Reports Alex Emelianenko converted to Islam denied despite Saudi Arabia visit

Russian MMA star Alexander Emelianenko recently spent 7 months in a rehabilitation center in Ingushetia struggling with drinking.

Pictures of him wearing traditional Arab clothing and referring to himself as “Abu Bakr” during a visit to Saudi Arabia led many to speculate he had converted to Islam.

However, in an interview with Russian sports journalist Riy Andreev, the head of Ingushetia’s Boxing Federation Gazgiriev clarified that Emelianenko remains a Christian. Gazgiriev is the one that brought Alex to the Islamic center that helped him quite drinking.

Although Emelianenko has great respect for Muslim culture and the region has embraced him as an honorary citizen, Emelianenko has not abandoned his faith.

“He is a Christian believer. He reads his prayers. We brought him to the Bible. He knows that we will take him to the Bible,” explained Gazdereev when asked whether Emelianenko had accepted Islam while in rehab in the predominantly Muslim Russian republic.

Gazdereev emphasized that Emelianenko ‘s beliefs do not impact how the people of Ingushetia view him. “What’s the difference? He is a normal guy. He will come to what he is destined for in life,” Gazdereev said. The boxer is admired across the Caucasus as an MMA legend, regardless of religious differences.

Alexander Emelianenko sparked controversy after visiting the holy city of Medina and referring to himself as “Abu Bakr” while wearing traditional Arab clothing. His actions caused a fierce public backlash by leading many to believe the Christian athlete had converted to Islam.

Pictures emerged showing the fighter trying on a thobe and gutra head scarf near the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. In the captions, Emelyanenko called himself “Abu Bakr”—a reference to the father-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad.

Given Abu Bakr’s significance as the first righteous caliph in Sunni Islam, many found Emelyanenko’s choice to adopt the name offensive and disrespectful. The head of Ingushetia’s Boxing Federation, Lomali Gazdereev, acknowledged the outrage sparked by Emelyanenko’s actions in Medina during an interview with Andreev.

“Many people have made a conclusion that since he is in Medina, he definitely accepted Islam,” said Gazdereev. However, the boxing official definitively confirmed Emelyanenko remains a devout Christian.

Rumors first started after Emelianenko sent Fedor a birthday message from the Islamic center.