Despite the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is among the few international sports organizations not to impose some form of restrictions on Russian athletes.
According to UFC heavyweight Alexander Volkov, who defeated Jairzinho Rozenstruik with a quick TKO stoppage in the main event of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night, Russian fighters are treated no differently to any other competitor on the roster.
“The UFC didn’t place any restrictions [on Russian fighters],” Volkov told Tass.ru. “The only thing is that they now warn all fighters that it’s impossible [to go out] with the flag. But I didn’t carry the flag before this fight, so it didn’t affect me in any way. So, there are no special recommendations [to the Russian fighters] no.”
Volkov one of 32 competitors from Russia currently signed to the UFC roster, including the likes of Petr Yan, Sergei Pavlovich, Azamat Murzakanov, and Sergey Khandozhko. The UFC also has a handful of fighters affiliated with Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA fight club, such as Magomed Ankalaev, Said Nurmagomedov, Albert Duraev, and Maxim Grishin.
Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the world’s largest nation has transformed into a pariah in the world of sports. Russia’s national and club soccer teams have been banned from international competition, including the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. UEFA also canceled its $45 million a year sponsorship deal with Gazprom, and moved the Champions League Final, which was due to play in Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg, to Paris. The International Paralympic Committee also moved to bar athletes from Russia and Belarus on the eve of the Paralympic Games in Beijing.
For its part, the IOC urged sports bodies to exclude Russian athletes from international competition, stating that there was a need to “protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants.”