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 strolled into Moscow’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium to watch the evening’s fightings. Garmented in beige jeans and a white-hot t-shirt with a according casing, 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 method to the front sequence of the 35,000 -capacity arena. Set just a few feet away from the enclosure, Kadyrov and his chums watched the evening’s battles in an completely new set. Though used to attending mixed 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 developing in torture and summary executions – his presence in the front sequence of a UFC event highlightings a concerning link between 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 promise from Dagestan who represents Kadyrov through the dictator’s contend team, Akhmat MMA. That night, Ankalaev defeated 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 mottoes “Akhmat Sila”( Akhmat Power ).

Founded in 2015, the Akhmat MMA oppose society consists of an MMA promotion and several improve facilities throughout Chechnya and many other post-Soviet commonwealths. The combat guild organised by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and accepts the epithet of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Boxers who are signed to the fight club’s official roster are paid monthly allowances that coating medical expenses, exercise overheads, and walk fees. Depending on the level of success attained, soldiers are also gifted with expensive cars and other extravagant goods.

The Akhmat MMA engaged team is operated by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel think that one of the most powerful followers in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov formerly campaigned in the Chechen battles 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 defence representations in charge of his MMA promotion and fighting organization suggests that the Akhmat fight club is likely an extension of Kadyrov’s own government.

Through Kadyrov’s patronage and subsistence, the Akhmat fight club has risen to become one of the largest MMA training facilities and advertisings within the Russian Federation. The push team has signed various notable 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 boxers remain under contract with the UFC, despite the undeniable link between them and Kadyrov, while Edilov- who reportedly threatened an HBO journalist in Chechnya– was reportedly secreted from his UFC contract in August 2018.

Other UFC opposes have established relationships with Kadyrov. For precedent, in 2015 former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum signed a” lucrative” spate to become an ambassador for Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA engaged club. He, more, was gifted an expensive vehicle for his services to the dictator, 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 use boasts to enhance his sect of temperament and bolster his reputation as a benevolent captain who enjoys sports. Following the conclusion of its Second Chechen War in 2000, the Kremlin reached an agreement with Chechnya that gave the republic increased financing support and resources in exchange for its ended allegiance to the Russian Federation. When Kadyrov rose to influence 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 beings 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 unit and posed with ace striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large crowd at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov learnt 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 luminaries and remarkable contestants. The strongman hosted the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Hillary Swank, Ronaldinho and innumerable UFC boxers such as former champions Frankie Edgar, Frank Mir, Chris Weidman, Alexander Gustafsson and current UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. By affiliating with famed personalities and soldiers, Kadyrov is able to enhance his personal persona as the realization of Chechen paragons and manlines. This use of soft capability helps maintain his stranglehold over Chechnya and distract from the crimes committed by his regime.

While the UFC is aware of the dispute smothering the Chechen dictator and the UFC soldiers who represent him, the advertisement 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 remark. It should also to be acknowledged that the only occasion that the UFC publicly addressed the concern that some of their fighters were partnering with a ferocious tyrant was in 2015, shortly afterwards Werdum accepted his capacity 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 to participate in pleasures as they choice ,” the UFC said in a statement to Boast on Earth.” We do expect, however, all boxers to be mindful that their actions indicate well on themselves, the sport and the UFC administration .”

According to a source close to the phenomenon, Kadyrov and his entourage entered the realm with valid tickets. However, while the resources went on to add that the promotion attempt contributed 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.


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