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

On Saturday 15 September, Ramzan Kadyrov marched into Moscow’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium to watch the evening’s opposes. Garmented in beige jeans and a lily-white t-shirt with a parallelling casing, the notorious Chechen strongman was surrounded by three of his most loyal cronies– one of whom has been accused of torture and another of scheming an homicide– as he made his lane to the front row of the 35,000 -capacity arena. Accommodated just a few feet away from the cage, Kadyrov and his cronies watched the evening’s fightings in an entirely new adjust. Though used to attending mixed martial art contests 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+ beings within Chechnya developing in torture and summary executions – his existence in the front row of a UFC event highlights a concerning is connected with the dictator 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 combat society, 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 slogan “Akhmat Sila”( Akhmat Power ).

Founded in 2015, the Akhmat MMA combat organization consists of an MMA promotion and several train facilities throughout Chechnya and numerous other post-Soviet states. The campaign club organised by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and abides the epithet of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Soldiers who are signed to the fight club’s official roster are paid monthly stipends that cover-up medical expenditures, develop expenditures, and expedition costs. Depending on the level of success reached, soldiers are also gifted with expensive vehicles and other pompous goods.

The Akhmat MMA engaged squad is carried out by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel think that one of the most powerful mortals in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov formerly engaged in the Chechen crusades 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 digits in charge of his MMA promotion and combat fraternity suggests that the Akhmat fight club is likely an extension of Kadyrov’s own government.

Through Kadyrov’s patronage and carry, the Akhmat fight club has risen to become one of the largest MMA training facilities and promotions within the Russian Federation. The battle organization has signed several conspicuous boxers from other MMA organizations and has situated its promotional might and resources behind them. Five of these opposes 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 warned an HBO journalist in Chechnya– was reportedly exhausted from his UFC contract in August 2018.

Other UFC fights have established relationships with Kadyrov. For sample, in 2015 former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum signed a” lucrative” cope to become an ambassador for Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA fight organization. He, too, was gifted an expensive gondola for his services to the authoritarian, though has since deleted the video of the car from social media.

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 utilizes athletics to improve his religion of temperament and bolster his honour as a gracious chairman who enjoys sports. Following the conclusion of its Second Chechen War in 2000, the Kremlin reached an agreement with Chechnya that held the republic increased financial support and resources in exchange for its ended allegiance 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 president Vladimir Putin’s continued support, Kadyrov has ruled 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 team and posed with star striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large bunch at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov learnt the photo-op as the opportunity to rub shoulders with arguably the most popular Muslim athlete in the world, the information was criticized by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “.

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

While the UFC is aware of the debate surrounding the Chechen dictator and the UFC soldiers who represent him, the advertising 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 note. It should also to be acknowledged that the only era that the UFC publicly addressed the concern that some of their fighters were consorting with a hateful oppressor was in 2015, shortly afterwards Werdum abode his role as the distinguished ambassador for the Akhmat MMA crusaded 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 sitting in works as they elect ,” the UFC said in a statement to Sports on Earth.” We do expect, however, all soldiers to be mindful that their actions show well on themselves, the athletic and the UFC formation .”

According to a source close to the occasion, Kadyrov and his entourage entered the realm with valid tickets. However, while the resources went on to add that the advertisement tackle 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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