The Kadyrov Archives
Eight years of investigative reporting on the Chechen warlord with a penchant for the fight game.
I still remember the first time I decided to write about Ramzan Kadyrov.
It was October 2015. I was scrolling through Twitter at a cafe in Sochi, the resort town along the Black Sea, when a baffling image appeared before me: Kadyrov standing beside then-UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum while holding his oversized championship belt.
The Brazilian fighter had signed an affiliation agreement with Kadyrov’s personal MMA fight club, Akhmat MMA. His deal consisted of frequent visits to Chechnya as an ambassador for the promotion and required him to conduct a portion of his future training camps there. Once the deal was struck, Werdum was paraded around in the streets of the Chechen capital, Grozny, dressed in the conservative Islamic clothing typical in the region.
It was quite a sight: the UFC’s reigning heavyweight champion stoically positioned behind a man accused of horrific human rights abuses that would only grow more sinister over the coming years.
Weeks later, I published my first investigative article on Kadyrov—a decision that changed the entire trajectory of my professional career.
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Over the next eight years, my reporting on Kadyrov would make it into The New York Times, The Guardian, and Foreign Policy.
But it wasn’t always so straightforward.
When I first started reporting on Kadyrov, only a handful of outlets were willing to consider my pitches. Most of my work ended up being featured at, where my boss saw value in my work on the dictator's growing influence in the world of combat sports. He was right, and that same reporting would later serve as the basis of an award-winning HBO Real Sports documentary titled ‘MMA Fight Club.‘
The documentary opened doors that were previously sealed shut. I began working for The Guardian and even lectured on the subject at universities such as Princeton. It also drew attention from Kadyrov and his henchmen. I began receiving emails and messages demanding that I apologize to Kadyrov for spreading lies about him. Some threatened to find and kill me. I decided to keep reporting anyway.
This sort of journalism is not for the faint of heart. And though it can come at great personal expense, it can also be a vehicle for change.
In December 2020, the United States Department of the Treasury issued sanctions targeting Kadyrov and his fight club. It was the first time that a country had issued sanctions targeting Kadyrov’s sports investments and paved the way for the federal government to scrutinize his affiliations with American athletes and organizations such as the UFC. My reporting helped make that happen.
Now—eight years and more than 40 feature-length articles later—I thought it was time to establish an archive of sorts; a timeline of all my investigative reporting on the Chechen warlord. And since Kadyrov remains an influential figure in MMA, it will unfortunately continue to be updated on a regular basis.
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