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After Ramzan Kadyrov proudly posted a video of his son assaulting a man detained in a Chechen jail, it became clear that the 15-year-old Adam Kadyrov isn’t subject to ordinary laws that apply to other Russians. Nor has he ever been, judging by his history of competing in mixed martial arts championships, against kids who either didn’t dare punch him back — or else “lost” to Kadyrov by the collusion of referees and judges. Meduza reviews what we know about the inflated MMA fighting record of the Chechnya governor’s youngest son.
Fighting live on TV. With no pads. At age eight.
Adam Kadyrov made his first televised appearance when he was just eight years old. In October 2016, the Grand Prix Akhmat mixed martial arts (ММА) championship took place in Grozny. Children were permitted to take part following adult sparring rules without helmets or protective padding. Ramzan Kadyrov’s three sons — Akhmet, 10, Zelimkhan, 9, and Adam, 8 — all took part in the tournament. All three of them beat their sparring partners as the Chechen leader watched.
Like other matches, the children’s sparring was broadcast live on the Russian sports channel Match TV. Afterward, athletes and human rights advocates alike voiced their disapproval of how children’s sparring was handled. “Eight-year-old tykes were pummeling one another right in front of the delighted adults. It’s outrageous that Ramzan Kadyrov was watching all this,” said Fyodor Emelyanenko, then-president of the Russian MMA Union.
The Chechen leader’s entourage responded sharply to these criticisms. The kickboxer and MMA fighter Abubakar Vagaev unleashed a torrent of slurs at Emelyanenko, calling him a “fag” and saying he’d lost all respect for him after his “rotten move.”
This altercation changed nothing in the long run, and a year later, Adam was once again on a live Match TV broadcast, fighting in a weight class with an 86-pound (39-kilogram) upper limit. This time, he wore a helmet and padding. And he won.
The question of fixed sparring matches
During his next tournament, in 2018, the Chechen governor’s youngest son was matched up against Alan Beichekuev, a 10-year-old from Kabardino-Balkaria. Beichekuev wouldn’t attack Kadyrov in the ring and behaved with notable passivity throughout the match. Adam, on the other hand, attacked him with gusto. For some unknown reason, Beichekuev got a check for 100,000 rubles (roughly equal to $1,350) for his loss, issued by the Akhmat Kadyrov Foundation, which is managed by the winning fighter’s grandmother, Aimani Kadyrova.
Two years later, the Kadyrov-founded Akhmat Chechen Fight Club organized an international sparring championship called Time of Legends in Moscow. Adam Kadyrov was matched up with a fighter his own age from Uganda who had confidently won two previous battles in his home country. Once the two of them were in the ring, however, Adam Kadyrov’s opponent didn’t strike him even once. In the second round, he fell to one knee after a cursory blow from Kadyrov, who was declared winner and awarded a belt inscribed “Champion-in-Chief.”
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Intriguingly, Kadyrov’s 13-year-old son Akhmet also fought with a Ugandan sparring partner at the same championship, with the exact same scenario repeating in that match: his opponent also refused to attack and then collapsed to the floor after a less-than-powerful punch in the trunk. Judging by video of the match, even Akhmet himself was surprised by this development.
A similar story occurred a year later, when Adam Kadyrov fought in the next Time of Legends championship, this time against Aslan Bittirov from Kabardino-Balkaria. The match was supposed to stick to amateur boxing rules and looked far more dynamic than Kadyrov’s earlier fights. When the two adolescents started exchanging direct blows, Adam took two strikes in the head. The referee immediately stopped the fight and started counting to 10 for Battirov, as if he were in knockdown (though he clearly wasn’t). While this was happening, someone in Battirov’s corner threw in the towel as the fighter himself stood bewildered at what had happened. The commentators couldn’t make sense of what they were seeing, either.
A storm of social media comments called out Adam Kadyrov for a fixed match, pointing out that the two fighters even had different gloves: Kadyrov’s were professional, while Battirov was wearing amateur-grade gloves that hardly let the fighter pack a good punch. This forced Chechen Parliament Speaker Magomed Daudov to step in, announcing that Adam Kadyrov was ready to prove himself in another fight at any moment and that the judges had commended the referee’s professionalism in protecting “the children’s health,” which is the priority, after all, “especially when it comes to this age group.”
Kadyrov’s entourage continued to insist that the fight had been fair and that the judge had supposedly noticed that Bittirov had taken a blow to his head. Ramzan Kadyrov also defended his son. “If the judge sees someone hit in the eye, he has to stop the fight, regardless of whether it’s my son or not,” he said.
‘One captive Ukrainian each’
In fall 2022, Ramzan Kadyrov announced that his underage sons took part in combat in Ukraine, posting a video of Adam and his brothers firing machine guns and a grenade launcher from a trench as proof. Kadyrov also claimed that each of the minors had brought a captive Ukrainian fighter back from the war and that all of them had “made their way to the adversary’s positions, covering the troops’ advancement with fire.” The authenticity of Kadyrov’s video and those claims was never corroborated.
Once again, another Chechen official stepped in. This time, it was Chechen Press and Information Minister Akhmed Dudaev. He admitted that the video had been heavily edited — neglecting, however, to refute Kadyrov’s claims about his children taking part in the war.
The same fall, Adam Kadyrov was “initiated into adulthood.” In a special ceremony, his father presented him with a traditional curly-lamb “papakha” hat as a symbol of manhood and honor. In February 2023, the 15-year-old was spotted driving a car in Dubai (despite not being old enough to hold a driver’s license).
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