Televised kids’ MMA bouts prompt concerns in Russia

Associated Press

Moscow — The Moscow-backed leader of the Russian region of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, faced criticism Wednesday after his sons took part in televised mixed martial arts fights involving children as young as eight.

Mixed martial arts fights involving children as young as age 8 were called “unacceptable” by leading Russian MMA pro Fedor Emelianenko.

One of Kadyrov’s sons, 10-year-old Akhmad, beat another boy by a technical knockout in the cage during a so-called exhibition bout on a nationally televised fight card Tuesday, while his younger brothers Eli and Adam also won their fights as a crowd of adults in the hall cheered them on.

The children walked into the ring with background music, were announced in the same way as pro fighters and were rewarded with belts when they won, with their father looking on. The TV broadcast from the Chechen capital Grozny was chiefly focused on adult bouts, but featured professional commentary and graphics introducing the child fighters.

Kadyrov was inaugurated Wednesday to a new term as Chechnya’s leader on his 40th birthday.

Leading Russian MMA pro Fedor Emelianenko called the fights “unacceptable” and dangerous in a statement on his Instagram page, and said the children risked permanent injury and psychological harm.

Chechen regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov, center, posted videos of the fights of his sons involving kids as young as eight to his own Instagram page along with congratulatory comments for his boys.

“What happened at the tournament in Grozny is unacceptable and, moreover, cannot be justified,” said Emelianenko, who heads the Russian MMA Union. “There were little ones, eight years old, punching each other in front of happy adults. Is it really so important for you to organize a spectacle at the cost of children’s health?!”

Kadyrov posted videos of the fights to his own Instagram page along with congratulatory comments for his sons. A defeated 10-year-old opponent “showed real masculine character,” Kadyrov wrote.

Kadyrov has been repeatedly accused of human rights violations during his rule of Chechnya.