Khamzat Chimaev visited his homeland of Chechenya following victory over Gilbert Burns. There, he spent time with the controversial Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov.
This happened only weeks after the most significant victory of his career against former title contender Gilbert Burns.
With the victory over Burns, Chimaev continues on his path to become UFC Welterweight championship. Chimaev’s star has had a meteoric rise – he has established himself as a title contender in less than two years.
Chimaev now resides in Sweden, where he immigrated at 18 after being born in Beno-Yurt, Chechnya. He maintains strong links to the place where he grew up. In Chechnya, he started his wrestling training that would ultimately lead to a UFC title.
Kadyrov, one of Chimaev’s most ardent supporters, has long been a fan of the athlete. He allegedly gifted him a Mercedes Benz, which Chimaev apparently wrecked rather quickly.
Kadyrov is also believed to have persuaded Chimaev not to retire from MMA in March of 2021 after a particularly acute Covid-19 infection.
And in their most recent encounter, which was captured on film and shared on Instagram, Kadyrov could be seen congratulating Chimaev on his recent victory while also expressing praise for the UFC fighter in accompanying remarks.
Kadyrov told media:
“It was with great pleasure that I met our undefeated fighter and personally congratulated him on his victory. Also, Khamzat did not forget about my commitment to sports and a healthy lifestyle and presented me with memorable gifts in the form of sports equipment.”
“Khamzat is a unique fighter, has a huge arsenal of fighting skills,” Kadyrov continued.
“Over and over again, he pleases us with spectacular fights, leaving no chance of victory for his opponents, who, by an unfortunate coincidence, had a chance to go one on one with him.
“The number of unconditional victories is growing rapidly, in contrast to defeats, the mark of which is invariably at zero. Modest in everyday life, Khamzat, entering the octagon, in an instant transforms into an unstoppable fighter who does not suffer defeat.”
“I sincerely wish Khamzat success in sports activities and once again congratulate him on his bright victory! I am sure that he will achieve great heights and steamroll all the oncoming opponents.”
Chimaev was reportedly addressing Kadyrov in Russian during his octagon interview at UFC 273.
“For those wondering about what Chimaev said in Russian during his post-fight interview, it was, as many expected, a message of support to U.S. sanctioned Chechen warlord and president Ramzan Kadyrov: (h/t to our friends at @vayfond for the translation).”
Kadyrov is a known combat sports lover who has been spotted with undefeated world champions Khabib Nurmagomedov and Floyd Mayweather in the past. He’s was also deeply problematic, even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Kadyrov was also at the core of the conflict between Chimaev and Khabib that was ultimately resolved with Chimaev apologizing.
One of the biggest controversies in terms of Kadyrov and combat sports stemmed from staging an event that held MMA fights between children, which sparked revolt all around the world. Kadyrov’s own underage sons fought in the organization.
At the time, Russian MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko had harsh criticism for Kadyrov (via Tass):
“Participation in the fights on a par with adults may result in irrecoverable harm to the health of children and it will not only put an end to their sports career, but will also inflict both physical and psychological damages.”
Emelianenko’s security was alleged to have been compromised after and he softened his stance considerably.
He’s become even more problematic since – Kadyrov’s forces previously participated in the 2008 war in Georgia in addition to the first phase of the Ukraine conflict back in 2014.
According to Harold Chambers, a North Caucasus analyst, Chechen forces linked to Kadyrov – also known as “Kadyrovtsy” – were part of the convoy that headed to Kyiv and are also in the besieged city Mariupol.
“The Kadyrovtsy in Ukraine have been given conventional objectives (ie, neutralising Ukrainian leadership, counterinsurgency, stopping desertion), while playing a crucial part in Putin’s initial psychological warfare campaign,” Chambers told Al Jazeera.