Kadyrov’s sons, Akhmad, 10, Zelimkhan, 9, and Adam, 8, took to the ring along with other children in a large stadium in Chechnya's capital to battle each other in front of the Chechen strongman and other officials.
A keen MMA fan himself, Kadyrov posted on his Instagram account a video of the event, showing the children arriving into the ring wearing miniature boxing robes, cheered on by a large crowd, before taking part in what appeared to be full-blooded MMA matches. MMA, or Mixed Martial Arts, allows fighters to kick and punch each other in the head; fighters do not wear gloves or head-protection. The event, held on the eve of Kadyrov’s birthday, was broadcast on Russian state television’s sports network. The winner, Kadyrov’s son Adam, was presented with a championship belt by the head of Chechnya’s parliament.
The tournament has prompted consternation in Russia’s media and on social networks, with people expressing outrage that children were fighting in a sport considered violent even for adults.
The head of Russia’s MMA union, Fedor Emelyanenko, criticized the fight, saying it was against the sport’s rules for children under-12 to fight.
“There were little boys, who were 8 years old, beating each other around the eyes for the delight of adults. Is it really so important to organize a show at the cost of children’s health?!” Emelyanenko wrote on his Instagram account.
The clamor around the fight elicited a response from the Kremlin, which said authorities should investigate it and why it was broadcast on state television. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the apparent “technical knock-out” of a 10-year-old meant oversight agencies ought to examine the event, the news agency Interfax reported.
Delimkhanov’s closing threat that Emelyanenko "will have to answer for every word” was therefore taken by some as more than just heated verbiage.
It’s not the first time actions by Kadyrov or his inner circle have provoked outrage among the Russian public, forcing the Kremlin to mediate between angry popular sentiment and Putin’s prodigy in Chechnya.
Earlier this year, a scandal broke out when a top Chechen police official illegally married a 17-year-old girl after reportedly intimidating her family. Russian media demanded the Kremlin intervene as the girl was a juvenile under Russian law. The Kremlin though has shown little appetite for reining in Kadyrov’s antics. Despite the outcry, the marriage eventually went ahead.