Battle of the Nibelung: the dangerous evolution of neo-nazi fight clubs in Germany

In 2018, thousands of neo-nazis arrived at a small town along the German-Polish border to attend the ‘Sword and Shield’ far-right festival. The two-day…

By: Karim Zidan | 4 years ago
Battle of the Nibelung: the dangerous evolution of neo-nazi fight clubs in Germany
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

In 2018, thousands of neo-nazis arrived at a small town along the German-Polish border to attend the ‘Sword and Shield’ far-right festival. The two-day event, held in celebration of Adolf Hitler’s birthday, was composed of far-right attractions, including a rock concert with extremist and racist bands, political speeches, clothing stalls promoting far-right merchandise, and a mixed martial arts (MMA) tournament hosted by Germany’s far-right promotion, Kampf der Nibelungen (KdN).

The festival emphasized how Europe’s neo-nazis use music, merchandising, and violent combat sports like MMA as recruitment tactics to spread their hateful ideology. And by all accounts, it was a success — hundreds of disenfranchised youth and white supremacists gathered for a weekend of celebration that culminated in an MMA show designed specifically for neo-nazis and their supporters. Given the success, it was clear that the organizers would attempt to host the event on an annual basis.

In light of this extremist activity, the border town of Ostritz decided to foil the neo-nazi festival in 2019 by confiscating all the alcohol on the premise. Even though the festival still took place, officers arrived on scene and confiscated over 4000 litres of beer on the first day and another 200 litres the following morning. The booze ban ensured minimal violence at the festival and limited the overall attendance.

Photo by Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

While the confiscation of beer was an intelligent and non-confrontational attempt minimize the impact of the festival, it also led to the cancelation of Kampf der Nibelungen’s annual showcase event.

Kampf der Nibelungen is one of the most prominent far-right combat sports promotions in Europe. Their events, which are held in secret locations, are mainly targeted at neo-nazis and disenfranchised German youth. They even describe themselves as an organization for “young Germans who unite the dedication and enthusiasm for ‘their’ sport and who do not want to be under the yoke of the prevailing mainstream.”

The ‘About Us’ section on their website further clarifies their mission statement:

“The Battle of the Nibelungs therefore wants to provide a stage for all athletes and sports fans who are longing for an alternative to the prevailing honour-free and valueless zeitgeist. Participate, visit our events or get in touch with other athletes and become a role model to encourage others to turn their backs on the system of losers, hypocrites and weaklings.”

Their website, which has since removed all extremist references, is now limited to an online clothing store that sells t-shirts for men and women. Though that means the official information of KdN’s activities is sorely lacking, there are several detailed reports that help explain the organization’s strategic growth and the influence they wield. One reportrevealed that KdN held its first event in 2013 to 150 guests, though that figure has since risen to over 600 by 2017. Fighters from across Russia, France, Switzerland, and Scandinavia participated in the events. Many of the fighters are handpicked by the organizers, while others are selected from fellow neo-nazi fight clubs or promotions across Europe.

During the six years that KdN has operated as a combat sports promotion, its organizers and fighters went to painstaking extents to protect their identities. However, it appears that the events were first organized by members of the “Hammerskins,” a self-proclaimed group of “elite” neo-nazi skinheads. KdN also employs the likes of Robin Schmiemann, a neo nazi who co-founded right-wing extremist network Combat 18. Their list of sponsors represent some of the most prominent names in the far-right scene, including clothing brands such as Birds of Prey Wear, Black Legion and Pride France.

The group also joined forces with Denis Nikitin, the founder of White Rex, who integrated them into his expanding neo-nazi network across Europe and Russia and helped teach them how to organize MMA events in Germany. This has allowed KdN to grow its reach and associate with the other right-wing militant fight clubs in the area. One of the groups KdN trains with is Baltik Korps, another neo-nazi fight club based in Northern Germany that considers itself the “sports arm” of the ‘Action Blog’ network. The blog, co-founded by extremist activist and boxing coach David Mallows, uses fear-mongering to incite hatred and violence against immigrants in Germany. Below is a portion of Action Blog’s mission statement:

“The big problem that we need to overcome is only ourselves. And so we, as the carrier of a unique world view, should always be the guarantor of the new time. So it is our duty to face the fight against the ill spirit of society that has been manifested by the flow of foreign ethnic races, in the midst of our being. We need to break out of this dark circle of decay, break out with all our shine that we will gain through the hardness of our body, through the grazing of our ideas.”

While the Battle of the NIbelung event was cancelled at this year’s ‘Sword and Shield’ event, the promotion continues to operate with the support of groups like Baltic Korps. Their next scheduled event is expected to take place on October 12. Tickets for the event are available at the KdN website, which is being promoted as a 12-fight show featuring competitors from across Europe in kickboxing, boxing, and MMA contests. The location remains a secret, though it appears that the show will take place in central Germany.

KdN is also not the only neo-nazi MMA promotion that exists in Germany. There is TIWAZ, a combat sports promotion in Central Germany that is “organized by nationalistic faithful Germans of various backgrounds.” According to the TIWAZ website, the event is affiliated to KdN, and other far-right fight clubs and brands like Pride France, Wardon 21, and Sonnenkruez. This emphasizes the growing network of ‘Pan-European’ militant fight clubs and the tactics they employ to be able to operate in the open. Wardon 21, referred to such neo-nazi sports gatherings a “pan-European international understanding.”

Another militant fight club is Imperium Fight Team, a German MMA team that has reportedly been involved in inciting hatred and riots in Wurzen and Chemnitz in 2018. One of their main coaches is Benjamin Brinsa, a former UFC fighter who was released from the promotion after reports alleged that he was a neo-nazi sympathizer. While Brinsa denied the allegations at the time, he remains a member of the Leipzig-based hooligan group Scenario LOK and has reportedly organized rallies against refugees in his community. Despite his reputation, Brinsa was elected to city council in Wurzen as part of the ”New Forum for Wurzen” (NFW).

Former UFC fighter Benjamin Brinsa (1st from left)

Apart from their role as an MMA promotion, KdN is also following in the footsteps of Nikitin’s White Rex by transforming itself into a lifestyle brand. It’s Facebook page is set up as a brand, rather than an organization, while the majority of their posts promote their merchandise, which include t-shirts, hoodies, and even tea cups. Their products are emblazoned with the Kampf der Nibelungen name or logo, as well as a words such as “discipline” and “winner.” They even redesigned their logo, which is now a linden leaf inside an Octagon. The former is a reference to Nibelungenlied (The Song of the Nibelungs) epic poem, while the latter is recognized as the UFC”s trademarked octagonal cage.

By marketing themselves as a health-conscious lifestyle brand selling non-extremist merchandise, KdN is able to operate in public while simultaneously normalizing their presence in Germany. It is this evolution in far right tactics that allows them to continue using violent sports such as mixed martial arts to recruit disgruntled youth and brainwash them into defending their homeland against a common enemy.

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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.

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