Politics could deprive world of Russian MMA stars, warns Khabib manager
MMA manager Ali Abdelaziz says that the ongoing political climate surrounding Russia's military operation in Ukraine is affecting Russian fighters, and could lead to fewer opportunities for the next up-and-coming fighters to emerge from the region.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) urged other major sporting bodies to impose restrictions on Russia and its athletes in the wake of the military campaign launched in late February, which has so far seen Russian athletes impacted in various sports including football, tennis and others.
This has made it increasingly difficult for Russian sports stars - as well as those from Belarus - to gain visas to compete overseas, and Abdelaziz fears that this could have long-lasting consequences for Russian MMA.
"This whole political thing [is] affecting a lot of Russian athletes, especially guys from Dagestan, Chechnya and the Caucasus, and nobody [is] talking about it. It’s sad because these guys did nothing wrong. It’s extremely hard to get visas for these guys," Abdelaziz, who is the CEO of management group Dominance MMA, wrote on Twitter.
"And I know many Khabib[s], many Islam[s] and many Zabit[s] will come from this region, and I know if you still giving opportunities for these guys, I respect you very much and you know yourself and if you don’t I completely understand too."
This whole political thing affecting a lot of Russian athletes, especially guys from Dagestan, Chechnya and the Caucuses, and nobody talking about it. It’s sad because these guys did nothing wrong. It’s extremely hard to get Visas for these guys.— Ali Abdelaziz (@AliAbdelaziz00) June 16, 2022
And I know many Khabib, many Islam and many Zabit will come from this region, and I know if you still giving opportunities for these guys, I respect you very much and you know yourself and if you don’t I completely understand too https://t.co/1iEYVLHr6e— Ali Abdelaziz (@AliAbdelaziz00) June 16, 2022
Central to Abdelaziz's point is that the opportunity to compete outside of their native country was crucial to the development of top-level Russian fighting talent like Khabib Nurmagomedov, Islam Makhachev and the recently retired Zabit Magomedsharipov, and he fears that if young Russian combat sports athletes are restricted from doing the same it could negatively impact Russian MMA as a whole.
It remains to be seen exactly which fighters are having trouble obtaining visas, although Moscow heavyweight Alexander Volkov indicated that he had trouble gaining entry to the United Kingdom for his UFC London fight with Tom Aspinall in March before he landed in London.
Russian sports has also seen sanctions placed upon them by the organizers of tennis showpiece Wimbledon, which banned the likes of world number one Daniil Medvedev from playing on their grass courts this summer.
Football authorities have also expressed opposition to the military campaign in Ukraine, effectively barring Russia from this year's World Cup in Qatar and stripping St. Petersburg of the hosting rights of last season's Champions League final.
However, a glance at the upcoming UFC schedule shows that while it may be difficult to obtain a visa it is not impossible, with Russian fighters Damir Ismagulov and Albert Duraev set to fight on the UFC's Saturday card in Austin, Texas.