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 troubling link between the Chechen strongman and the MMA promotion

On Saturday 15 September, Ramzan Kadyrov sauntered into Moscow’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium to watch the evening’s pushes. Garmented in beige jeans and a lily-white t-shirt with a coinciding casing, the notorious Chechen strongman was surrounded by three of his most loyal bodyguards– one of whom has been accused of torture and another of plotting an assassination– as he made his method to the front sequence of the 35,000 -capacity arena. Accommodated just a few feet away from the cage, Kadyrov and his chums watched the evening’s fights in an entirely new specify. Though used to attending motley martial art 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+ beings within Chechnya ensuing in torture and summary executions – his spirit in the front sequence of a UFC event highlights 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 prospect from Dagestan who represents Kadyrov through the dictator’s oppose golf-club, 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 slogans “Akhmat Sila”( Akhmat Power ).

Founded in 2015, the Akhmat MMA battle team consists of an MMA promotion and various learn facilities throughout Chechnya and numerous other post-Soviet governments. The engage club is be supported by Kadyrov himself through his government’s budget and allows the name of Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov. Soldiers who are signed to the fight club’s official roster are paid monthly allowances that extend medical expenditures, set costs, and traveling fees. Depending on high levels of success achieved, boxers are also gifted with expensive cars and other obtrusive goods.

The Akhmat MMA crusaded club is operated by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a colonel to be one of the stronger boys in Chechnya. Known by his nom de guerre’ Patriot ‘, Vismuradov once crusaded in the Chechen struggles 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 representations in charge of his MMA promotion and contend sorority suggests that the Akhmat fight club is likely an extension of Kadyrov’s own government.

Through Kadyrov’s patronage and subsistence, the Akhmat fight club has risen to become one of the largest MMA training facilities and promotions within the Russian Federation. The fighting sorority has signed various notable fighters from other MMA organizations and has situated its promotional might and natural resources behind them. Five of these contends have moved on to sign with the UFC: Magomed Bibulatov, Abdul-Kerim Edilov, Ruslan Magomedov, Said Nurmagomedov, and Magomed Ankalaev. Four of those boxers 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 battles have established relationships with Kadyrov. For speciman, in 2015 former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum signed a” lucrative” bargain to become an ambassador for Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA campaigned sorority. He, too, was gifted an expensive auto 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 condemned by Amnesty International as” pure sportswashing “. Photograph: Karim Jaafar/ AFP/ Getty Images

Like numerous strongmen before him, Kadyrov utilizes sports to improve his faith of identity and bolster his honour as a gracious manager who enjoys plays. Following the end of the Second Chechen War in 2000, the Kremlin reached an agreement with Chechnya that demonstrated the republic increased financial support and resources in exchange for its terminated allegiance to the Russian Federation. When Kadyrov rose to power seven years later, he took reign of a semi-autonomous republic ripe for transformation 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 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 crew and posed with star striker Mohamed Salah in front of a large audience at the Akhmat stadium. While Kadyrov find the photo-op as the opportunity 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 notable athletes. The strongman hosted the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Hillary Swank, Ronaldinho and countless UFC fighters such as former champions Frankie Edgar, Frank Mir, Chris Weidman, Alexander Gustafsson and current UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. By accompanying with far-famed personalities and fighters, Kadyrov is able to enhance his personal likenes as the personification of Chechen models and manlines. This use of soft capability facilitates maintain his stranglehold over Chechnya and confuse from the crimes committed by his regime.

While the UFC is aware of the contention encircling the Chechen dictator and the UFC soldiers 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 note. It should also be noted that the only era that the UFC publicly addressed the concern that some of their fighters were spousing with a inhuman oppressor was in 2015, shortly after Werdum abode his role as the distinguished ambassador for the Akhmat MMA engaged club.

” It is important to note that UFC fighters 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 opt ,” the UFC said in a statement to Sports on Earth.” We do expect, however, all soldiers to be mindful that their actions manifest well on themselves, the play and the UFC establishment .”

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