White Rex: How MMA’s most dangerous neo-Nazi is attempting to revive his lifestyle brand

“Our work continues. Stay tuned.” These five words appeared in a March 3, 2021 post on a Telegram channel run by Denis Kapustin (aka…

By: Karim Zidan | 3 years ago
White Rex: How MMA’s most dangerous neo-Nazi is attempting to revive his lifestyle brand
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

“Our work continues. Stay tuned.”

These five words appeared in a March 3, 2021 post on a Telegram channel run by Denis Kapustin (aka Denis Nikitin), the neo-Nazi hooligan, MMA fighter, and entrepreneur who founded the infamous White Rex clothing brand and MMA promotion known for propagating neo-Nazi and white nationalist rhetoric. After years of relative silence regarding his defunct promotion, the post signalled White Rex’s potential revival.

Over the past few months, Nikitin has used Telegram to help rejuvenate interest in his White Rex brand. He posted pictures of Caucasian women dressed in White Rex clothing—one wore a t-shirt sporting the “88” symbol which stands for “Heil Hitler”—as well as video montages of his old MMA events and Nazi celebrations, and an announcement confirming a new White Rex “summer collection”.

While it remains unclear what the notorious organization is planning, Nikitin’s decision to pour renewed resources into his brand underscores his desire to further his extremist agenda. Given that Nikitin is considered one of the most dangerous neo-Nazis in Europe, as well as the godfather of Europe’s extreme-right MMA scene, his renewed interest in the sport is a cause for concern.

Hooligan, Fighter, Nazi, Entrepreneur

Born and raised in Russia, Denis Nikitin spent the vast majority of his youth in his native homeland before moving to Cologne, Germany with his family in 2001 at age 17. It was there that Nikitin was radicalized by the far-right hooligan scene, joining up with local Ultras groups in Cologne and making a name for himself as a soccer hooligan.

Having embraced the white supremacist ideologue popular within far-right soccer circles in Europe, Nikitin returned to Russia, where he transformed himself from a soccer hooligan into a businessman behind one of Russia’s infamous neo-Nazi groups.

In 2008, Nikitin founded White Rex, his MMA lifestyle brand that combined MMA subculture with far-right political ideologies. The White Rex logo featured as stylized Black Sun Nazi symbol, while the company name, often written as WH|RX, stands for “White Heterosexual Reactionary Xenophobe”. The company produced shirts, hoodies, pants, sports gear, and other items branded with white nationalist and Nazi symbols, as well as slogans such as “Zero Tolerance,” “Angry Europeans,” and “White Rex Against Tolerance.”

While White Rex operates under the guise of a clothing brand, Nikitin also uses his brand to organize MMA events that provided a safe haven for neo-Nazis to congregate. From 2011 to 2015, White Rex hosted multiple MMA shows, some of which featured several notable Russian fighters, including Bellator star Anastasia Yankova (Yankova has since denied sharing White Rex’s ideology). White Rex also hired former Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko to train its fighters ahead of one of their shows in 2013.

Anastasia Yankova dressed in White Rex gear

Nikitin used White Rex to market his ideology to disenfranchised youth whom he viewed as the next generation of hooligans and fighters. White Rex used hyper-masculine men and women with blonde hair and blue eyes to strategically market their clothing brand to the young men who are inclined to join their cause.

Nikitin also used his business to spread his far-right agenda. In interviews, Nikitin speaks openly about his ideology as a white supremacist. “If we kill one immigrant every day, that’s 365 immigrants in a year,” he told the Guardian in 2018. “But tens of thousands more will come anyway. I realised we were fighting the consequence, but not the underlying reason. So now we fight for minds, not on the street, but on social media.”

White Rex has not held an MMA event since June 2015 but has continued to expand as a far-right clothing brand and as a financial backer for several other flourishing far-right MMA promotions. To date, White Rex has affiliates in Germany, France, Russia, Poland, Italy, Greece, and the United States.

In 2017, Nikitin joined forces with the far-right Azov Battalion, a neo-Nazi paramilitary regiment in Ukraine that eventually morphed into a political party. The group’s insignia features the Wolfsangel and the Black Sun, which are both neo-Nazi symbols adopted by many white supremacist groups around the world. The group is also known for organizing annual summer camps for children and teenagers to learn practical military tactics mixed with lectures on Ukrainian nationalism.

Nikitin moved to Kyiv and served as the unofficial ambassador for their MMA events at the Reconquista Club, a restaurant turned fight club run by the Azov Battalion. He hosted several events there and brought in notorious neo-Nazis and white supremacists from around the world, including Robert Rundo, one of the founding members of the Rise Above Movement, a white supremacist, pro-Trump gang that considered itself the “premier MMA fight club of the alt-right.”.

Rise Above Movement

While Nikitin used the Azov Battalion’s resources to expand his international network of extreme-right fight clubs, his time at the Reconquista Club was short-lived. The club shut down in mid-2019, which limited Nikitin’s ability to host events. He held his last MMA event in Kyiv at the Asgardsrei music festival organized by the Russian neo-Nazi Levkin, where his White Rex logo was visible in the cage. During that period of time, Germany stripped Nikitin of his residence permit and imposed a Schengen Area entry ban on the Russian neo-Nazi.

The ban had a significant on Nikitin’s ability to network and do business in Europe. It restricted his movement in the region and placed renewed scrutiny on his movements. Faced with mounting pressure, Nikitin disappeared from social media for the better part of a year, resurfacing only to announce the revival of his White Rex brand in 2020.

The Nikitin Agenda

On Nov. 15, 2020, NIkitin launched a channel on Telegram, where he announced that White Rex was “back from hibernation.”

Nikitin’s Telegram channel quickly garnered more than 1,300 subscribers and was promoted on a range of white supremacist and neo-Nazi Telegram channels. Over the next few months, Nikitin took advantage of the renewed interest in his brand by promoting clothing items such as balaclava hats, t-shirts and swim shorts all branded with the White Rex logo.

Though White Rex’s original website was taken down several years ago, the organization has since built a new online store to sell their merchandise. They also posted a new video on their VKontakte page with the caption “Since 14.08.08 — The nightmare is back.”

Nikitin also posted photos and videos harkening back to the clothing brand’s days as an MMA promotion, including unseen footage of White Rex events in Berlin, Rome, and elsewhere. The Russian native emphasized the importance of networking with like-minded white supremacists at MMA events, stating “one should never forget that fighting at events like this is not about winning or losing: we travel, have fun, meet our friends and comrades , support each other’s businesses.”

Beyond his White Rex initiative, Nikitin also started another Telegram channel dedicated to his white supremacist ideology. The channel grew in popularity after the crackdown by other platforms following the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, which led to far-right actors joining Telegram. He shared posts idolizing fictional neo-Nazi characters from movies such as “Romper Stomper” and “American History X,” celebrated the rioters who stormed the Capitol, and continued to incite violence.

“You either sit quietly and continue with your ‘normal’ life…and all talk about politics moves to whispering in your kitchen like in the darkest days of the Soviet Union, or go back to good old street propaganda—welcome to 2021,” Nikitin wrote on Telegram. “The real fight has just begun!”

Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

To further his nationalist agenda, Nikitin started a podcast with RAM co-founder Robert Rundo that taught fellow nationalists how to form their own hate groups. Over the course of five episodes to date, the two white supremacists have covered a wide range of topics for prospective white nationalists, including how to protect your identity from journalists and investigators, how to stay safe during street fights, and how to effectively spread propaganda in order to maximize outreach. The duo recalled encounters with the police, the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, how nationalist movements have adapted during the coronavirus pandemic, and what American far-right agitators can learn from the Russian extreme-right scene. They also celebrated the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, used homophobic slurs to describe anti-fascists and leftists, and used ethnic slurs such as the n-word to describe Black Lives Matter protestors.

“It’s been a long time in the making but we finally have brought together two notorious nationalists … to team up in an east meets west to share insights from real world experiences to cover all topics in the nationalist lifestyle,” the duo wrote on Telegram when promoting the first episode of the podcast in January 2020. “From the highs and the lows, from underground MMA events to FBI house raids, we will give you the street level of politics from two that have been front and center at some of the biggest nationalist events and demonstrations in Europe and America.”

While Nikitin has managed to use social media to further his white nationalist ideologue and to market his lifestyle brand, it remains unclear whether he intends to re-establish White Rex as an MMA promotion and neo-Nazi networking opportunity. The Russian native remains popular within far-right circles around the world, though he face significant obstacles including restrictions on his movement due to the imposed ban on him entering the 26 Schengen countries in Europe. Nikitin might also face issues in his Russian homeland after spending the past few years working for the Azov Battalion in Ukraine. In any case, it appears as though we have not heard the last of White Rex.

“All good things need time and preparation,” Nikitin stated on Telegram. “So do we.”

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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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