Just days after HBO’s Real Sports piece aired, Ramzan Kadyrov’s connection with the UFC is under more scrutiny than ever.
On July 19th, HBO launched their newest episode of Real Sports with a feature on Chechen President Razman Kadyrov. It was a fascinating, and at times chilling look into the life of one of the world’s most controversial leaders.
It came at an important time, as Kadyrov has been internationally condemned for what is being called a “gay purge” taking place since February. According to witnesses and victims, Ramzan ordered a purge of LGBT members in Chechnya. He’s repeatedly denied these claims, even going so far as to say that Chechnya has no gay men to begin with, though evidence indicates otherwise.
With his notable passion for MMA, which he’s publically stated is s breeding ground for his paramilitary, now is as good a time as ever to discuss Ramzan Kadyrov’s connection to the UFC and the issues this could raise for the sport’s biggest promotion.
Chechen fighters in the UFC
In March of 2015, the World Fighting Championships Akham, or WFCA, held their first MMA event. Since that time, they’ve put on more than 40 shows with a mix both Russian and international fighters. This region of the world has produced a number of top MMA talent over the years, many of whom have come from Akhmat Fight Club which Kadyrov himself created.
Is this something the UFC should allow? There are already voices calling for ban on fighters entering the UFC from Chechnya, though it’s unclear as of now exactly where Dana White and the other owners stand on this topic.
One name that the WFCA has exported to the UFC is Abdul-Kerim Edilov, who made US gambling news last year by testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs before even competing. Edilov was mentioned in the HBO piece, as he’s reportedly a personal bodyguard for Kadyrov’s sons and harassed the show’s host David Scott for filming him. Edilov will take on Bojan Mihajlovic in his UFC, though sites like Intertops have not released the betting odds yet. Should he be allowed to compete?
UFC fighters making appearances with Kadyrov
Another black eye in the UFC’s image is the fact that numerous UFC fighters have traveled to Chechnya in order to personally meet with Kadyrov and attend his MMA events. Names like Chris Weidman, Fabricio Werdum, and Frankie Edgar have all made the trip to visit the Chechen dictator.
Granted, most of these visits came years ago at a time before the gay purge allegations had come to light, but it’s still a bad look for the fighters. In order to minimize Ramzan Kadyrov’s connection with the UFC, Dana White and others would be wise to ban their athletes from making any further trips.
Notable quotes from the HBO piece
Never before has Kadyrov been under as much pressure as he is now. HBO’s recent interview with him likely informed many who were unaware of his past, and Ramzan Kadyrov’s connection with the UFC will be scrutinized more than ever, particularly after some of his recent quotes.
One of the most notable was him calling for a fight to the death between his Akhmat Fight Club members and UFC fighters. “We’ll see who has the strongest fighters. I think it would be quite a spectacle. They would fight to the end. A fight to the death.” It’s of course a ridiculous idea, and one that no online sportsbooks in the US would offer odds for… We hope.
“I have a good army capable of attacking and defending. We’ll see who comes out on top.” Kadyrov made this statement in regards to a war involving the USA and Russia.
For the sake of MMA’s reputation, now would be a great time for Ramzan Kadyrov’s connection with the UFC to be squashed. There are some clear steps that could be taken in order to show that the sport’s biggest stage doesn’t associate with dictators.