The Chechen leader, with strong ties to mixed martial artists in the United States and in his home region, told HBO’s Real Sports in an interview that aired Tuesday night that his government would “condone” violence against homosexuals by their relatives.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya, and his administration have been condemned by the United Nations, among other bodies, for the reported kidnapping, torturing and murder of gay men in the region. Real Sports interviewed two anonymous gay Chechen men and they detailed atrocities performed against them by government leaders, including the electrocution of their genitals.
Kadyrov not only rules over Chechnya, put in power by Russian president Vladimir Putin. He also runs the Akhmat Fight Club gym and the Akhmat MMA promotion in the Chechen capital of Grozny.
Three Akhmat fighters, including top prospect Magomed Bibulatov, are signed to the UFC. Former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum, referred to by Kadyrov in social media posts as “our brother,” has made frequent trips to Chechnya. Chris Weidman and Frank Mir, two former UFC champions, and Khabib Nurmagomedov have also visited. Floyd Mayweather and Mike Tyson have both gone to Chechnya and been photographed by Kadyrov for his Instagram page.
Grozny, Chechnya we are here. pic.twitter.com/7b94y6OS6m— Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) March 14, 2015
In the interview, Kadyrov denied the human rights violations against homosexuals, saying that those who made it up are “devils” and “subhuman.” However, he doubled down on his anti-LGBT rhetoric, claiming that there are no gay men in Chechnya.
“This is nonsense,” Kadyrov said. “We don't have such people here. We don't have any gays. If there are any, take them to Canada. Praise be to God. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them.”
“Honor killings,” or the murder of relatives due to the belief that the victim has brought shame to the family, are illegal in Russia and Chechnya. But Kadyrov said his administration would look the other way when it came to homosexuals.
“If we have such people here, then I’m telling you officially, their relatives won’t let them be, because of our faith, our mentality, customs and traditions,” said Kadyrov, who has ruled the Muslim republic since 2007 after the assassination of his father. “Even if it’s punishable under the law, we would still condone it.”
Дорогие друзья! В Чечню по моему приглашению прибыл чемпион мира в пяти весовых категориях, легенда бокса, не знающий горечь поражений Флойд Мейвезер. Вместе с гостем мы посетили многофункциональный спорткомплекс клуба "Ахмат" в Гудермесе. Мейвезер ознакомился с тренировочным процессом, посмотрел показательные выступления боксеров и бойцов ММА, пообщался со спортсменами. Он высоко оценил условия, созданные для развития единоборств в Чечне. Гость остался под приятным впечатлением от общения с людьми и увиденной в Грозном, Гудермесе и Аргуне картины. Флойд намерен совершить в республику повторный визит и пригласить команду тренеров по боксу и ММА из США. Надеюсь, что наше сотрудничество будет носить долгосрочный и продуктивный характер. Уверен, опыт такого великого спортсмена будет бесценен для воспитанников клуба "Ахмат". #Кадыров #Россия #Чечня #Бокс #Мейвезер #ММА
Another well-known MMA promoter from Chechnya, Mairbek Khasiev, wrote on Instagram last month that he decided not to pursue a Nike sponsorship for his Absolute Championship Berkut organization because Nike dropped Manny Pacquiao for anti-gay remarks.
“Sometimes the devil is afraid of the thoughts within a f*ggot’s head,” wrote Khasiev, who has ties to Kadyrov.
According to journalists interviewed for the HBO piece, including Karim Zidan of SBNation’s Bloody Elbow, Kadyrov has used MMA as a political boon and also a breeding ground for future soldiers. Chechnya has been in a constant state of war for generations and most people in the country have grown up around bombings and attacks. Kadyrov has equated MMA with that strength and toughness calloused from war and used it to further his power.
“This is how they teach us from childhood,” Kadyrov said. “My father told me when I was a little boy, if you're coming home because you got scared, don’t come home. I have no need for you. You're not a girl, you're a man.
“While a Jewish parent might say to their child, ‘You’ll be a professor, a scientist,’ here our parents say, ‘He's going to be a warrior.’”
Kadyrov said his end game with MMA is to “bring all your American MMA belts back to Grozny.”
He added: “Our motto is: Death is better than second place.”
Наш дорогой БРАТ Фабрицио Вердум @werdum , представляющий бойцовский Клуб "Ахмат" @akhmat_mma готов встретиться в Лас-Вегасе с Алистаром Овериом. Поединок пройдёт в рамках бойцовского шоу UFC213 на "T-Mobile Arena". Болельщики всего мира с нетерпением ждут "Битву титанов". Шоу можно посмотреть на МатчТВ, а также на сайте МатчТВ. Начало главных боёв турнира ориентировочно 05.30 по МСК. Желаем победы! #Кадыров #Вердум #Спорт
The dictator even laid out a challenge of sorts to the UFC.
“We propose that UFC and Akhmat face off in a tournament,” Kadyrov said. “And we’ll see who has the strongest fighters. I think it would be quite a spectacle. They would fight to the end. A fight to the death.”
Kadyrov’s exploits and ties to MMA have been published in outlets like Deadspin and Bloody Elbow. Zidan has chronicled Bibulatov’s relationship with Kadyrov and the timing of his UFC debut at UFC 210 in April and the Kadyrov regime’s abuses against gays.
Kadyrov seems to have a similar view of America as he has to the UFC, alluding to another potential “fight to the death.”
“America is carrying out policies against Russia and its leadership,” Kadyrov said. “They know that I’m among those ready to give my life for Russia and that I have a good army capable of attacking and defending. We’ll see who comes out on top.
“America is not really a strong enough state for us to regard it as an enemy of Russia. We have a strong government and are a nuclear power. Even if they completely destroy our government, our nuclear missiles will launch automatically. We will turn the whole world over and screw it from behind.”
To the claims that he is a dictator, Kadyrov says it is not true and the people saying such things are “devils.” Officials in Kadyrov’s government have made overtures of violence against journalists writing about the current situation in Chechnya. One female journalist known for her coverage of Chechnya and Kadyrov, Anna Politkovskay, was gunned down and murdered in 2006.
“It should be clear to you this this is a completely democratic republic,” Kadyrov told the interviewer, David Scott. “There is freedom of speech. The people are happy. Absolutely everything they say about us is nonsense.”