This use of soft power facilitates maintain his stranglehold over Chechnya and disconcert from the crimes committed by his regime.

While the UFC is aware of the contention encircling the Chechen dictator and the UFC fighters 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 mention. It should also be noted that the only meter that the UFC publicly addressed the concern that some of their fighters were consorting with a vicious oppressor was in 2015, shortly afterwards Werdum admitted his capacity as the distinguished ambassador for the Akhmat MMA engaged club.

” It is important to note that UFC boxers 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 opt ,” the UFC said in a statement to Boast on Earth.” We do expect, nonetheless, all fighters to be bearing in mind the fact that their actions indicate well on themselves, the play and the UFC company .”

According to a source close to the episode, Kadyrov and his entourage entered the arena with valid tickets. However, while the source went on to add that the advertising undertook included 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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