On Saturday, Mar. 11, Merab Dvalishvili defeated former UFC bantamweight champion Petr Yan in a lopsided beatdown at UFC Vegas 71. Yet despite breaking the UFC record in takedown attempts and securing a career-best in significant strikes landed in a single fight, the Georgian fighter opted to use his post-fight speech in the Octagon to call for an end to the war in Ukraine.
“I’m against the war,” Dvalishvili told Daniel Cormier during the post-fight interview. “Slava Ukraini. Glory to Ukraine. Glory to Georgia. Glory to freedom. We need only freedom. No war. Please no war.”
Dvalishvili, who recently got a tattoo of the Georgian flag emblazoned on his chest to oppose the UFC’s ban on displaying national flags, further elaborated on his comments during the post-fight press conference. And though the clip is available on the UFC’s official YouTube channel, Dvalishvili’s post-fight interview and press conference were censored by the organization’s broadcast partner, Match TV, as well as the UFC Russia YouTube channel.
Instead, UFC Russia posted a generic interview with Dvalishvili where he discussed his performance against Yan. The interview made no mention of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Match TV is a Russian sports channel owned by Gazprom Media, Russia’s largest media holding and a subsidiary of the state-owned oil and gas giant Gazprom. The company is one of the largest natural gas exporters in the world and holds numerous ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Gazprom-Media agreed to a long-term deal with the UFC to become the country’s exclusive broadcaster in December 2021. According to Andrei Gromkovsky, the vice president of the UFC in Russia, the partnership allows for the “localization of UFC content in Russia” through entities like RuTube, a Russian alternative to YouTube created by Gazprom-Media.
In light of the fact that UFC content in Russia is exclusively controlled by a company with significant ties to the Kremlin, it comes as no surprise that Dvalishvili’s pro-Ukraine comments were censored across traditional and digital platforms.
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