Khamzat Chimaev is coming off the biggest win of his career at UFC 267 last weekend. But in the aftermath the undefeated welterweight was criticized for his links to a Chechen warlord.
Yesterday The New York Times highlighted his connections to Ramzan Kadyrov who is the leader of Chechnya and a key ally to Vladimir Putin. According to the article some broadcasters refused to show Chimaev’s win over Gilbert Burns because they felt his support for a regime allied to Russia was inappropriate.
Chimaev was born in Chechnya but moved to Sweden with his family when he was 18 years old. Kadyrov is a huge MMA fan who has his own promotion and has lavished gifts on his favourite fighters.
Among the gifts that Chimaev has received from Kadyrov is a Mercedes. Some footage of the two men meeting appeared on Twitter last year:
— Bruno Massami (Бруно Массами) (@BrMassami) January 5, 2021
Kadyrov has been accused of human rights abuses, and has made Chechnya one of the worst places on earth for the LGBTQ community. But it is his relationship with Putin that has increased the scrutiny on his relationships with high profile fighters like Chimaev.
According to the New York Times a broadcaster in Poland refused to show the fight with Chimaev and Burns because they felt that by supporting Kadyrov the fighter was supporting the invasion of Ukraine. The fighter himself has yet to comment on what must be a very sensitive topic.
But Chimaev is not the only UFC fighter to find himself facing uncomfortable questions in the wake of a recent win. Mounir Lazzez gave a shout out to Daniel Kinahan after his victory over Ange Loosa at UFC Vegas 51.
Mounir Lazzez was asked about his #UFCVegas51 post-win shoutout of suspected Irish mob boss Daniel Kinahan, who was sanctioned by the U.S. government and had a $5 million bounty placed on his head this week.
Here's what he had to say: pic.twitter.com/Vsf0JTcrhX
— MMA Junkie (@MMAJunkie) April 17, 2022
The timing was unfortunate because it came just a few days after the US government announced sanctions against the Irishman accusing him of being involved in the importation of illegal drugs. Instead of fielding questions about his second UFC win the Tunisian found himself being forced to defend his relationship with Kinahan.
Lazzez, who is based in Dubai, is not the only combat sport star to have links to Kinahan. Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury is probably the most high profile fighter to be connected to the Irishman.
Combat sports have always attracted figures from the world of politics and organized crime. But with more media scrutiny than ever before on these relationships fighters might have to start picking their friends a bit more carefully.