Chechen leader in hot water for televising kids’ mixed martial arts fights that included his sons
Ramzan A. Kadyrov, the leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya, has long sought to project himself as a muscle-bound brawler. He scares critics, wears camouflage and orders women to stay home. Now Kadyrov is publicly indoctrinating his three young sons in how to show off his model of Chechen manhood.
The sons — Akhmad, 10, Eli, 9, and Adam, 8 — were among the fighters in a mixed martial arts tournament broadcast Tuesday on Russian television from Grozny, the Chechen capital.
The child fighters, shirtless and wearing no protection, punched and kicked their young opponents in the head during the spectacle. All three Kadyrov sons won their bouts and received gold belts at the end of the tournament.
Kadyrov, who celebrated his 40th birthday Wednesday, bragged about their exploits, posted some of the fights on his Instagram account and proclaimed that Akhmad, who knocked down his opponent within a few seconds, had shown “real masculine character.”
But many Russians, including officials at the Sports Ministry, were not pleased.
“Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is in hot water,” the Russia Today website reported Thursday, saying video from the event had led to a “massive negative reaction.”
Fedor Emelianenko, perhaps Russia’s best known mixed martial arts fighter, said in remarks quoted by Russian media that bouts with child fighters violated safety rules and “cannot be justified.”
Emelianenko said it was unacceptable to show “little ones as young as 8 beating each other up in front of happy adults.”
Although mixed martial arts is known in Russia as the “fight without rules,” there are some rules. Children under 12 are prohibited from competing in bouts, and any competitor younger than 21 is supposed to wear head protection.
The official Tass News Agency quoted a deputy sports minister, Pavel Kolobkov, as saying that “we will request information on this.”
Whether criticism will have any effect on Kadyrov, who has a penchant for hyperbole and is a big supporter of President Vladimir Putin, is unclear.
On Wednesday, Kadyrov was inaugurated for another term as Chechnya’s leader after having won 98 per cent of the vote in an election last month.
Wednesday also was the premiere on Russian television of a reality program starring Kadyrov that appeared to be modelled on the show of a U.S. favorite of Putin’s — Donald Trump.
The program, called “The Team,” emulates Trump’s “The Apprentice” and features 16 contestants vying to become Kadyrov’s assistant.