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Manager Ali Abdelaziz discusses Khabib Nurmagomedov’s interactions with Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov

Earlier this month, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov traveled to Chechnya during the holy month of Ramadan to attend a meal at the invitation of Chechen autocrat Ramzan Kadyrov. Nurmagomedov was accompanied by fellow MMA fighter Shamil Zavurov and posted a video recounting the night on his Instagram feed.

It was not the first time Nurmagomedov has served as a guest of Kadyrov, the controversial leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya whose administration has been condemned by the United Nations, among other bodies, for the reported kidnapping, torturing, and murder of gay men in the region. Nurmagomedov’s recent visit came amidst reports of Kadyrov levying another round of atrocities on the LGBTQ+ community in the area.

On Monday, Nurmagomedov’s manager Ali Abdelaziz joined MMA Fighting’s Luke Thomas as an in-studio guest on The MMA Hour and discussed Nurmagomedov’s relationship with the controversial Chechen warlord. That conversation can be read in full below.

Luke Thomas: “Last week, [Nurmagomedov] sat down and met with Ramzan Kadyrov. Now again, it’s a complicated scenario and I acknowledge it’s complicated — I do, I mean that sincerely, I’m not trolling you — but if you’re a gay MMA fan or an MMA fan generally, how should they view Khabib in that light? Because when Khabib is here, he’s Mr. Respect. Again, the whole thing with McGregor, they get ugly with each other, but everybody else, he doesn’t [treat them disrespectfully]. But that’s an unfortunate association to have.”

Ali Abdelaziz: “Listen, at the end of the day, if you go meet Donald Trump, if Donald Trump said [come meet me], it’s different, right? Certain things — if (Vladimir) Putin said to come here, you have to go there. We have certain rights in this country. We can to say everybody, ‘eff off,’ whatever, stuff like that. But a certain part of this culture [in the Russian region] is about respect and is about [respecting] the elders. It’s not only politics, but at the end of the day, I don’t know what Ramzan Kadyrov is about; gay, gay not.”

LT: “Human rights observers say that he has instituted a gay purge in Chechnya.”

AA: “Listen, human rights said that in Iraq a lot of people were sexually abused, but I don’t believe — listen, at the end of the day, I don’t know. It’s politics, right? And I know people mix politics with sports all the time. And I think Russia has sanctions and the United States has sanctions against Russia. I think we hear it on CNN. Like, you’re watching CNN…

LT: “I don’t watch CNN.”

AA: “People, the whole thing is they expose certain people, but what about us? I look at myself in the mirror. The way Khabib treats people and the way I treat people, if somebody comes to me talking about, ‘Luke is this and Luke is this and Luke is this,’ I don’t care, and Khabib doesn’t care. The way you treat me, the way he treats you, this is our relationship. Right? If you don’t disrespect me…but this is where we come from.”

LT: “No, I understand. And Khabib, every time I’ve ever interacted with him, [he’s] been professional as can be. I’m just saying…

AA: “Khabib’s one of the nicest, most loyal, most respectful human beings you’ll ever meet.”

LT: “One-hundred percent. Understand what I’m asking. I’m not asking you if he’s a bad person, because I don’t think that. What I’m asking is, I don’t have friends like that. So how do you explain that?”

AA: “But the whole thing is, everybody said, ‘Ramzan does this, Ramzan this, Ramzan this,’ right? At the end of the day, it’s not our business what he does, because we don’t…”

LT: “It kinda is.”

AA: “But in a way, I don’t know the guy. I never met the guy. You understand? He lives an hour from Khabib, right? And I think [Nurmagomedov] went there because somebody died, actually. Like, somebody’s mother had died and Khabib went to Chechnya, right? You understand? And if a guy there, he’s a president of a country, you’re going to shake my hand or shake my father’s hand? What am I going to say, I’m not going your hand and I’m in your country? Can you do that? Even if you want — let me tell you something — even if you want, you cannot.”

LT: “I acknowledge that. And that part of the world is totally different. I get it.”

AA: “But you understand? Even if you don’t want to shake somebody’s hand, I bet you…”

LT: “I just think if you’re a fan that’s watching this and you’re a gay UFC fan, I just don’t think that’s a satisfying answer.”

AA: “But the whole thing is, I don’t know what’s his position. I don’t know, against gay, not gay.”

LT: “You never talked to him about it?”

AA: “Talked to who?”

LT: “Khabib.”

AA: “We don’t talk about these kind of things.”

LT: “I’m just asking. I don’t know, I don’t know.”

AA: “But the whole thing is, a lot of people say a lot of shit. Right? I don’t know what this man in Chechnya thinks about gay, not gay. But the whole thing is, I don’t know nothing about it, because I don’t believe anything the media says. I don’t see it with my eyes, I don’t believe it. Right? But at the end of the day, listen, if there’s smoke, there’s a fire. And everybody from this side of the world, right, if you’re in Egypt, if you’re in Lebanon — some places it’s okay to be this way, [some places] it’s not okay to be this way. And this is their culture, right? But at the end of the day, I’m going to judge my actions toward people. You never see Khabib with a crazy statement talking about women or a gay [person]. He never does that, because at the end of the day, he minds his own business, he does his thing. Like you said, he’s a very respectful guy, right? But at the end of the day, if it’s a leader, if you go to a country — if you go to Chechnya, right, and you have the president of Chechnya…”

LT: “I understand, they put pressure on you. I get it. I get it, I get it. I acknowledge upfront it’s complicated scenario.”

AA: “It is.”

LT: “I’m just trying to think of what MMA fans [would think] who might be in the United States who look at it like, that’s really not okay…that’s kinda f*cked up.”

AA: “At the end of the day, I really don’t know the deep down truth to everything.”

LT: “Alright.”

AA: “And listen, I’m okay with you bringing it up to talk about it. It’s alright, it’s no problem. It’s your job.”

LT: “Thank you, I appreciate that. Let’s talk about Kayla Harrison.”

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