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Khabib Nurmagomedov retained his UFC lightweight title against Dustin Poirier at UFC 242.
It was not a surprise. It is difficult to imagine anyone overcoming Nurmagomedov by traditional means, at least anytime soon. When that belt finds a new home, it will be the result of some kind of fuckery.
The real surprise of UFC 242 was the cageside presence of Chechyan warlord Ramzan Kadyrov, who I wrote about earlier this week.
It was Kadyrov’s second time at a live UFC event, which was news to me. He’d attended the September 2018 UFC card in Russia in support of Magomed Ankhalaev, a light heavyweight from Kadyrov’s personal MMA team. Kadyrov sat on the front row that day. Multiple sources confirmed that the dictator was not comped a ticket for that event, nor was he an invited guest of the promotion. Rather, he was given a ticket purchased for him by a local promoter.
His appearance at UFC 242 was similar in nature. Kadyrov was not an invited guest by the UFC or the UAE. Sources told me the promotion did not know he was coming, but UFC officials declined to confirm when contacted multiple times on Saturday afternoon. Kadyrov has no sanctions in the UAE, and thus is treated as a President and not a war criminal and human rights violator. His ticket was purchased by an associate.
Though they would not prevent him from attending, UFC officials were concerned that he might accidentally appear on screen, even in passing. Ministerial officials addressed those concerns by seating Kadyrov, his men and the ministerial-level sheikh escorting the group away from the production team’s regular camera angles. It worked, mostly; Kadyrov could be glimpsed several times during the broadcast, but only briefly.
And in what may be sheer coincidence or just deliciously subtle trolling, Kadyrov ended up seated next to Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of State for Tolerance.
Kadyrov’s ties with Nurmagomedov are complicated and extend far beyond the sporting arena. Karim Zidan has written excellent feature after excellent feature on the subject, and I urge you to read his work, for I am incapable of doing the subject justice.
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