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 highlights a troubling 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. Dressed in beige jeans and a lily-white t-shirt with a according casing, 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 course to the front row of the 35,000 -capacity arena. Set just a few feet away from the enclosure, Kadyrov and his cronies watched the evening’s pushes in an entirely new settle. Though used to attending motley martial art affairs 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+ people within Chechnya ensuing in torture and summary executions – his existence in the front sequence of a UFC event highlightings a concerning link between the oppressor 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 fight 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 slogan “Akhmat Sila”( Akhmat Power ).

Founded in 2015, the Akhmat MMA oppose club consists of an MMA promotion and several exercise facilities throughout Chechnya and various other post-Soviet territories. The oppose golf-club is sponsored by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and abides the call of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Fighters who are signed to the fight club’s official roster are paid monthly stipends that covering medical expenses, education expenses, and trip fees. Depending on high levels of success achieved, fighters are also gifted with expensive gondolas and other gaudy goods.

The Akhmat MMA contended organization is performed by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel considered to be one of the most powerful people in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov once pushed in the Chechen crusades against Russia alongside Kadyrov himself, before being promoted 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 illustrations in charge of his MMA promotion and crusade sorority suggests that the Akhmat fight club is likely an extension of Kadyrov’s own government.

Through Kadyrov’s patronage and backing, the Akhmat fight club has risen to become one of the largest MMA training facilities and advertisings within the Russian Federation. The combat squad has signed several noticeable boxers from other MMA organizations and has situated its promotional might and natural resources behind them. Five of these pushes have moved on to sign with the UFC: Magomed Bibulatov, Abdul-Kerim Edilov, Ruslan Magomedov, Said Nurmagomedov, and Magomed Ankalaev. Four of those fighters 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 released from his UFC contract in August 2018.

Other UFC combats have established relationships with Kadyrov. For speciman, in 2015 former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum signed a” lucrative” batch to become an ambassador for Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA campaigned club. He, very, was gifted an expensive gondola for his services to the dictator, though has now been deleted the video of the car from social media.

Ramzan
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 expends boasts to enhance his faith of temperament and bolster his honour as a benevolent captain who enjoys athletics. Following the completion of its Second Chechen War in 2000, the Kremlin reached an agreement with Chechnya that payed the republic increased financing support and resources in exchange for its terminated allegiance to the Russian Federation. When Kadyrov rose to supremacy seven years later, he took reign 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 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 finals, which took place in various cities across Russia, Kadyrov hosted the Egyptian national crew and posed with idol striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large bunch at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov discovered the photo-op as the opportunity to rub shoulders with arguably the most popular Muslim athlete in the world, it was criticized by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “.

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

While the UFC is aware of the polemic encircling 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 is asking for mention. It should also be noted that the only epoch that the UFC publicly addressed the concern that some of their fighters were partnering with a wicked oppressor was in 2015, soon after Werdum accepted his role as the distinguished ambassador for the Akhmat MMA opposed 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 to participate in activities as they select ,” the UFC said in a statement to Sports on Earth.” We do expect, nonetheless, all fighters to be bearing in mind the fact that their actions manifest well on themselves, the sport and the UFC society .”

According to a source close to the contest, Kadyrov and his entourage entered the arena with valid tickets. Nonetheless, while the source went on to add that the advertising undertook added 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.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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