Ali Abdelaziz, the manager of UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, contested the validity of reports regarding a renewed anti-gay purge in Chechnya.
During an in-studio interview with Luke Thomas on The MMA Hour, Abdelaziz discussed his Dagestani client’s relationship with Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov following reports of a renewed crackdown on LGBTQI people within Chechnya. During the conversation, Abdelaziz revealed that he does not “believe anything the media says” and suggested that the criticism against Nurmagomedov was merely “politics.”
“Listen, human rights said that in Iraq a lot of people were sexually abused, but I don’t believe — listen, at the end of the day, I don’t know. It’s politics, right? And I know people mix politics with sports all the time,” said Abdelaziz. “And I think Russia has sanctions and the United States has sanctions against Russia. I think we hear it on CNN.”
Over the past few years, Nurmagomedov has maintained a friendly relationship with Kadyrov. He has accepted numerous invitations at the dictator’s behest, including a celebratory dinner with the dictator in Grozny following his submission victory against Conor McGregor at UFC 229. During the celebratory dinner, Nurmagomedov was made an honorary citizen of Chechnya — political stunt that Kadyrov also used on Liverpool and Egypt superstar Mohamed Salah during the 2018 World — Kadyrov also gifted Nurmagomedov a brand new Mercedes. Nurmagomedov has since visited Chechnya several more times, including a recent visit to attend a Ramadan iftar (evening meal) with the dictator.
Nurmagomedov’s recent meeting with Kadyrov comes in the wake of reports that Chechnya has reignited its anti-gay purge by detaining several men and women on suspicion of being gay. Several detainees reportedly died under torture. The accusations of state-sanctioned violence against gay Chechens comes less than two years removed from the 2017 crackdown on Chechnya’s LGBTQ community, where over 100 gay men were detained and subjected to torture. Three of these victims allegedly died in extrajudicial killings during interrogation.
The Novaya Gazetya, an investigative outlet which was the first to report on Chechnya’s anti-gay purge in April 2017, confirmed the reports of renewed persecution against the LGBTQ community in Chechnya, though Chechen officials were quick to reject the reports as “disinformation.” U.S. based organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) later released a detailed report on the renewed crackdown, which included interviews with several men interrogated and tortured by the police.
Despite these harrowing reports, Nurmagomedov’s manager revealed that he does not “believe anything the media says.”
“A lot of people say a lot of shit. Right? I don’t know what this man in Chechnya thinks about gay, not gay. But the whole thing is, I don’t know nothing about it, because I don’t believe anything the media says. I don’t see it with my eyes, I don’t believe it.”
A complete transcript of Abdelaziz’s conversation with Luke Thomas is available here.
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