The presence of Ramzan Kadyrov in the front row of a UFC show spotlights a disturbing is connected with the Chechen strongman and the MMA promotion

On Saturday 15 September, Ramzan Kadyrov ambled into Moscow’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium to watch the evening’s battles. Garmented in beige jeans and a grey t-shirt with a pairing 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 assassination– as he made his direction 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 opposes in an completely new install. Though used to attending mixed martial art occasions 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 proximity in the front row of a UFC event foregrounds 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 fighting guild, 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 mottoes “Akhmat Sila”( Akhmat Power ).

Founded in 2015, the Akhmat MMA campaign society consists of an MMA promotion and various practise facilities throughout Chechnya and numerous other post-Soviet territories. The engage association is sponsored by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and tolerates the identify of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Boxers who are signed to the fight club’s official listing are paid monthly allowances that encompas medical overheads, practise payments, and travel fees. Depending on the level of success achieved, soldiers are also gifted with expensive gondolas and other pompous goods.

The Akhmat MMA opposed sorority is operated by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel think that one of the most powerful humen in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov once crusaded in the Chechen wars 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 figures in charge of his MMA promotion and campaign association suggests that the Akhmat fight club is likely an extension of Kadyrov’s own government.

Through Kadyrov’s patronage and approval, the Akhmat fight club has risen to become one of the largest MMA training facilities and advertisements within the Russian Federation. The combat sorority has signed various remarkable boxers from other MMA organizations and has situated its promotional might and natural resources behind them. Five of these crusades 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 threatened an HBO journalist in Chechnya– was reportedly exhausted from his UFC contract in August 2018.

Other UFC pushes have established relationships with Kadyrov. For lesson, in 2015 former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum signed a” lucrative” cope to become an ambassador for Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA crusaded society. He, extremely, was gifted an expensive car for his services to the dictator, though has previously been deleted the video of the car from social media.

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 many strongmen before him, Kadyrov use plays to enhance his religion of identity and bolster his honour as a benevolent chairman 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 financial support and resources in exchange for its terminated loyalty to the Russian Federation. When Kadyrov rose to capability seven years later, he took predominate of a semi-autonomous republic ripe for alteration 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 regulated over his beings with an iron fist. He has also been able to use boasts 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 squad and posed with whiz striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large bunch at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov insured the photo-op as the opportunity to rub shoulders with arguably the most popular Muslim athlete in the world, it was criticised by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “.

This was not the first time that Kadyrov paraded around with celebrities and noticeable players. The strongman hosted the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Hillary Swank, Ronaldinho and innumerable UFC fighters such as former champions Frankie Edgar, Frank Mir, Chris Weidman, Alexander Gustafsson and current UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. By accompanying with famed fames and boxers, Kadyrov is able to enhance his personal persona as the realization of Chechen ideals and masculinity. This use of soft superpower helps maintain his stranglehold over Chechnya and confuse from the crimes committed by his regime.

While the UFC is aware of the arguing smothering 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 reporting, the UFC has not responded to the Guardian’s is asking for mention. It should also to be acknowledged that the only era that the UFC publicly addressed the concern that some of their fighters were partnering with a ferocious oppressor was in 2015, shortly after Werdum countenanced his role as the distinguished ambassador for the Akhmat MMA fight 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 sitting in works as they choose ,” the UFC said in a statement to Sports on Earth.” We do expect, nonetheless, all soldiers to be bearing in mind the fact that their actions manifest well on themselves, the play and the UFC organisation .”

According to a source close to the phenomenon, Kadyrov and his entourage entered the arena with valid tickets. Nonetheless, while the source went on to add that the advertisement undertake 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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