The press conference at UFC299 was interesting to say the least. Apart from the mind games and taunting from McGregor he kept bringing up the names of people in Khabibs team. No one has ever really heard of them so it caused one You-Tuber to take upon himself to investigate further and the end result will definitely surprise many of you.
It seems Khabib is surrounded by dangerous men who all seem to have very shady ideas.
First of these men is Ziyavudin Magomedov
UFC 223 is remembered as the event where Nurmagomedov extended his undefeated streak to become the UFC lightweight champion. However, it was also the night where the promotion’s newly minted titleholder decided to use his post-fight interview to plead with Russian president Vladimir Putin on television.
Following a standard post-fight interview, where Nurmagomedov thanked his father, coach Javier Mendez, and his management team while a smiling Joe Rogan held the microphone, Nurmagomedov abruptly switched from English to Russian and appealed to Putin to “help” Ziyavudin Magomedov, an oligarch arrested on embezzlement and organized crime charges.
”Our elder brother, co-owner of our team Ziyavudin Magomedov, is in a difficult situation,” Khabib said during the UFC 223 PPV. “He was very helpful to me and other athletes from Russia. Now he has problems, but I want him to know that we, the athletes, are praying for him. I believe that this situation will soon be resolved. I hope that our leader Vladimir Putin will help him. I want to congratulate him on the victory in the last election.”
(Forward to 3.58 to hear him talk about Magomedov)
When asked by Rogan to translate his statement, Nurmagomedov appeared reluctant to do so, though eventually explained: “It is a little bit hard for me. I talk about my big brother, Ziyavudin Magomedov. I want to wish him good luck.”
Magomedov was arrested on March 31 2018 and charged with embezzling over 2 billion rubles ($35 million +), fraud, and the “organization of a criminal community.” According to Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, Magomedov has been under investigation for several months to determine whether he embezzled money during the construction of a World Cup stadium in Kaliningrad, which his Summa Group company won the rights to build in 2014. He was denied bail and remains in pre-trial detention. If found guilty, Magomedov could face up to 20 years in prison.
Magomedov, whose wealth is estimated at $1.2 billion, is an combat sports enthusiast who has invested significant sums into Russian mixed martial arts. He owned a controlling share of Fight Nights Global, one of the most successful and popular promotions in the country. He also founded the Eagles MMA fight team, which UFC star Khabib Nurmagomedov is currently president of.
Given that Magomedov’s was the financial backer behind one of Russia’s biggest MMA promotions, his arrest has caused significant ripple effects in the sport. Fight Nights has been forced to cancel its international expansion plans and is on a gradual decline due to financial concerns. Several of the promotion’s top fighters, including Sergey Pavlovich, Vitaly Minakov, and Nikita Krylov have abandoned the sinking ship in search of other opportunities.
In May 2016, Nurmagomedov visited Grozny, the capital of the Chechnya, where he was invited to host an MMA seminar for fighters who trained at the ‘Akhmat’ gym and training facility. Funded by the republic’s strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who juggles between his roles as a dictator and combat sports enthusiast, the fight club had already attracted several UFC champions with enticing offers to host seminars and masterclasses. Nurmagomedov — arguably the most recognizable Russian fighter in the world — was the latest to accept such an offer.
During Nurmagomedov’s seminar, Kadyrov walked into the Akhmat facility and greeted the fighters present. He shook hands with a few fighters and gave several others half-hearted hugs and pats on the back as he worked his way towards the UFC star. After speaking to the group for several minutes, the dictator decided to show off his grappling skills by dragging a fighter to the mat and throwing him over his head in a move reminiscent of professional wrestling. He placed a second fighter in a headlock and flung him into the mat before doubling over in laughter. All the fighters present joined in the laughter.
Prior to leaving the Akhmat facility, Kadyrov posed for pictures with several of his team’s most popular fighters, including Magomed Bibulatov and Abdul-kerim Edilov, both of whom are currently UFC fighters. He then proceeded to pick Nurmagomedov up, and placed him on his shoulder before settling him into a fireman’s carry.
Kadyrov has shown some special interest in Khabib, promoting him on Instagram account (Kadyrov’s instagram and Facebook accounts have since been banned by the social media networks) and hosting him at Akhmat fight shows. An example of Kadyrov’s support for Nurmagomedov took place shortly following the Dagestani’s victory against Michael Johnson at UFC 205.
”It happened,” Kadyrov said on his Instagram (h/t onkavkaz.com). “Dear brother Khabib Nurmagomedov won the fight against Michael Johnson. He did not leave the American with a single chance to win. The battle ended prematurely! Khabib used a painful technique! Khabib made a fiery speech in which he sharply criticized the leadership of the UFC, which unreasonably denied him a title fight. He proved that he is not only a brilliant athlete, but also a patriot of his homeland.”
At the time, Nurmagomedov was also highly complimentary of the Chechen dictator, particularly when speaking to Chechen state media.
”I would fight with honor at a UFC [event] in Grozny, because Chechnya is a brotherly republic,” Nurmagomedov told grozny.tv. “Ramzan Akhmatovich told me that he wants to host a tournament in Russia and that he wants me to fight there. I really hope that he will succeed. I will be infinitely grateful to him. I think this is in his power [to do so].”
While Nurmagomedov has not made any public statements in support of Kadyrov since then, his initial support for the Chechen dictator drew scorn from fans and pundits alike.
Regarded by some pundits as a “necessary evil,” Ali Abdelaziz is simultaneously one of the most successful managers in MMA, as well as a toxic influence on the sport he represents.
As the president and founder of Dominance MMA, Abdelaziz has spent the last decade building one of the largest rosters of clients of any manager in the sport. The Egyptian-born manager’s company represents well over 100 clients, including a host of current and former UFC champions like Khabib Nurmagomedov, Frankie Edgar, Fabricio Werdum, Cody Garbrant, and Rashad Evans. His Dominance MMA management team is also home to a wide selection of fighters from Russia’s North Caucasus region, including Omari Akhmedov, Rustam Khabilov, Muslim Salikhov, Islam Makhachev, and rising talent Zabit Magomedsharipov.
Abdelaziz’s impressive roster and overall managerial influence could be seen as a success story in MMA. However, his career has also been laced with various conflicts of interest, political associations with dictators, and, most recently at the UFC 229 press conference, accusations of being a “terrorist snitch” that overshadow his achievements in the sport.
The controversy surrounding Abdelaziz began in late 2015, when a lawsuit filled against World Series of Fighting (WSOF) claimed that Abdelaziz — at the time the vice-president and matchmaker for WSOF — had a “relationship to and control of an entity named Dominance, LLC.” The lawsuit alleged that Abdelaziz was in violation of the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NAC) regulations (specifically NAC 467.104) that states “promoter and certain others prohibited from acting as manager of unarmed combatant from holding certain financial interests.”
Here is a section of the complaint:
Plaintiff is informed and believes Dominance also arranged sponsorships for its fighters. On several occasions the sponsors for fighters managed by Dominance and those of WSOF were in conflict. When such conflicts arose, Mr. Abdeziz [sic] always favored the sponsors of Dominance over WSOF sponsors to the detriment of WSOF.
Moreover, Aziz refused to make fights that were in the best interest of MMAWC and WSOF. Rather than choosing the fights that would generate the most fan interest and thus revenue for WSOF, Aziz set matches that favored his fighters and his pocket. Aziz also often refused to set fights for fighters that were not managed by him. A promising fighter and champion, Jessica Aguliar was under contract with WSOF, and Aziz did not arrange fights for her required under WSOF’s contractual obligations. Ms. Aguilar was not one of Mr. Aziz’s fighters.
At the time, the Dominance MMA website listed Abdelaziz’s wife, Narwan Ghiasi, as the company’s president (this has since been changed back to Abdelaziz). However, it appeared that Abdelaziz maintained an interest in the company because several of the fighters contracted to his management team referred to him specifically as their manager. This raised suspicion significantly, as it was clear that Abdelaziz maintained an interest in Dominance MMA. Several of the Dominance MMA clients also competed on the WSOF roster, including David Branch, Marlon Moraes, and Justin Gaethje. WSOF eventually parted ways with Abdelaziz.
Abdelaziz’s indiscretions do not end there. After leaving WSOF and returning to his primary role as a manager, Abdelaziz began to secure relationships with several authoritarian regimes that just so happened to be fans of combat sports.
In 2015, Abdelaziz — along with Rizvan Magomedov, President of Dominance MMA in Russia — secured a lucrative deal for then UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum to become the “ambassador” for Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA fight club and promotion. Abdelaziz told MMAJunkie that “Fabricio was happy to accept what ultimately was a very lucrative offer, but this deal is not just a financial arrangement. He was in Chechnya earlier this year, and he was treated like a king.”
Apart from representing fighters linked to a vicious warlord who has reportedly conducted a purge of gay men in the Chechen Republic, along with various other crackdowns on his people, Abdelaziz is also highly complimentary of the dictator.
In an interview with BloodyElbow in 2015, Abdelaziz stated that he “would not mind going to Chechnya and putting on a World Series of Fighting event there, even co-promote with Akhmat MMA.” Despite Kadyrov’s harrowing human rights abuses, Abdelaziz explained that the “fact that [Kadyrov] will go and train with these fighters is something remarkable; a leader of a country supporting our sport of MMA and investing in it is great.”
As a result of Abdelaziz’s public support for the dictator, he remains the sole representative of the fighters linked to Kadyrov that currently compete in the UFC.
While Abdelaziz’s conflicts of interest and established links to dictators and gulf royalty is evidently clear, McGregor opted to take a different approach when targeting the manager during the UFC 229 press conference. The Irishman referred to Ali as a “terrorist snitch” before asking the question, “how’s Noah?”
“Shut your mouth, Ali Abdelaziz,” McGregor said after Abdelaziz reportedly questioned why McGregor was holding two belts at the presser. “You terrorist snitch! I know a lot about you as well, you mad man. I know a lot about you as well! You keep your mouth shut kid! How’s Noah? How’s Noah? Yeah, shut your mouth! Never speak about me, ever in your life! Watch yourself around me, ‘cuz you’ll be out of here quick.”
McGregor’s “terrorist snitch” comment appears to be a reference from the book Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America. The book mentions an “Egyptian mixed martial arts expert” by the name of Ali Abdeaziz, who was recruited by the NYPD in 2002 when he was 25 years old. According to authors Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, Abdelaziz eventually lost favour with the FBI and NYPD for being “deceitful”.
As previously stated, McGregor’s detailed attacks on Nurmagomedov and those closest to him is likely an attempt to both promote the upcoming fight and play mind games against a stoic, undefeated champion. It can also be viewed as a strategic attempt to pivot negative attention from McGregor, who was involved in a bus attack incident that led to several UFC fighters being hospitalized and McGregor pleading guilty in a Brooklyn courthouse as part of a deal with prosecutors to resolve charges. It should also be noted that McGregor posed for a photo with Russian president Vladimir Putin during the World Cup final, a controversial figure who is also Kadyrov’s benefactor.
Regardless of McGregor’s personal reasons, his references to the likes of Magomedov and Kadyrov shed light on some of the shady characters who have been linked to Nurmagomedov at some point during his career.
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