Chechen dissidents continue to take aim at UFC welterweight Khamzat Chimaev for his longstanding association with Ramzan Kadyrov.
1Adat, an anonymous Telegram channel operated by Chechen activists and exiled dissenters, posted a video of Chimaev at Friday’s ceremonial weigh-in along with a caption directed at the fighter himself.
“Hey mankurt (mindless slave), don’t let the word ‘Chechnya’ come out of your mouth,” read the caption. “Know your place, Kadyrov’s puppy.”
Kadyrov has ruled the semi-autonomous republic of Chechnya like his personal fiefdom since his rise to power in 2007, and is routinely accused of orchestrating human rights abuses including assassinations, abductions, torture, extrajudicial killings, and purges targeting the local LGBTQ+ community.
Much like other authoritarian leaders before him, Kadyrov uses sport to distract from well-documented human rights abuses, a process known as sportswashing. In 2015, the dictator launched the Akhmat MMA fight club, a state-sponsored combat sports facility that is home to many of Chechnya’s top fighters, including several who compete in the UFC. The fight club is operated by Abuzayed Vismuradov, a life-long friend and ally to Kadyrov who emerged as one of the three most powerful men in Chechnya.
Chimaev, who emerged as Kadyrov’s favorite fighter after earning back-to-back victories in the UFC in 2020, regularly visited the Akhmat MMA fight club for various public appearances, including training seminars for children and photo-ops with Kadyrov. He regularly donned the club’s attire, which consisted of a T-shirt with the Akhmat MMA logo along with a picture of Ramzan Kadyrov’s late father, Akhmad Kadyrov, the former president of Chechnya who was assassinated in 2004.
While the Akhmat MMA Fight Club was placed under U.S. Treasury sanction in 2020 for bringing “pride and profit” to Kadyrov, Chimaev has continued to associate with the dictator and his fight club. Most recently, the UFC fighter shared clips from Kadyrov and a handful of Akhmat MMA fighters promoting his upcoming fight against Kevin Holland at UFC 279.
Responding directly on Kadyrov’s Instagram channel, Chimaev said, “May Allah protect our Chief.”
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