A Legacy of Violence
From prison assaults to rigged bouts, here is how MMA, along with select UFC fighters shaped the Kadyrov dynasty.
It begins with a single kick and ends with a humiliating slap.
Dressed in a camouflage uniform, Adam Kadyrov—the 15-year-old son of Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov—pummelled his defenceless victim with a series of knees and punches reminiscent of techniques used in mixed martial arts. The victim, a Russian prisoner dressed in all-black with a freshly shaved head, cowered in the fetal position with little choice but to endure the attack.
The graphic footage, which was posted by Kadyrov on the Telegram messaging app earlier this week, confirmed recent reports that the teenager had assaulted Nikita Zhuravel, a Russian prisoner accused of burning the Holy Qur’an.
Back in May, Zhuravel—a resident of Sevastopol in annexed Crimea—was taken into custody after he posted a video online burning a Qur’an in front of a mosque in the Volgograd region. The 19-year-old was later transferred to pre-trial detention facility in Chechnya, where he would become the target of Kadyrov’s wrath.
“He did the right thing to beat him up”, Kadyrov wrote in the caption to the video, adding that he was “proud “ of his son’s choice.
In a mere seven seconds of grainy footage—footage that the Kremlin refused to condemn—a message was conveyed that would resonate far beyond its fleeting duration: Adam Kadyrov, the teenager who learned to fight under the tutelage of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) athletes, was a soldier of God, and religious blasphemy would be met with the retribution of a trained fighter.
Zhuravel’s beating marked the latest instance of human rights abuses in Chechnya, a semi-autonomous republic in the North Caucasus region which Kadyrov has ruled with an iron grip for 16 years. Kadyrov has been accused of assassinations, abductions, torture, extrajudicial killings, and brutal crackdowns that specifically targeted the local LGBTQ+ community. He is also a staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has deployed thousands of his troops to fight on the front lines of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The footage also underscored how Kadyrov exploits his three eldest sons—Akhmad (18), Ali (16) and Adam (15)—as part of his political agenda. The teenagers grew up in the public sphere, with their daily lives broadcast across Chechen media and their infamous father’s social media accounts. Clips on Instagram showed the boys attending Qur’an recitation classes, dancing the Lezghinka, and learning martial arts techniques from UFC fighters. When Adam was eight years old, his father placed him and his two brothers in separate MMA fighters to celebrate his 40th birthday.
Here is Adam during the pre-fight weigh-in ceremony:
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