When former World Series of Fighting flyweight champion Magomed Bibulatov steps into the octagon Saturday at UFC 210, a lot of eyes will be on him. For Bibulatov, it’s his UFC debut, something the undefeated flyweight has been aiming towards for some time. At 13-0, he certainly has the resume to make an impact — but one particular set of eyes that will be watching has a lot of people asking questions.
Per reports by The Buffalo News and Bloody Elbow, the debuting Bibulatov has close ties to Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov. How close? On the UFC’s official website, “Chaborz” actually refers to the man as his hero.
My hero is our leader, president of Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadirov.
While it’s not all that surprising that a fighter (or anyone, really) might list their nation’s leader as a hero, Bibulatov’s association with Kadyrov has raised eyebrows due to the country’s current violent crackdown on homosexuals, accusations of human rights violations, and because of the closeness of their relationship. How close? The nickname Chaborz, which translates to “Bear-Wolf” was actually given to Bibulatov by Kadyrov. Per Tim Graham of The Buffalo News, the Chechan leader staged a press conference when the flyweight signed with the UFC.
Speaking to Bloody Elbow in 2016, the fighter referred to his leader as family, stating “I am proud that I have such a brother.” Bibulatov has attended dinners hosted by the leader.
Kadyrov is no stranger to the fight game: He launched Akhmat Fight Club. However, for the UFC, it seems as if it has a public relations nightmare brewing. Reports out of Chechnya indicate that over a hundred gay men have been rounded up, simply disappeared, in recent weeks. The Kadyrov government’s response? A spokesperson told reporters that if gay men existed in the republic, their families would kill them.
If there were such people in the Chechen republic, law enforcement wouldn’t have a problem with them because their relatives would send them to a place of no return.
How, or if, this impacts Bibulatov’s UFC tenure is anyone’s guess. The full report by Bloody Elbow’s Karim Zidan is well worth a read.
UFC 210 goes down Saturday at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. Bibulatov meets Jenel Lausa on the Fight Pass Preliminary portion of the card.