A handful of UFC fighters are currently training alongside Ramzan Kadyrov’s 16-year-old son and entourage in Thailand, further emphasizing the dictator’s growing influence on the sport.
In January 2022, Khamzat Chimaev arrived at the renowned Tiger Muay Thai training facility in Phuket, Thailand with a horde of fighters from Kadyrov’s infamous fight club, Akhmat MMA—an entity facing sanctions by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for bringing “pride and prestige” to Kadyrov.
The UFC star was also accompanied by Kadyrov’s son, Ali, who has become a constant presence in Chimaev’s life over the past year. The duo posted regular photographs of their training on social media, which included sparring sessions.
Other fighters spotted training Ali included former UFC champion Petr Yan, UFC flyweight contender Muhammad Mokaev, Darren Till, and Professional Fighter League (PFL) tournament winner Brendan Loughnane.
This is not the first time that Ali has trained alongside UFC fighters. In December 2022, he traveled with Chimaev to Dubai, where he trained with members Chimaev’s Allstar team, including UFC lightweight Guram Kutateladze. He also trained with former UFC champion Cody Garbrandt.
It is worth noting that the U.S. Department of State informed The New York Times last year that it is aware of apparent ties between Kadyrov and UFC fighters, though it remains to be seen whether those fighters will face any consequences for their actions.
Kadyrov, who has ruled Chechnya with an iron fist since 2007, has long been accused of widespread human rights abuses that include purges of sexual minorities, extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, and appalling acts of violence to quell all forms of dissent.
Despite his harrowing human rights record, Kadyrov remains a prominent figure within combat sports, whether through his expanding MMA organization or his continued affiliation with star fighters such as Chimaev and world champion Artur Beterbiev. And while Kadyrov may not be making as many personal appearances at UFC events anymore, he continues to view the sport as a an important platform for his unique propaganda.
In December 2022, Ali competed in his first professional fight at Absolute Championship Akhmat (ACA), a leading Russian MMA organization owned by the teenager’s tyrannical father. With Chimaev in his corner, the teenager went on to defeat his opponent by TKO in what was clearly a fixed fight.
Ali has since revealed that he plans to fight again in the near future.
About the author: Karim Zidan is an investigative reporter for Bloody Elbow focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. His is also a contributor to The New York Times and The Guardian. (full bio)
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