Khabib Nurmagomedov, arguably the UFC’s most popular champion, was pictured alongside Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the Chechen Republic who was recently accused of reigniting his crackdown on the republic’s LGBTQ+ community.
Nurmagomedov, who last defended his lightweight title against Conor McGregor at UFC 229 last October, posted the photo on his official Instagram account along with the caption: “Thank you for the hospitality of Ramzan Akhmatovich. May the Almighty protect you and the entire Chechen people.”
The UFC champion’s photo op with the controversial Kadyrov comes shortly following reports that the dictator’s government has detained several men and women suspected of being gay. Two detainees reportedly died under torture.
Investigative outlet Novaya Gazetya – which was the first media outlet to report on Chechnya’s gay purge in April 2017– confirmed the reports of renewed persecution against the LGBTQ community in Chechnya. The Russian LGBT Network followed suit shortly thereafter, though Chechen officials were quick to reject the reports as “disinformation.”
The reports of rekindled state-sanctioned violence against gay Chechens comes less than two years removed from the 2017 crackdown on Chechnya’s LGBTQ community, where over 100 gay men were detained and subjected to torture. Three of these victims allegedly died in extrajudicial killings during interrogation.
The Chechen government, as well as the Kremlin, denied the reported persecution of LGBTQ+ people in the republic.
“All this, in literary language, is untruth and disinformation. There are no prisons and places of detention in the Chechen Republic that are not part of the FSIN system,” Alvi Karimov, a spokesman for Ramzan Kadyrov, told RBC.
Despite the concerning reports, Nurmagomedov continues to enjoy a friendly relationship with Kadyrov. Following his submission victory against McGregor, Nurmagomedov attended a celebratory dinner with the dictator in Grozny before being made an honorary citizen of Chechnya, the same political stunt that Kadyrov had used on Liverpool and Egypt superstar Mohamed Salah during the 2018 World. The warlord also gifted Nurmagomedov a brand new Mercedes to celebrate his win against McGregor.
During his latest visit to Chechnya, Nurmagomedov’s father, Abdulmanap, was also gifted a brand new Mercedes by Kadyrov. Nurmagomedov shared a picture of his father with the car on Instagram, accompanied by a caption stating that Kadyrov has helped many families in Dagestan.
“You have done a lot of worthy deeds for the people of Dagestan.”