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 highlights 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 fightings. Garmented in beige jeans and a lily-white t-shirt with a pairing jacket, the notorious Chechen strongman was surrounded by three of his most loyal cronies– one of whom has been accused of torture and another of storying an assassination– as he made his route to the front row of the 35,000 -capacity arena. Seated just a few feet away from the cage, Kadyrov and his chums watched the evening’s fights in an entirely new settled. Though used to attending mixed martial art events 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 resulting in torture and summary executions – his existence in the front sequence of a UFC event spotlights a concerning is connected with the authoritarian 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 campaign association, Akhmat MMA. That night, Ankalaev overcame 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 fighting sorority consists of an MMA promotion and several set facilities throughout Chechnya and many other post-Soviet governments. The campaign squad is be supported by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and brings the identify of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Fighters who are signed to the fight club’s official roster are paid monthly allowances that deal medical expenses, train payments, and movement fees. Depending on the level of success achieved, soldiers are also gifted with expensive cars and other extravagant goods.

The Akhmat MMA contended team is performed by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel considered to be one of the most powerful soldiers in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov formerly pushed in the Chechen wars against Russia alongside Kadyrov himself, before being heightened 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 figures in charge of his MMA promotion and engage association suggests that the Akhmat fight club is likely an extension of Kadyrov’s own government.

Through Kadyrov’s patronage and assistance, the Akhmat fight club has risen to become one of greater MMA training facilities and publicities within the Russian Federation. The oppose fraternity has signed various remarkable boxers from other MMA organizations and has residence its promotional might and natural resources behind them. Five of these fights 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 fightings have established relationships with Kadyrov. For precedent, in 2015 former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum signed a” lucrative” batch to become an ambassador for Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA contended club. He, too, was gifted an expensive car for his services to the despot, 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 condemned by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “. Photograph: Karim Jaafar/ AFP/ Getty Images

Like many strongmen before him, Kadyrov employs plays to deepen his sect of identity and bolster his reputation as a benevolent ruler who enjoys boasts. Following the completion of its Second Chechen War in 2000, the Kremlin reached an agreement with Chechnya that committed the republic increased financing support and resources in exchange for its ended patriotism to the Russian Federation. When Kadyrov rose to supremacy seven years later, he took predominate of a semi-autonomous republic ripe for change into his own personal fiefdom. As a result of Chechnya’s deal with the Kremlin, as well as Russian chairperson Vladimir Putin’s continued support, Kadyrov has regulated over his people 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 crew and posed with whiz striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large crowd at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov accompanied the photo-op as the opportunity 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 jocks. 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 famous personalities and boxers, Kadyrov is able to enhance his personal likenes as the embodiment of Chechen ideologies 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 controversy smothering the Chechen dictator and the UFC soldiers who represent him, the promotion has chosen to remain silent regarding this potential public relations nightmare. As of the time of submission of reports, 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 consorting with a hateful tyrant was in 2015, soon after Werdum abode his character as an ambassador for the Akhmat MMA opposed 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 activities as they choose ,” 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 indicate well on themselves, the sport and the UFC establishment .”

According to a source close to the happening, Kadyrov and his suite entered the arena with valid tickets. However, while the resources went on to add that the publicity attempt contributed 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.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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