UFC stars occasionally find themselves in hot water over their visits to Chechnya and interactions with its leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. While many of these stars have Russian roots, some US stars have been enticed by the financial incentives offered, raising eyebrows and controversy in the MMA community.
Prominent fighters like Kamaru Usman, Henry Cejudo, and Justin Gaethje have visited Kadyrov in the past. Gaethje, in particular, faced criticism for his participation in Kadyrov’s events, particularly his son’s birthday party.
Despite the backlash, Gaethje defended his decision and blamed the liberal MMA media for their treatment of the situation.
Sean O’Malley stands out as a rare star who declined Kadyrov’s invitation. On his podcast, O’Malley revealed that he and his team were skeptical about the purpose of the visit and didn’t receive satisfactory answers. O’Malley firmly rejected the offer, pointing out Kadyrov’s controversial reputation as a close ally of Vladimir Putin and accusations of wrongdoing.
“The reason we never ended up going is because we were saying who is this for and we didn’t really get an answer. So I’m like fu*k that… They [Cejudo and Gaethje] went over to like Chechnya, the guy [Ramzan Kadyrov] is like a murderer basically, the top dog, best friend with [Vladimir] Putin. Not like a good person… They went there to his kid’s birthday party and that’s where I got invited to go.”
The connection with Kadyrov might have played a role in Khamzat Chimaev’s struggles to obtain a US visa for competition over the past year. While UFC President Dana White didn’t explicitly confirm that citizenship issues were to blame, he suggested that they could have been a factor.
This situation took an interesting turn when Chimaev delivered a warcry in Chechen during his victory speech at UFC 294 and pledged allegiance to Kadyrov, further fueling the controversy.
The visits of UFC stars to Chechnya and their involvement with Ramzan Kadyrov remain a contentious topic in the world of mixed martial arts, raising questions about the implications of their interactions with the controversial political figure.