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Russian fighter’s coach sports neo-Nazi symbol during UFC broadcast

Karim Zidan delves into the Sonnenrad tattoo that was visible on Roman Bogatov’s coach during the UFC 251 broadcast and why it is widely accepted as an extremist Nazi symbol. 

The UFC’s ‘Fight Island’ venture — a four-event showcase set in pseudo-isolation on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi — has been marred with yet another controversy.

During a UFC 251 preliminary bout between Roman Bogatov and Leonardo Santos — a fight that saw the Russian fighter get deducted two points for multiple low blows and an illegal knee — Bogatov’s coach, Aleksey Kiser, appeared on the ESPN/ESPN+ broadcast sporting an Nazi symbol on his right elbow.

The symbol is known as the Schwarze Sonne (Black Sun) — aka the sonnerad — and is synonymous with far-right groups that traffic in neo-Nazi ideologies. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the symbol is based on the ancient sun wheel artifacts that were used by Norse and Germanic tribes as symbols of pagan beliefs. However, those ancient symbols do not resemble the complex symbol of the contemporary Black Sun, which was coopted by Himmler, the main architect of the Holocaust.

The version of the Black Sun that is visible on Kiser’s elbow is the same one that Himmler had inlayed into the marble floor of the Wewelsburg, the ancient castle that housed the SS during the Third Reich.

The symbol was visible between rounds during the UFC broadcast on ESPN/ESPN+.

Kiser, 28, is a heavyweight fighter with a 10-4 professional record, which includes a five-fight win streak in the Azerbaijan-based Ased Fighting Championships promotion. His first professional loss took place in 2014 when he competed for White Rex, a notorious neo-Nazi MMA promotion turned clothing brand that continues to operate within Russia and Ukraine.

Founded in 2008, White Rex is a Russian clothing brand that appeals to fans of combat sports. The company produces shirts, hoodies, pants, sports gear, and other items branded with fascist and neo-Nazi symbols. Occasionally, the symbols are disguised, but not always; indeed, they have produced t-shirts that clearly show the black sun and swastika amalgamated into a single symbol. Some of the White Rex shirts openly state slogans such as “Zero Tolerance,” “Angry Europeans,” and “White Rex Against Tolerance.” Others, including women’s wear, sport symbols such as “88,” which stands for “Heil Hitler.”

On October 4, 2013, White Rex ventured to Moscow for its first pro MMA tournament and dubbed the event ‘Birth of a Nation,’ which is a reference to the title of the racist 1915 silent film. The movie, which romanticized the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), is credited as pivotal inspiration for the formation of the second era of the KKK later in that same year. Kiser competed for this promotion the following year.

White Rex’s brand logo also used a Black Sun, which was amalgamated with a warrior helmet in the centre, leaving little doubt of the organization’s neo-Nazi fuelled ideology.

Here is Kiser sporting White Rex’s Black Sun logo on his shorts during a seminar session with legendary Russian heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko.

Aleksey Kiser training with Fedor Emelianenko

Kiser’s social media page is also filled with clearer images of his Black Sun symbol.

Speaking to BloodyElbow through his official Instagram page, Kiser defended his extremist tattoo, instead claiming it was a Slavic pagan symbol, “For you, it has one meaning, for me as a Slavic [person] another! Not a single colored person has been harmed by me. I have nothing to do with this. You overreact and look for a grain of discord where there is none.”

The Slavic symbol that Kiser is referring to is the Kolovrat, which some claim is an Early Slavic pagan symbol of the sun that was engraved on final resting places or wooden monuments. However, the Kolovrat — literally spinning wheel — was also used to denote a swastika and has been co-opted by neo-Nazis, and has been used by militant groups, as well as the Christchurch mosque shooter in New Zealand.

When pushed on the extremist ideology linked to the Kolovrat, Kiser responded, “For you this has one meaning, for me another. Let us close this subject!?”

The Russian fighter then directed me to an Instagram post on his profile that showed screenshots of his conversation with Chisanga Malata, an MMA journalist with the Daily and Sunday Express. The screenshots showed Malata apologizing for identifying Kiser’s tattoo as a neo-Nazi symbol (which it is), while the caption suggested the fighter’s intent to sue for “moral compensation.”

Kiser also claimed that he almost had an opportunity to fight on short notice for the UFC on Fight Island on July 18 but had his offer rescinded when the promotion was informed about the tattoo. The UFC has yet to confirm this claim.

However, despite Kiser’s attempt to feign ignorance as to the extremist connotations of his tattoo, and his attempt to threaten a journalist for stating facts, Kiser’s tattoo is still the exact same design that was propagated by Himmler during the Third Reich, and the same symbol that continues to be used widely by neo-Nazis. Kiser has also represented White Rex, a notorious neo-Nazi fight club and clothing brand, by competing for the promotion and wearing their clothing emblazoned with extremist symbols. Even his social media account is littered with concerning content, including a shared post on the importance of paganism in Russia that carried the anti-Semitic statement “the Jewish God cannot be the god of Russians.”

This is not the first time that the UFC has been forced to deal with a potential neo-Nazi on their roster since arriving on Fight Island. Last week, the UFC rescinded its offer to Timo Feucht, a German light-heavyweight who was affiliated to a neo-Nazi linked fight club in Germany.

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