Khabib Nurmagomedov’s UFC victory tour turns into a case of political puppetry

The champion’s travels following his win over Conor McGregor show tyrants and despots are keen to use fighters for their own ends

It has been almost a month since Khabib Nurmagomedov beat Conor McGregor at UFC 229 to retain his lightweight title. And while the event was overshadowed by the post-fight brawl that took place between the fighters and their respective teams, the melee did not hinder Nurmagomedov’s soaring popularity – or stop him from meeting with a number of controversial world leaders.

Over the past few weeks, Nurmagomedov has embarked on an unofficial victory tour across several continents to celebrate his victory. His journey included stops within the Russian Federation before continuing on to the Middle East. During that time, he met the likes of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov, members of the United Arab Emirates royal family, and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdo?an. Each of those leaders posed with the UFC champion and congratulated him on his victory. It was surreal to behold, as it is rare for a mixed martial arts fighter to receive such attention from world leaders.

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