Islam Makhachev became the latest UFC champion to be pictured alongside Ramzan Kadyrov after visiting the Chechen dictator last weekend.
After returning to Dagestan to a hero’s welcome last week, the newly crowned UFC lightweight champion made a special visit to Chechnya, where he met with Kadyrov—the tyrant facing U.S. sanctions for well-documented human rights abuses, including forced disappearances, torture, summary executions, and war crimes—for a photo-op with the championship belt.
Makhachev also posed with members of the Akhmat MMA fight club and ACA promotion, both of which are entities under U.S. Treasury sanctions. Also pictured was Abuzayed Vismuradov, the president of the fight club placed on the U.S. Treasury sanctions list in 2018 for “extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” The U.S. government also accused him of an operation that “illegally detained and tortured individuals on the basis of their actual or perceived LGBTI status.”
The pictures were later published by Chechen state media.
Makhachev is far from the first UFC fighter to visit Kadyrov. In the past, notable former UFC champions such as Frank Mir, Chris Weidman, Fabricio Werdum, Frankie Edgar, Kamaru Usman, and Khabib Nurmagomedov have all made appearances alongside the Chechen dictator. Kadyrov has also attended the UFC’s debut event in Moscow, Russia in 2018 and was later present at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi the following year.
While Kadyrov has not attended a UFC event in person since 2019, he continues to maintain a presence within the UFC. UFC star Khamzat Chimaev was pictured alongside Kadyrov’s teenage sons at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi. The teenagers had just returned from Mariupol, the occupied Ukrainian port city destroyed by Russian forces, where they took part in propaganda photo-ops while dressed as soldiers. Footage showed the three teenagers firing grenade launchers and assault rifles from behind camouflaged bushes in an undisclosed location. The teenagers later returned to Chechnya after supposedly capturing three Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs), who were then paraded on Kadyrov’s social media channels.
Kadyrov later posted a screenshot of his son Ali posing alongside UFC president Dana White. He also posted a screenshot on his official Instagram account that showed him on a video call with UFC star Khamzat Chimaev and Abubakar Nurmagomedov, the two fighters involved in a physical altercation following UFC 280. In the caption, Kadyrov proclaimed that the scuffle was a mere “misunderstanding” and that he resolved the dispute between the two fighters.
“There is no problem between Khamzat Chimaev and Abubakr Nurmagomedov—I have made sure of it personally, and I pass this information on to the ill-wishers,” Kadyrov said to his 8.1 million followers on Instagram.