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

On Saturday 15 September, Ramzan Kadyrov trod into Moscow’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium to watch the evening’s battles. Garmented in beige jeans and a white t-shirt with a coinciding 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 practice to the front row of the 35,000 -capacity arena. Sat just a few feet away from the cage, Kadyrov and his cronies watched the evening’s fights in an entirely new lay. Though used to attending mixed martial arts phenomena 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+ people within Chechnya arising in torture and summary executions – his proximity in the front sequence of a UFC event spotlights 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 potential from Dagestan who represents Kadyrov through the dictator’s push guild, 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 mottoes “Akhmat Sila”( Akhmat Power ).

Founded in 2015, the Akhmat MMA crusade fraternity consists of an MMA promotion and various improve facilities throughout Chechnya and numerous other post-Soviet positions. The fighting organization is sponsored by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and permits the call of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Fighters who are signed to the fight club’s official roster are paid monthly stipends that cover medical expenses, educate expenses, and travelling costs. Depending on the level of success achieved, fighters are also gifted with expensive cars and other obtrusive goods.

The Akhmat MMA crusaded association is performed by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel to be one of the stronger humanities in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov formerly engaged in the Chechen campaigns 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 anatomies in charge of his MMA promotion and fight squad suggests that the Akhmat fight club is likely an extension of Kadyrov’s own government.

Through Kadyrov’s patronage and aid, the Akhmat fight club has risen to become one of greater MMA training facilities and publicities within the Russian Federation. The combat fraternity has signed several notable boxers from other MMA organizations and has placed its promotional might and resources behind them. Five of these fights have moved on to sign with the UFC: Magomed Bibulatov, Abdul-Kerim Edilov, Ruslan Magomedov, Said Nurmagomedov, and Magomed Ankalaev. Four of those fighters remain under contract with the UFC, despite the undeniable link between them and Kadyrov, while Edilov- who reportedly warned an HBO journalist in Chechnya– was reportedly released 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” bargain to become an ambassador for Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA contended golf-club. He, too, was gifted an expensive gondola 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 denounced by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “. Photograph: Karim Jaafar/ AFP/ Getty Images

Like many strongmen before him, Kadyrov applies boasts to improve his faith of temperament and bolster his honour as a gracious leader who enjoys plays. Following the completion of its Second Chechen War in 2000, the Kremlin reached an agreement with Chechnya that contributed the republic increased financial support and resources in exchange for its complete allegiance to the Russian Federation. When Kadyrov rose to influence seven years later, he took predominate of a semi-autonomous republic ripe for metamorphosi 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 ruled over his beings 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, which took place in various cities across Russia, Kadyrov hosted the Egyptian national unit and posed with ace striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large bunch at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov construed the photo-op as a chance to rub shoulders with arguably the more popular Muslim athlete in the world, the information was criticised by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “.

This was not the first time that Kadyrov paraded around with celebrities and remarkable athletes. The strongman hosted the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Hillary Swank, Ronaldinho and innumerable UFC boxers such as former endorses Frankie Edgar, Frank Mir, Chris Weidman, Alexander Gustafsson and current UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. By associating with famous fames and fighters, Kadyrov is able to enhance his personal portrait as the realization of Chechen standards and manlines. This use of soft influence helps 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 boxers 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 mention. It should also be noted that the only time that the UFC publicly addressed the concern that some of their fighters were consorting with a fierce dictator was in 2015, soon after Werdum admitted his role as an ambassador for the Akhmat MMA campaigned 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 pick ,” 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 indicate well on themselves, the play and the UFC formation .”

According to a source close to the episode, Kadyrov and his entourage entered the realm with valid tickets. Nonetheless, while the source went on to add that the advertising undertake added 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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