Ali Abdelaziz: A Necessary Evil For The Plight of Caucasus Fighters
While the Caucasus regions of Dagestan and Chechnya have long been a hotbed for combat sports competition, in recent years Dagestanis and Chechens have become more and more prominent in North American promotions. The man who has facilitated this shift is none other than the controversial and much maligned, Ali Abdelaziz…. but is this shady character a necessary evil?
For your discernible fight fan, fighters from the Caucasus have become prominent figures in today’s MMA landscape. Whether through Absolute Championship Berkut — ACB — Fight Nights Global — FNG — M-1 or Kadyrov’s World Fighting Championship Akhmat — WFCA — fans can see tens of fighters from those regions compete frequently each month via YouTube or other streaming services.
This availability to fans and subsequent exposure has in turn afforded many Caucasus fighters the opportunity to move onto more prominent North American promotions, as their talent is more readily noticed thanks to said exposure.
Already in the UFC we see a number of Caucasus fighters; Omari Akhmedov, Zubair Tukhugov, Ruslan Magomedov, Saparbek Safarov, Gadzhimurad Antigulov, Abdul-Kerim Edilov, Sultan Aliev, Islam Makhachev, Rustam Khabilov, Magomed Bibulatov, Zabit Magomedsharipov and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Furthermore, we see those numbers expand when we open the scope to the Professional Fighters League — PFL. Formerly known as WSOF. PFL has boasted names such as Timur Valiev, Marat Magomedov, Ramil Mustapaev, Islam Mamodev, Magomed Magomedkerimov, Abubakar Nurmagomedov, Vagab Vagabov, Shamil Gamzatov, Arsen Abdulkerimov, Said Nurmagomedov, Khusein Khaliev, Rashid Yusupov and Rashid Magomedov.
One thing all these fighters have in common is representation. Ali Abdelaziz — along with Rizvan Magomedov — has facilitated all of the aforementioned fighters moves to North American promotions. Of the 16 Caucasus fighters the UFC has on its roster 12 are represented by Abdelaziz’s Dominance MMA Management. Furthermore, with Muslim Salikhov (currently signed to Dominance) and Magomed Ankalaev (on the verge of signing with Dominance) also seemingly on their way to the UFC it adds a further two fighters into that category. Of the 16 Caucasus fighters who have graced or are currently signed to the PFL, 14 are represented by Ali’s Management firm. It’s worrisome to say the least.
The chronicle on Ali Abdelaziz is as long as it is detailed. Mike Russell from Real Fight Stories has written some thoroughly fascinating exposé pieces regarding Abdelaziz’s shady past which revealed to the MMA bubble just how manipulative and deceitful Abdelaziz is. Abdelaziz’s slippery character may be one glaring issue, but his ties to a terrorist organisation and his history of being a FBI informant who gave evidence against Muslims that fought alongside jihadists in Chechnya really makes the whole idea of him representing fighters from that region a perverted parable.
To elaborate (h/t Mike Russell); Abdelaziz had extremely close ties to Muslims of America — he even bore a child to one of the high ranking member’s sisters. Muslims of America ran the United Jihad Council, which would help recruit members for wars in Kashmir, Afghanistan and Chechnya. Meaning the American-based Islamic fundamentalist group Abdelaziz was a member of provided financial and recruitment support to Chechnya for the Second Chechen War. In essence, Abdelaziz’s work as a CI may have directly affected and or stemmed the flow of money and Islamic soldiers to Muslim Chechen militias, yet now he is considered a friend of Chechnya by fighter proxy.
With Abdelaziz representing a lion’s share of fighters from that region it would be interesting to know whether those fighters knew Abdelaziz was giving evidence against their brothers-in-arms to save his own skin.
While the introduction of talent from the region is more than welcomed, it’s a real shame that the Caucasus fighters only vehicle to get them to the big show is through Abdelaziz. As unfortunate as it is, Abdelaziz has become a necessary evil for those fighters wanting to pursue higher accolades, and sadly, without him and his management firm those opportunities would dry up considerably.
While we, as fans and media, can continue to call Abdelaziz out on his disgraceful past and habitual lies, we can’t blame those fighters in search of a better life and hopes of a successful career. To them, it’s a necessity rather than a choice. The devil they know.
Unfortunately, for the plight of Caucasus fighters, Ali Abdelaziz is a necessary evil.