Germany bans neo-Nazi group Combat 18, deals blow to far-right MMA fight clubs

Last month, Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer banned the German branch of Combat 18 — a right wing extremist group that dubbed itself “Adolf…

By: Karim Zidan | 3 years ago
Germany bans neo-Nazi group Combat 18, deals blow to far-right MMA fight clubs
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Last month, Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer banned the German branch of Combat 18 — a right wing extremist group that dubbed itself “Adolf Hitler’s task force.”

In a statement released to the press, Seehofer referred to the group as a “neo-Nazi, racist, and xenophobic association whose purpose is similar to that of national socialism.” He added that the “ban is a clear message: right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism have no place in our society.”

Following the announcement, 210 police officers carried out raids across Germany, which included searching apartments in Brandenburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Thuringia states. Weapons, computers, and extremist symbols were confiscated, according to officials involved.

The decision to ban the group is a significant blow to far-right extremism in Germany and across Europe. The group is suspected to have been involved in the murder of German politician Walter Lübcke in June 2019 and have been labeled a threat to European life by Europol, the European Union’s designated police agency.

Combat 18 was known for spreading “far-right extremism and anti-Semitic hatred” through neo-Nazi music and staging concerts for extremist bands. is also believed to have been heavily affiliated to Germany’s far-right fight scene through MMA promotion Kampf der Nibelungen (KdN). This article will attempt to analyze Combat 18’s role in Germany’s extreme-right scene, their patronage of far-right fight culture, and whether their nationwide ban is a death blow to neo-Nazi fight clubs in Germany.

Combat 18

Founded in the United Kingdom in the 1990s as a militant wing of the British National Party (BNP), Combat 18 grew to become the armed wing of the infamous neo-Nazi network Blood & Honour, which has branches in the United States and across Europe. Combat 18 is now believed to have approximately 21 branches around the world, including Russia, the US, Chile, Brazil, and Germany.

While not outright banned at the time, Combat 18 was designated as a right-wing extremist group by German authorities in the early 2000s. The German branch is thought to have between 20 and 50 members, though it remains unclear how their power dynamics operate or the internal hierarchical structure. It group appears to be selective with its membership, seeking out those who will help propagate armed struggles.

Outside of a handful of details, very little is actually known about Combat 18. The number 18 was selected because it corresponds with the first and eighth letters in the alphabet — A and H — which are also the first letters in Adolf Hilter’s names. Their slogan is “whatever it takes” while their symbol is a white dragon emblazoned over the respective branch’s national colours. Leaders of the German faction are reported to be Robin Schmiemann and Stanley Röske, the former of whom served eight years in prison for shooting a Tunisian man during a supermarket raid in Dortmund. Schmiemann is the leading figure affiliated to KdN and the local MMA scene and is also the person responsible for drawing attention to the group in 2019.

In July 2019, the german branch of Combat 18 came under fire after it was revealed that the main suspect behind the killing of politician Walter Lübcke had ties to the group. Concerned by the barrage of press and the newfound pressure to ban them — including Canada’s decision to designate Combat 18 as a terrorist group— the group released a rare video with a disguised man believed to be Schmiemann. During the video, Schmiemann revealed that Combat 18 planned to go public due to the “media’s cannibalizing of our name for the sole purpose of increasing circulation” before adding that “Germany has arrived at the point where every citizen is forced to protect himself and his family alone. The citizens’ trust in politicians, judiciary, and the media has been completely destroyed.”

Less than six months later, the group was officially banned by German authorities.

C18’s Patronage of neo-Nazi Fight Clubs

Combat 18’s affiliation with extremist fight clubs and the far-right MMA scene began with the rise of Kampf der Nibelungen (KdN).

Founded in 2013, KdN quickly became 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 regard 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.”

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. Despite their efforts, the events were reportedly first organized by members of the “Hammerskins,” a self-proclaimed group of “elite” neo-nazi skinheads. 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 later 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. KdN also associates with Baltik Korps, another neo-nazi fight club based in Northern Germany that considers itself the “sports arm” of the ‘Action Blog’ network, a blog co-founded by extremist activist and boxing coach David Mallowsthat uses fear-mongering to incite hatred and violence against immigrants in Germany.

KdN also reportedly employed the likes of Robin Schmiemann, one of the leading figures in the German branch of Combat 18. Schmiemann was also spotted at the Sword and Shield festival — a far-right festival with bands, clothing stalls, and MMA events hosted in celebration of Hitler’s birthday — in 2018-19, where he worked as a “bouncer” guarding the entrance to the festival from unwanted attendants.

Robin Schmiemann

In conclusion, Germany’s recent crackdown on some of the paramilitary neo-Nazi factions will likely have a significant ripple effect on far-right gatherings such as MMA events and concerts, mainly due to the patronage, sponsorship, and overall support that groups such as Combat 18 provided. However, it remains to be seen whether the banning of Combat 18 will serve as a death blow to neo-Nazi fight clubs across the country.

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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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