In December 2014, Badr Hari posted a half-naked photo of himself seated in a solid gold bath tub armed with a gold platted AK47 machine gun. At the time, the Moroccan super heavyweight was in Grozny, capital of the Chechen Republic, where he was reportedly giving kickboxing lessons to Ramzan Kadyrov himself. Below the bizarre picture lay a telling caption:
“Everything in gold, I take all what life brings to me! Only in Mother Russia! Much love to the one true president.”
The picture raised uncomfortable questions for Hari, who resided in Morocco at the time. After winning the K-1 Heavyweight Championship in 2007, the handsome fighter was anointed a living legend in his native country. Few Moroccans had managed to accomplish what Hari did on the international scene, which not only gave him unparalleled stardom but also placed him under a microscopic lens for media criticism. His relationship with Kadyrov drew suspicion from fans and pundits alike, which forced the kickboxer to comment publicly.
“I maintain excellent relations with President Kadyrov. This is my friend, my brother,” Hari explained to Morocco’s Le 360. “He invited me for my birthday that I celebrated with my friends, but in Chechnya, it had a special taste. In Chechnya, it could not be more normal. By spreading my photos, I did not intend to offend anyone. These were moments of happiness that I wanted to share with my fans.”
Kadyrov, the de facto Chechen ruler with a long list of human rights abuses to his name, is one of many controversies that have marred Hari’s career over the past few years. The kickboxer has been implicated in eight assaults – including an attempted manslaughter – in Amsterdam back in 2010. He was eventually handed a two-year suspended sentence for aggravated assault on Dutch millionaire Koen Everink at a Sensation White party at the Amsterdam Arena. Everink claimed that Hari was out to kill him.
On 22 July 2012, Dutch police raided Hari’s apartment and discovered a cache of human growth hormone and anabolic steroids anapolon and tamoxifen. Hari’s lawyer claimed that the banned substances did not belong to the fighter.
Given his inability to part ways with controversy, Hari’s of friendship with Kadyrov is hardly surprising. According to sources close to the situation, Kadyrov reached out to Hari to teach his bodyguards and special forces the art of kickboxing. He later became a member of Kadyrov’s Akhmat Fight Club and competed in a kickboxing match under the promotion’s banner.
During his preparation for his Akhmat Fight Show bout against Ismael Londt, Hari had free access to Kadyrov’s private jet, which he used to transport himself around the world during training camp. Following his victory in Grozny against Londt, Kadyrov celebrated with Hari in the ring as though they were longstanding friends.
Over the past couple of years, Hari frequented Grozny numerous times to attend Akhamt MMA events alongside the Chechen dictator. He was present in early 2015 when Kadyrov hosted former UFC champions Fabricio Werdum, Frank Mir and Chris Weidman.
While it remains unclear why Hari struck a friendship with Kadyrov, the reasons are obvious for the latter. Kadyrov used the fighter to train his own staff, bolster his reputation as a masculine figure with impressive friends, and add to his international recognition. Naturally, Kadyrov used his love for combat sports as a public relations tactic to improve his political standing.
Yet another example of the undeniable correlation between sports and politics.
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