MMA: One C'ship removes Russian fighters from events citing 'international sentiment'

Three Russian muay thai fighters including Tagir Khalilov were omitted from the event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. PHOTO: SAMINGPRI_MUAYTHAI/INSTAGRAM

SINGAPORE - Russian athletes have been scratched from two One Championship events, with their bouts "rescheduled" following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the mixed martial arts (MMA) organisation said on Friday night (March 11) during its Lights Out show.

Three Russian muay thai fighters Tagir Khalilov, Aslanbek Zikreev and Saik Eduard were omitted from the event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Another three Russians have been dropped from One X, its next production here on March 26.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, a One spokesman said: "In consideration of the international sentiments around the ongoing Russian-Ukraine conflict, currently arranged bouts involving One's Russian athletes will be/have been rescheduled. We remain focused on supporting athletes affected by the current situation."

One founder and chief executive Chatri Sityodtong added at Friday's post-event press conference: "The Russian athletes will be paid their show money (and) we take care of all our Russian athletes, and you will see them back in action as we... throw events all over in different countries."

Khalilov, who last competed in Singapore in February 2021 at another One event, and Zikreev, who competed here in November 2020, were scheduled to face Superlek Kiatmoo9 of Thailand and Asahi Shinagawa of Japan, respectively. Their opponents did not feature on Friday.

Eduard's English challenger Liam Nolan did compete on the card, defeating South Korea's Kim Kyung-lock via technical knockout.

The Kuzbass Muay Thai Federation, which all three Russians were under, had complained in an Instagram post on March 5 that they were "banned" from participating in the event.

"Our athletes have already received visas, the necessary list of documents for entry into Singapore," it noted. "We also received confirmation of the battles in advance. We actively trained, after which we flew to the competition site, settled in, spent the night for a day."

Alvaredi Ramazanov, Islam Murtazaev and Yusup Saadulaev, who are not a part of the Kuzbass Federation, will not feature at One X.

Former One bantamweight kickboxing world champion Ramazanov was slated to vie for the bantamweight muay thai world title held by Thailand's Nong-O Gaiyanghadao.

Murtazaev, meanwhile, would have faced Nieky Holzken in the One featherweight kickboxing grand prix final, while Saadulaev was due to face Japan's Shoko Sato in a bantamweight MMA bout.

One's move follows a similar decision by the ongoing World Table Tennis Grand Smash event here, which ends on March 20.

Its organisers said last week the US$2 million (S$2.69 million) tournament will not feature any Russian or Belarusian players and officials, "in line with the recommendations made by the International Olympic Committee executive board" to suspend athletes from the two nations from international competitions until further notice.

Five Russians and three Belarusians had been slated to feature at the Grand Smash. In addition, seven Ukrainians did not travel to Singapore.

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