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

The presence of Ramzan Kadyrov in the front row of a UFC show spotlights a disturbing 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. Dressed in beige jeans and a white t-shirt with a according case, the notorious Chechen strongman was surrounded by three of his most loyal cronies– one of whom has been accused of torture and another of planning an homicide– as he made his practice to the front row of the 35,000 -capacity arena. Accommodated just a few feet away from the enclosure, Kadyrov and his friends watched the evening’s battles in a totally new prepare. Though used to attending motley 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 latest of which includes a deadly crackdown on LGBTQ+ parties within Chechnya arising in torture and summary executions – his spirit in the front row of a UFC event spotlights 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 fighting golf-club, Akhmat MMA. That night, Ankalaev overcame 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 slogans “Akhmat Sila”( Akhmat Power ).

Founded in 2015, the Akhmat MMA oppose association consists of an MMA promotion and several learn facilities throughout Chechnya and numerous other post-Soviet territories. The contend society is sponsored by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and brings the reputation of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Soldiers who are signed to the fight club’s official listing are paid monthly allowances that consider medical expenses, discipline expenses, and tour fees. Depending on the level of success achieved, fighters are also gifted with expensive gondolas and other gaudy goods.

The Akhmat MMA fight fraternity is performed by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel considered to be one of the most powerful boys in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov once crusaded in the Chechen crusades 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 insurance representations in charge of his MMA promotion and push squad is demonstrated 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 publicities within the Russian Federation. The combat sorority has signed various notable fighters from other MMA organizations and has placed its promotional might and natural resources behind them. Five of these campaigns 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 menaced an HBO journalist in Chechnya– was reportedly liberated from his UFC contract in August 2018.

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

Like numerous strongmen before him, Kadyrov exploits boasts to intensify his sect of personality and bolster his reputation as a gracious chairman who enjoys plays. Following the end of the Second Chechen War in 2000, the Kremlin reached an agreement with Chechnya that presented 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 predominate of a semi-autonomous republic ripe for conversion into his own personal fiefdom. As an expression of the results of Chechnya’s deal with the Kremlin, as well as Russian chairperson Vladimir Putin’s continued support, Kadyrov has governed over his people 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 sun striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large audience at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov find the photo-op as a chance to rub shoulders with arguably the more popular Muslim athlete in countries around the world, the information was criticized by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “.

This was not the first time that Kadyrov paraded around with personalities and conspicuous athletes. The strongman hosted the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Hillary Swank, Ronaldinho and countless UFC soldiers such as former endorses Frankie Edgar, Frank Mir, Chris Weidman, Alexander Gustafsson and current UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. By affiliating with far-famed luminaries and fighters, Kadyrov is able to enhance his personal likenes as the manifestation of Chechen ideals and manlines. This use of soft power helps maintain his stranglehold over Chechnya and distract from the crimes committed by his regime.

While the UFC is aware of the polemic circumventing the Chechen dictator and the UFC fighters 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 observation. It should also be noted that the only period that the UFC publicly addressed the concern that some of their fighters were partnering with a inhuman tyrant was in 2015, shortly after Werdum consented his role as the distinguished ambassador for the Akhmat MMA fight club.

” It is important to note that UFC fighters 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 activities as they opt ,” the UFC said in a statement to Boast on Earth.” We do expect, however, all soldiers to be bearing in mind the fact that their actions show well on themselves, the sport and the UFC party .”

According to a source close to the happen, Kadyrov and his entourage entered the arena with valid tickets. However, while the resources went on to add that the advertising attempt included 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.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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