Former UFC fighter turned bodyguard for pedophile Jeffery Epstein believes suicide was assisted

Former UFC fighter Igor Zinoviev is not convinced that his former boss Jeffery Epstein’s death was a typical suicide. During an interview with New…

By: Karim Zidan | 4 years ago
Former UFC fighter turned bodyguard for pedophile Jeffery Epstein believes suicide was assisted
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Former UFC fighter Igor Zinoviev is not convinced that his former boss Jeffery Epstein’s death was a typical suicide.

During an interview with New York Magazine’s Intelligencer, the 53-year-old Russian native made a shocking revelation when asked about Epstein’s suicide by hanging:

“Someone helped him do it” Zinoviev stated during the phone interview. However, when asked why he believed that to be the case, Zinoviev became cryptic with his responses, “Listen, you know, that’s going a little too deep.”

Given the suspicious timing and context of Epstein’s death, which took place on August 10 at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York and was deemed by a medical examiner as a suicide, Zinoviev’s comments rekindle the unfounded conspiracy theories that were set off in the wake of the convicted sex abuser’s death. They also shed some light on the relationship between Epstein and the retired MMA fighter.

Born into an impoverished family in St. Petersburg, Zinoviev served Red Army commando until the fall of the Soviet Union. Afterwards he traveled to the United States, where he put his martial arts training to use in the upstart world of ultimate fighting. After a handful of illegal bare-knuckle fighting events, the Russian took part in a one-night tournament and defeated Mario Sperry, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion and one of the founders of Brazilian Top Team, to become the Extreme Fighting middleweight champion.

Zinoviev went on to defeat the likes of Enson Inoue before suffering draws against John Lober and Osami Shibuya in Pancrase. In 1998, he stepped into the UFC Octagon to challenge Frank Shamrock at UFC 16. Shamrock knocked his Russian adversary out in 22 seconds with a vicious slam that shattered Zinoviev’s collarbone and put an end to his career. He retired with a 4-1-2 professional record. He disappeared for several years before resurfacing as the coach for one of the International Fight League (IFL) teams, the Chicago Red Bears. The stint did not last long and he soon returned to other side jobs such as personal training, stunt work, and body guarding.

It was somewhere during this period of transition that Zinoviev began working for Epstein. According to his recent interview, Zinoviev met Epstein through a mutual friend before being offered a job as Epstein’s driver, bodyguard, and personal trainer. He traveled alongside Epstein in his private plane and lived in the guest house of his Palm Beach mansion.

While Zinoviev denied ever discussing Epstein’s crimes with his boss, he reportedly showed up alongside the child predator at deposition meetings, allegedly to intimidate the victims of sexual assault. He also visited Epstein in prison, according to visitor logs from his 2008 jail sentence that were recently published.

Zinoviev continued to backtrack during his interview with NYMag. Journalist M.L. Nestel noted that this was the second time he had spoken to Zinoviev, though his previous interview took place during his stint at the Daily Beast in 2015 and was never published. However, Zinoviev vehemently denied most of what he had said in the original interview and refuted any assumption that he witnessed Esptein interact with “teenage girls.”

“I never see teenage girls in my life at his house. That’s what it is. That’s a misunderstanding. Completely. That’s because — that’s what I’m saying. Most of the time with reporters they give me that kind of questions. “Who told you I see the teenage girls?” I never see the teenage girls in my life.”

The interview only gets more damning from that point onwards.

I get that. But you and I have a history at this point. One thing you told me, for instance — okay, one thing you told me is he got a heads up when the authorities were going to come to his house the night before.

Listen, what you say is between you and me —

You told me he would get phone calls the night before and eight o’clock the police are going to come. He would get a heads up from local police.


You told me that, Igor. Want me to read the quote?

Well, you can read whatever you want right now. Don’t just — you can put yourself in big trouble.

You said: “He always do something wrong. There was some nights in question. There was at home arrest and police, before they come to the house, they call him and tell him they coming in at eight o’clock in the morning. It’s all corruption you know. It’s all bullshit.”

Listen, don’t put yourself in trouble. Seriously.

We talked about this.

I understand we got this.

I’m telling you to give you a chance to remember because we talked about this stuff. I know it’s hard. I don’t know what you mean about “put myself in trouble.”

Let that go. Seriously. Let that go.

Why is it so important? Are you worried about the local cops?

Listen, you’re really smart and I’m not going to offer that over the phone right now, okay? You’re really smart. You have no idea. Please!

The entire transcript is available on NYMag’s website.

Share this story

About the author
Karim Zidan
Karim Zidan

Karim Zidan is a investigative reporter and feature writer focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. He has written for BloodyElbow since 2014 and has served as an associate editor since 2016. He also writes for The New York Times and The Guardian. Karim has been invited to speak about his work at numerous universities, including Princeton, and was a panelist at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival and the Oslo Freedom Forum. He also participated in the United Nations counter-terrorism conference in 2021. His reporting on Ramzan Kadyrov’s involvement in MMA, much of which was done for Bloody Elbow, has led to numerous award nominations, and was the basis of an award-winning HBO Real Sports documentary.

More from the author

Bloody Elbow Podcast
Related Stories