Islam Makhachev is the latest high profile UFC athlete to make it to visit Chechen leader’s club and show off his belt.
In another corner of the world the rules are set by Ramzan Kadyrov. Kadyrov is the ruler of Chechnya and a huge patron of mixed martial arts. But he’s also someone who is suspected of orchestrating the kidnapping and death of several individuals in Chechnya. While Kadyrov publicly denies these accusations there’s a track record to speak of. And it doesn’t bother most UFC stars one bit.
The visit was most likely arranged during the recent ‘truce’ facilitated by Kadyrov. After Chechen star Khamzat Chimaev got physical at UFC280 in Abu Dhabi, both sides were made to sit down and bury the hatchet during a joint meal.
Abubakar Nurmagomedov and Chimaev even facetimed the man together.
Khabib dismissed the conflict between the two sides wishing to focus on other things. But Khabib was once a Kadyrov favorite.
In 2018 Khabib Nurmagomedov met with Ramzan Kadyrov and attended a dinner in his honor. Khabib was made an honorary citizen of Chechnya and was gifted a brand new Mercedes by the dictator.
This is very similar to how Kadyrov would treat Khamzat Chimaev several years later.
People often talk about sportswashing with high profile athletes hanging out with controversial figures.
Ahead of the visit, Makhachev was asked about if there are plans to train with Chimaev. He shot down the reports telling TASS:
“We train in different clubs. So far there have been no plans or negotiations on joint training,”
Recently Belal Muhammad joined Khabib’s camp. Muhammad is one of the potential opponents Chimaev can face in the Welterweight division, if he were to stay there.
Considering that Khamzat Chimaev daily shares Kadyrov content on his social media profiles, there’s not much backlash against Makhachav though Ariel Helwani made an interesting point earlier.
Helwani said the following during a Q and A segment on the MMA Hour:
“Are we supposed to just separate those feelings and just appreciate the fighters? To a degree, people want to be dismissed because of their politics… but there has to be a line. I agree there’s a line,” Helwani stated.
“I just don’t know in this regard what that line is… They’re taking pictures with someone who isn’t a friend to the United States and isn’t viewed as a good guy… What are you supposed to do then?”
“On one hand, UFC says, ‘Hey, everyone’s viewpoints are welcome here.’ But it does seem as though there has to be a line, and it seems as though they’ll draw a line when it benefits them,” Helwani added. “It’s uncomfortable… it feels more and more prevalent in this sport.”
“There are people that are gonna come from certain parts of the world, that aren’t gonna mesh with how we feel,” Helwani said.
“The beauty of it is, you can pick and choose who you want to support, who you want to root for, who you want to pay money to watch. That’s the best you can do, that’s really it.”
“You don’t wanna buy a Khamzat fight? Don’t buy it. That’s really the only thing you can do. He’s not gonna stop being friends with this guy or his family because of you, or I, or anyone else. Only thing you can do is just not watch.”