UFC Habib Nurmagomedov’s last outing too hot for Tajikistan?

4 weeks ago Web Desk 0

Nurmagomedov’s lightweight Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, title matchup with American Justin Gaethje had been hotly anticipated in Dushanbe, where the Dagestani is widely idolized, according to Eurasianet.

 

MMA, a sport in which kicks, punches and chokeholds are all deemed above board, has been banned in Tajikistan since the end of 2017 by a government concerned that the sport promotes violence.

 

Some saw national MMA champion Alan Chekranov’s recruitment by the Islamic State group as a factor behind the ban. Alan Chekranov, was three-time champion of Tajikistan in mixed martial arts and a university student. Chekranov – nom de guerre Abu Muhammad Al-Tajiki – was reportedly killed during airstrikes on the Iraqi city of Kirkuk in 2015.

 

But none of that stopped a state television channel and several cafes advertising broadcasts of the October 24 bout in a country where anything involving Nurmagomedov means good business.

 

Then, somebody decided to pull the plug.

 

Varzish, the state sports broadcaster that had included the fight in its programming and had broadcast fights even after the ban on practicing the sport, showed Spanish football instead.

 

Parking, a co-working café in Dushanbe, said on its Facebook page that it would not be showing the fight “due to unforeseen circumstances.”

 

A week before, the same café had called on customers to book spaces to watch the contest.

 

One can only speculate as to why Nurmagomedov’s last hurrah became a damp squib for Tajiks anticipating it as a social occasion.

 

The 32-year-old MMA fighter’s last victory, in 2019, saw exuberant celebrations in Dushanbe, as scores of high-spirited and mostly young UFC fans streamed out of venues that had shown his duel with American Dustin Poirer, briefly blocking a central road while chanting their hero’s name.

 

Nurmagomedov, who has dabbled in the Tajik language to please fans in the country on social media and visited Dushanbe in 2017, just before the MMA ban, is seen in many ways as a suitable role model for Central Asian youngsters.

 

Known for voicing his conservative Islamic views on nightclubs and other ills, he cuts a stark contrast to his hard-living Irish nemesis Conor Macgregor and is family-loving to a fault.

 

His career was forged by his father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, who died earlier this year as a result of heart problems exacerbated by a coronavirus infection.

 

Last week Prague-based website Akhbor reported that footballers and staff from Ravshan Kulob, a team based in th southern city of Kulob, were questioned by security services after the club posted a photo of the team praying before a game on its Facebook page on October 18.

 

Several of the players seen sporting beards in the photo appeared clean-shaven at the team’s next game, Akhbor noted.

 

Source: Asia Plus