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

On Saturday 15 September, Ramzan Kadyrov went into Moscow’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium to watch the evening’s contends. Dressed in beige jeans and a lily-white t-shirt with a matching 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 storying an homicide– as he made his mode to the front row of the 35,000 -capacity arena. Accommodated just a few feet away from the cage, Kadyrov and his friends watched the evening’s crusades in a totally new place. 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 resulting in torture and summary executions – his presence 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 potential from Dagestan who represents Kadyrov through the dictator’s engage club, 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 slogan “Akhmat Sila”( Akhmat Power ).

Founded in 2015, the Akhmat MMA engage golf-club consists of an MMA promotion and several qualify facilities throughout Chechnya and various other post-Soviet regimes. The battle guild is sponsored by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and endures the name of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Boxers who are signed to the fight club’s official listing are paid monthly stipends that report medical expenses, improve expenses, and circulate fees. Depending on high levels of success achieved, boxers are also gifted with expensive cars and other extravagant goods.

The Akhmat MMA contended golf-club is operated by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel considered to be one of the most powerful souls in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov formerly opposed in the Chechen struggles 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 security illustrations in charge of his MMA promotion and contend society suggests that the Akhmat fight club is likely an extension of Kadyrov’s own government.

Through Kadyrov’s patronage and assistance, the Akhmat fight club has risen to become one of the largest MMA training facilities and promotions within the Russian Federation. The combat society has signed several conspicuous fighters from other MMA organizations and has situated its promotional might and natural resources behind them. Five of these battles 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 menaced an HBO journalist in Chechnya– was reportedly liberated from his UFC contract in August 2018.

Other UFC opposes have established relationships with Kadyrov. For speciman, in 2015 former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum signed a” lucrative” slew to become an ambassador for Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA engaged golf-club. He, more, was gifted an expensive automobile for his services to the despot, 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 exploits plays to intensify his religion of personality and bolster his reputation as a gracious president who enjoys athletics. Following the completion of its Second Chechen War in 2000, the Kremlin reached an agreement with Chechnya that yielded the republic increased financial support and resources in exchange for its complete patriotism to the Russian Federation. When Kadyrov rose to supremacy seven years later, he took reign of a semi-autonomous republic ripe for changeover 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 ruled 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 virtuoso striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large mob at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov recognized the photo-op as a chance to rub shoulders with arguably the more popular Muslim athlete in countries around the world, it was criticised by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “.

This was not the first time that Kadyrov paraded around with celebrities and notable contestants. The strongman hosted the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Hillary Swank, Ronaldinho and countless UFC soldiers such as former champs Frankie Edgar, Frank Mir, Chris Weidman, Alexander Gustafsson and current UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. By accompanying with famed personalities and boxers, Kadyrov is able to enhance his personal likenes as the realization of Chechen ideologies and manlines. This use of soft strength helps maintain his stranglehold over Chechnya and confuse from the crimes committed by his regime.

While the UFC is aware of the controversy surrounding 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 submission of reports, the UFC has not responded to the Guardian’s request for statement. It should also be noted that the only period that the UFC publicly addressed the concern that some of their fighters were spousing with a hateful tyrant was in 2015, soon after Werdum abode his capacity as an ambassador for the Akhmat MMA pushed club.

” It is important to note that UFC soldiers 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 select ,” the UFC said in a statement to Sports on Earth.” We do expect, however, all boxers to be mindful that their actions reflect well on themselves, the sport and the UFC group .”

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


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here