The presence of Ramzan Kadyrov in the front row of the UFC’s first show in Moscow highlights a troubling link between the Chechen strongman and the world’s largest MMA promotion

On Saturday 15 September, Ramzan Kadyrov walked into Moscow’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium to watch the evening’s fights. Dressed in beige jeans and a white t-shirt with a matching jacket, the notorious Chechen strongman was surrounded by three of his most loyal henchmen – one of whom has been accused of torture and another of plotting an assassination – as he made his way to the front row of the 35,000-capacity arena. Seated just a few feet away from the cage, Kadyrov and his cronies watched the evening’s fights in an entirely new setting. Though used to attending mixed martial arts events on a near-weekly basis in his native Chechnya, this was the first time that Kadyrov was present at a Ultimate Fighting Championship show.

Given Kadyrov’s well-documented human rights abuses – the most recent of which includes a deadly crackdown on LGBTQ+ people within Chechnya resulting in torture and summary executions – his presence in the front row of a UFC event highlights a concerning link between the dictator and the world’s largest MMA promotion.

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