At ACA 161, in a fight against Mukhumat Vakhaev, Russian heavyweight Grigoriy Ponomarev suffered debilitating knee and leg injuries a mere thirty-two seconds into the first round of the match. After broadcasted footage of the fight spread across numerous social media platforms, many MMA fans concluded that this is one of the most gruesome and debilitating injuries in combat sports history.
Watch the ACA 161 replay below, at your own risk
In the first round, after being grappled and thrown by Vakhaev, Ponomarev lands on his left foot at an angle that causes his lower leg to immediately snap sideways. Ponomarev instantly drops to a knee, keels over and rolls around on the mat in agony, clutching his loosely flapping leg as Vakhaev gets two more jabs in before the referee intervenes. See the whole sequence play out in the Twitter video below from Caposa.
Disclaimer: the video below contains extremely graphic content.
Reactions to Vakhaev v. Ponomarev and the aftermath
The bout was immediately concluded, with Mukhumat Vakhaev obviously emerging victorious by TKO in Round 1. In the wake of the bout, many ACA 161 viewers admonished Vakhaev for continuing to batter Ponomarev after he crumpled. Vakhaev also ignored the referee’s first few attempts to separate the two fighters after the latter was injured, and even performed a backflip upon realizing his opponent was out for the count due to his shattered leg.
In the above thread, many viewers called for a temporary or permanent ban imposed on Vakhaev for exhibiting cruel, unsportsmanlike behavior in the ring. Regardless of how gruesome Ponomarev’s leg injury was, however, there’s more to this bout than meets the eye.
Ponomarev has a few easily visible neo-Nazi tattoos
Over an hour after the injury had been captured and posted on social media platforms, another Twitter user identified numerous neo-Nazi tattoos on Ponomarev’s left arm:
The first identified symbol, the Sonnenrad, is also known as the Black Sun, and according to the Anti-Defamation League official website, is “one of a number of ancient European symbols appropriated by the Nazis in their attempt to invent an idealized ‘Aryan/Norse’ heritage.” The symbol also bears significance in traditional Celtic, Norse, and Indian cultures and comes in many forms and colors:
The second symbol seen on Ponomarev’s arm is the Tyr, which resembles an arrow pointing upward. It may seem harmless and generic in its appearance, but the Tyr rune was utilized “as a symbol for a number of Nazi entities,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. The rune is yet another ancient European symbol that was appropriated for hateful purposes by the Nazi regime:
Upon comparing these to the Twitter photo of Ponomarev doubled over in agony, both symbols are easily recognizable on the Russian fighter’s left arm, with the Tyr on his tricep and a variation of the Sonnenrad on his elbow:
Again, these symbols have separate connotations across traditional cultures. However, they’re appropriated and utilized separately by modern-day neo-Nazi groups, yet they appear together on the arm of a white MMA fighter whose region of origin is known for having numerous active white supremacist organizations. Not a good look for Ponomarev.
Neo-nazi MMA fighters involved in both sides of Russia-Ukraine war
Bloody Elbow’s Karim Zidan has reported on many Eastern European MMA fighters with neo-nazi links including Mikhail Turkanov who was awarded the Order of Courage by the North Slavic Community, a self-proclaimed “military-patriotic society of modern Cossacks.” The group announced the news on its official social media page, along with a photo of Turkanov dressed in military attire with the medal on pinned to his chest.
There’s also the infamous neo-nazi MMA brand White Rex founder Denis Kapustin who recently led a raid of Ukrainian partisans into Russia proper.
Sadly this probably won’t be the last time we report on right-wing extremism in MMA.
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