Last month, HBO’s Real Sports landed a rare western-media interview with Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya who also runs an MMA gym and promotion in the country. The interview was chilling, to say the least.
In it, Kadyrov said he would “condone” violence against homosexuals, who he referred to as “devils” and “subhuman.” Kadyrov scoffed at the widespread reports of kidnapping, torturing and murder of gay men in the region by his regime, while also lobbing several hateful statements towards the United States of America.
Additionally, the Real Sports piece spoke with two anonymous gay Chechen men, both of whom detailed atrocities they alleged were performed against them by Kadyrov’s government, including kidnapping and the electrocution of their genitals.
Kadyrov has close ties to MMA. The Chechen warlord runs the Akhmat Fight Club gym and the Akhmat MMA promotion, both of which are based in the Chechen capital of Grozny. Three Akhmat MMA fighters are currently signed to the UFC, including undefeated flyweight prospect Magomed Bibulatov.
The Real Sports piece detailed Kadyrov’s efforts to use MMA as a means to further his abhorrent agenda and consolidate power in the region, and that has included fostering relationships with several active MMA fighters, including Khabib Nurmagomedov, Fabricio Werdum, Frank Mir, and Chris Weidman, all of whom have visited Kadyrov in Chechnya.
Grozny, Chechnya we are here. pic.twitter.com/7b94y6OS6m— Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) March 14, 2015
Speaking about his 2015 visit to Chechnya, Weidman said recently that the experience was a one-off and he knew nothing about what he was getting into beforehand.
“I have no ties to him,” Weidman said on The MMA Hour. “I went out there, it was a one-time experience. I knew nothing about Chechnya, I just knew that I was going to Russia to do a seminar. Not my manager, but another manager had asked me if I wanted to do it, and obviously it was like a paid thing, and I was like, ‘alright, sounds good, let’s do it.’
“It was an interesting experience, a completely different type of culture than out here. For me, it was a great experience going out there, just seeing a different way of living than what we’re used to here. But yeah, no, I have no ties with him. I haven’t spoken to him since 2015. ... It was a while ago, but I haven’t spoken to him and haven’t been asked to go back out or anything like that, so no, I have nothing to do with him right now.”
Weidman, who defeated Kelvin Gastelum to snap a three-fight losing streak at UFC on FOX 25, responded with a firm no when asked if he represented Kadyrov and Akhmat Fight Club in any way, or had received payment from the warlord since his initial visit.
While it was not clear during the interview if Weidman was aware of Kadrov’s comments or the alleged atrocities carried out by his regime, Weidman said that his own experience in Chechnya was a positive one.
“I mean, he treated us like kings,” Weidman said. “But yeah, it was definitely an interesting experience. They treated us great. They were very respectful. Obviously it was a completely different type of culture, so it was a cool experience to see a different way of living.”