‘50 million people say how bad Israel is’: MMA fighter condemns Nurmagomedov for pro-Palestine posts, ‘laughing’ at media coverage
An Israeli MMA star has claimed that Khabib Nurmagomedov and other fighters who show their support for Palestine "hurt him", accusing them of "watching TV and laughing" before posting about the conflict.
Outspoken UFC icon Nurmagomedov gave his backing to "oppressed Palestinians" earlier this year, telling his vast social media audience – the Dagestani is one of the most followed athletes in the world, with a count of more than 32 million – to pray for them.
The devout Muslim also publicly said that "vengeance" had been taken on Palestinians "because they believe in Allah" following a mosque invasion, while the ex-lightweight king has also portrayed himself in Jerusalem, asked for "understanding" and voiced his wish for peace in the region.
Politically-engaged Nurmagomedov is not the only fighter to have made his views clear. German-Moroccan UFC lightweight Ottman Azaitar expressed his support for Palestine to his Instagram following of almost a million, while unbeaten Khamzat Chimaev produced an image of the Palestinian flag in a now-deleted post and Nurmagomedov's manager, Ali Abdelaziz, issued a message surrounded by Palestinian colors.
Israeli MMA prospect Shimon Smotritsky has been dismayed to see one of the greatest fighters of all time join other combatants in spreading what he views as misinformation about his homeland.
“Of course it hurt me," said the competitor on UFC president Dana White's Contender Series earlier this year, when asked about Nurmagomedov's posts on show The Hands Above, via Championat translation.
"He has a lot of fans, and the fans get it into their heads. They post the wrong information.
"Khabib and all these fighters are sitting somewhere in a hotel in Dubai, eating steak, watching TV and laughing, and then [they make a] post on [their] phone, and 50 million people say how bad Israel is and Palestine is suffering.
"And at this time, 200 meters from my grandmother's house, rockets are blowing up the streets."
A practising Jew who has shown himself carrying out religious rituals on his platform, Smotritsky is a proud patriot who has pledged to win fights "for my people" and issued pre-bout messages such as "stand up Israel" while carrying his national flag.
"I have sacrificed a lot to get to this moment – there is a lot on the line but I will take this opportunity with both hands, represent Israel proudly and give you the best fight of my life," 'The Assassin' told his fans before his first-round defeat to Mike Malott on the Contender Series, which was the first loss of his eight career bouts.
Posting as the conflict worsened in May, the 21-year-old said he would "stand with Israel forever" and used the hashtag "free Israel".
"I am currently at the beginning of training camp ahead of my next battle, far from home, in Russia," he explained.
"But there is nothing I would want more in the world than to be home now with my family, to support them and be with them in these difficult days.
"This hallucinatory reality, a missile that lands and explodes [across] half a street in my city, small children who die, family and friends who have to sit in shelters most of the day because they are bombing non-stop, Arabs who go out to lynch the streets.
"And yet the world sees us as guilty. Every day I am here, dozens of people ask me about the situation in Israel, and all they think is that we are carrying out the terrorist attacks and we are bombing Gaza non-stop, because that is what the world media is showing them.
"And as soon as I show them the videos and explain to them a bit about what is happening in our country they are [onboard with me], because what is happening here is not shown anywhere.
"I can say with confidence that I have already changed the bad opinion about our country to more than 50 people."
Smotritsky pledged to "show and tell as much as possible" in a bid to permanently change what he sees as the majority perspective.
He urged his supporters to share photos and videos of the situation, adding: "Otherwise the world will never support our most basic right – to protect ourselves."Also on rt.com ‘Amen’: MMA fighters back UFC legend Khabib Nurmagomedov after he asks his millions of fans to pray for ‘oppressed Palestinians’