Justin Gaethje is facing some online backlash following a recent trip to Chechnya at the behest of the republic’s dictator Ramzan Kadyrov.
It began when the former UFC interim lightweight champion found himself in a back-and-forth with Dave Portnoy, the founder of sports and pop culture blog Barstool Sports. Gaethje accused Barstool of “bending over” for Paddy Pimblett, a Barstool-sponsored fighter who was victorious in the controversial UFC 282 co-main event on Saturday. Portnoy then responded by claiming that Gaethje “supports a warlord.”
As reported by BloodyElbow, Gaethje, along with former UFC champs Kamaru Usman and Henry Cejudo were pictured testing firearms at the Russian Special Forces University in Chechnya last month.
Footage showed the former champions testing out grenade launchers and assault rifles at the facility, which is primarily used to train soldiers taking part in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov posted a video of former UFC champs Kamaru Usman, Justin Gaethje and Henry Cejudo firing grenade launchers and assault rifles at a special forces facility in Chechnya—a facility that trains Russian soldiers for the country's invasion of Ukraine pic.twitter.com/BxioliBXp4— Karim Zidan (@ZidanSports) November 27, 2022
The fighters later attended a birthday party for one of Kadyrov’s teenage sons.
Despite the various photos and videos identifying the former champs in Chechnya, Gaethje was quick to deny Portnoy’s accusation, referring to it as an “outright lie and slander.” He also claimed that Portnoy was attempting to get him “canceled.”
However, when fans began bombarding Gaethje with pictures and videos of his recent trip to Chechnya, he eventually admitted that he attended Kadyrov’s son’s birthday party and that he likes to “shoot guns.”
In December 2020, the U.S. Department of the Treasury prohibited people doing business in the United States from interacting with several businesses owned by Kadyrov, including his mixed martial arts gym, Akhmat MMA.
The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control cited “extrajudicial killing, torture, or other gross violations” among the reasons for sanctioning Kadyrov.