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Khabib Nurmagomedov speaks at NGO founded by Saudi Prince accused of journalist’s murder

The UFC lightweight champion spoke at the MiSK foundation in Saudi Arabia, an NGO founded and named after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

Since defending his title against former two division champion Conor McGregor at UFC 229 in October, Khabib Nurmagomedov has been on an extended victory tour across the world. Over the course of the past two months, the UFC lightweight champion has visited world leaders in Russia, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, as well as members of the Bahrain and United Arab Emirates royal families. Most recently, Nurmagomedov visited Saudi Arabia, where he spoke at a non-profit organization founded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

On December 1st, Nurmagomedov was one of the guest speakers at MiSK Talk, an event hosted by the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz [MiSK] foundation that brings in inspirational figures to talk about their life experiences and journeys. As the first Muslim UFC champion, Nurmagomedov’s was a natural fit for the Saudi-based talk and joined the likes of other speakers such as Dr. Malak Al-Thaqafi, a Saudi research in genetic diseases, and Saudi Karate champion Emad Al-Maliki.

“My belief in my abilities is far greater than my opponent because I believe in God,” Nurmagomedov said, according to a report from the event. “There are a lot of social activities where my friends do not participate and they accept it because they respect my principles and the way I live as a Muslim rather than a disciplined athlete.”

According to its official website, MiSK is a non-profit foundation “devoted to cultivating learning and leadership in youth for the Saudi Arabia of tomorrow.” Emboldened by the Vision 2030 initiative that aims to curb Saudi’s economic dependency on oil, the MiSK foundation focuses on investing in Saudi youth by “building a society of knowledge.” The organization was founded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who remains the chairman of the board.

For the past several months, the Crown Prince has been accused of ordering the assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Reports later confirmed that the Saudi government was responsible for the torture, assassination, and subsequent dismemberment of Khashoggi and that the Saudi government was forced to take action against several of its citizens involved in the brutal murder.

Khashoggi, a Saudi national with permanent resident status in the U.S., lived in Virginia and worked as a columnist for the Washington Post until his disappearance at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd, 2018. He was a prominent critic of Saudi crown prince Mohamed bin Salman (known as MBS) and regime’s brutal oppression of basic human rights, which likely made him a government target.

Khashoggi’s disappearance and it subsequent backlash from the international community also caused several high-profile sponsors, media partners and speakers to withdraw from the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh. Even UFC parent company Endeavor pulled out of a $400 million deal with the kingdom following the reports. However, this did not stop Nurmagomedov from visiting Saudi and speaking at an event hosted by the Crown Prince’s personal foundation.

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