Chechen dissidents opposed to Ramzan Kadyrov have called out UFC breakout star Khamzat Chimaev for his continued association with the pro-Putin warlord.
1Adat, an anonymous Telegram channel in Chechnya popularly known for its mix of informative humorous, and accusatory content, posted a series of attacks directed at Chimaev, as well as Chechen boxer Artur Beterbiev.
“Ukrainian boxers Lomachenko and Usyk stood up to defend their homeland from the invaders while Beterbiev and Chimaev, who called Kadyrov a brother and convinced people to support Akhmat’s path, keep silent, sitting in America and Europe,” read one of the posts. “Beterbiev suddenly became a Canadian, and Chimaev a Swede. And no one, even for the sake of decency, has renounced his past convictions, but only acts with the maximum personal benefit for himself.”
Kadyrov, who has ruled Chechnya like his personal fiefdom since rising to power in 2007, is routinely accused of orchestrating human rights abuses including assassinations, abductions, torture, extrajudicial killings, and purges targeting the local LGBTQ+ community. He also uses sports such as football and MMA to distract from his ongoing abuses and to help whitewash his image on a global stage, which is why he launched his Akhmat MMA fight club in 2015.
Chimaev visited Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA facility in Grozny on numerous occasions, including June 2019, where he participated in the ‘Extra Rounds’ combat sports talk show and hosted a training seminar for children. A clip of his appearance shows him training at the facility, with a picture of Kadyrov emblazoned along the wall behind him. He regularly donned the club’s attire, which consisted of t-shirt with the Akhmat MMA logo along with a picture of Ramzan Kadyrov’s late father, Akhmad Kadyrov, the former president of Chechnya who was assassinated in 2004.
Following a recent string of impressive performances in the UFC, Chimaev quickly rose to become Kadyrov’s favorite fighter. He gifted Chimaev a luxury Mercedes Benz (which Chimaev promptly crashed), sparred with Chimaev on camera, and posed with the fighter for a photo op on several occasions. Kadyrov also pressured Chimaev not to retire despite health complications arising from COVID-19.
Chimaev was also present when Kadyrov issued a death threat to a 15-year-old Chechen teenager who had spoken out against his repressive regime.
Meanwhile, Beterbiev also has a well-documented history with Kadyrov. Though Beterbiev resides in his adopted hometown of Montreal, Canada, he is a member of Kadyrov’s Akhmat fight club and has been rewarded with expensive cars and lavish goods for in exchange for his continued loyalty to the dictator. Kadyrov even went so far as to name Beterbiev a future world champion.
Despite posting a montage of himself with Kadyrov in January 2021, Beterbiev has not posted about the Chechen dictator since Russia invaded Ukraine last month. Chimaev, too, has refrained from mentioning Kadyrov or the ongoing war in his recent social media posts.
“Where are you, Kadyrov’s athletes? Why are you not on the front lines? Why don’t you all march in droves to Ukraine, leaving behind your golden palaces, expensive foreign cars and a luxurious life?,” continued the 1Adat post. “Suddenly it turned out that ‘the path of Akhmat Kadyrov,’ as we constantly said, is a common cover for traitors, cowards, and hypocrites.”
1Adat is not the first example of Chechen dissidents speaking out against Kadyrov’s UFC fighters. Mansur Sadulaev, the founder of Swedish-based Chechen human rights organization Vayfond, referred to Chimaev as a known “Kadyrovite” and a propaganda tool for the dictator.
“[Kadyrov’s] task is to attract the growing youth on his side, as well as to show the whole world that all Chechens, even those outside Chechnya, are satisfied with him as a leader,” Sadulaev told BloodyElbow at the time. “Propaganda plays a huge role in transforming democracy into dictatorship and also greatly contributes to strengthening the power of the dictator.”
Despite his concerning links to a warlord currently involved in the invasion of Ukraine, Chimaev is scheduled to face Gilbert Burns at UFC 273 on April 9, 2022.