Why the UFC’s ‘sportswashing’ of Chechnya’s dictator is a problem

The presence of Ramzan Kadyrov in the front sequence of a UFC show spotlights a troubling 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 fights. Garmented in beige jeans and a lily-white t-shirt with a pairing 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 path to the front row of the 35,000 -capacity arena. Sat simply a few feet away from the cage, Kadyrov and his chums watched the evening’s fights in an completely new situate. Though used to attending mixed martial arts episodes 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+ parties within Chechnya ensuing in torture and summary executions – his existence in the front row 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 prospect from Dagestan who represents Kadyrov through the dictator’s contend club, 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 slogan “Akhmat Sila”( Akhmat Power ).

Founded in 2015, the Akhmat MMA campaign society consists of an MMA promotion and several train facilities throughout Chechnya and many other post-Soviet territories. The combat club is be supported by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and brings the call of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Boxers who are signed to the fight club’s official listing are paid monthly allowances that plow medical overheads, prepare rates, and wander costs. Depending on the level of success achieved, boxers are also gifted with expensive cars and other pompous goods.

The Akhmat MMA engaged guild is operated by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel considered to be one of the stronger people in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov formerly crusaded in the Chechen conflicts 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 defence anatomies in charge of his MMA promotion and crusade club is demonstrated that the Akhmat fight club is likely an extension of Kadyrov’s own government.

Through Kadyrov’s patronage and reinforcement, the Akhmat fight club has risen to become one of the largest MMA training facilities and promotions within the Russian Federation. The fight fraternity has signed various noticeable soldiers from other MMA organizations and has targeted its promotional might and 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 peril an HBO journalist in Chechnya– was reportedly secreted from his UFC contract in August 2018.

Other UFC engages have established relationships with Kadyrov. For instance, in 2015 former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum signed a” lucrative” slew to become an ambassador for Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA opposed organization. He, too, was gifted an expensive car 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 finals was decried by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “. Photograph: Karim Jaafar/ AFP/ Getty Images

Like numerous strongmen before him, Kadyrov expends boasts to deepen his sect of personality and bolster his honour as a benevolent leader who enjoys athletics. Following the end of the Second Chechen War in 2000, the Kremlin reached an agreement with Chechnya that dedicated the republic increased financing support and resources in exchange for its ended loyalty to the Russian Federation. When Kadyrov rose to supremacy seven years later, he took reign 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 parties 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 team and posed with star striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large gathering at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov pictured the photo-op as the opportunities to rub shoulders with arguably the most 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 luminaries and noticeable athletes. The strongman hosted the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Hillary Swank, Ronaldinho and innumerable UFC fighters such as former endorses Frankie Edgar, Frank Mir, Chris Weidman, Alexander Gustafsson and current UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. By associating with famous luminaries and boxers, Kadyrov is able to enhance his personal image as the embodiment of Chechen standards and masculinity. This use of soft superpower facilitates maintain his stranglehold over Chechnya and confuse from the crimes committed by his regime.

While the UFC is aware of the arguing surrounding 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 statement. It should also be noted that the only experience that the UFC publicly addressed the concern that some of their fighters were consorting with a wicked tyrant was in 2015, soon after Werdum countenanced his role as the distinguished ambassador for the Akhmat MMA opposed 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 mindful that their actions show well on themselves, the play and the UFC make-up .”

According to a source close to the event, Kadyrov and his suite entered the realm with valid tickets. Nonetheless, while the source went on to add that the promotion undertake contributed security measures to ensure the safety of those present in the arena, the UFC’s prolonged stillnes on their indirect association to Kadyrov is troubling.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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