iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) — Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of Chechnya, has provoked uproar in Russia after organizing a tournament in which his pre-teen sons fought with other young children in bouts of MMA, the exceptionally violent form of competitive fighting that involves few rules and almost no protective gear.
Kadyrov’s sons, Akhmad, 10, Zelimkhan, 9, and Adam, 8, took to the ring along with other children in a large stadium in Chechnya’s capital to battle each other in front of the Chechen strongman and other officials.
A keen MMA fan himself, Kadyrov posted on his Instagram account a video of the event, showing the children arriving into the ring wearing miniature boxing robes, cheered on by a large crowd, before taking part in what appeared to be full-blooded MMA matches.
MMA, or mixed martial arts, allows fighters to kick and punch each other in the head; fighters do not wear gloves or head-protection.
The event, held on the eve of Kadyrov’s birthday, was broadcast on Russian state television’s sports network. The winner, Kadyrov’s son Adam, was presented with a championship belt by the head of Chechnya’s parliament.
The tournament has prompted consternation in Russia’s media and on social networks, with people expressing outrage that children were fighting in a sport considered violent even for adults.
The head of Russia’s MMA union, Fedor Emelyanenko, criticized the fight, saying it was against the sport’s rules for children under-12 to fight.
“There were little boys, who were 8 years old, beating each other around the eyes for the delight of adults. Is it really so important to organize a show at the cost of children’s health?!” Emelyanenko wrote on his Instagram account.
The clamor around the fight elicited a response from the Kremlin, which said authorities should investigate it and why it was broadcast on state television. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the apparent “technical knock-out” of a 10-year-old meant oversight agencies ought to examine the event, the news agency Interfax reported.
Kadyrov, who was appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to run Chechnya after his father was assassinated in 2007, runs the republic as his personal fiefdom and revels in a public image as a Rambo-esque fighter, using his Instagram to post videos of himself wrestling and praising combat as the path to moral rectitude.
The MMA scandal appeared to be morphing into the latest in a series of minor tests of authority between Chechen and Russian federal authorities. Chechen officials were so far unapologetic. A Chechen lawmaker close to Kadyrov issued a tirade against Emelyanenko and promised to keep holding similar competitions. The lawmaker, Adam Delimkhanov, has been linked to political assassinations, including that of the opposition politician, Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead in front of the Kremlin in March 2015.
Delimkhanov’s closing threat that Emelyanenko “will have to answer for every word” was therefore taken by some as more than just heated verbiage.
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