Fedor Emelianenko says sport must be kept separate from politics
Mixed martial arts icon Fedor Emelianenko says the global sporting community must allow Russian athletes to compete unhindered by socio-political concerns.
The former PRIDE heavyweight champion, 46, who is expected to fight for the final time in his legendary career in the coming months, was previously in discussions to hold his retirement fight in Moscow’s Red Square before the fight league he represents, Bellator MMA, pulled back on the plan soon after the onset of Russia’s military action in Ukraine.
The ongoing tensions between Russia and its neighbor have led to a wave of sporting sanctions placed on the country, with many of its athletes experiencing restrictions as to where – and how – they can compete on the international stage.
And Emelianenko, who is the president of the Russian MMA Union, has called on the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) to withdraw its suspension of Russian athletes and allow them to compete in its 2023 championships – the world’s largest competition for amateur mixed martial arts fighters.
Speaking with TASS news agency, Emelianenko said young fighters must not be held hostage by events outside of their control.
“Until recently, sports was separate from politics, but we are now faced with a situation where talented Russian athletes are held hostage by public and political issues between countries,” Emelianenko said.
“All the previous plans, hopes and enormous efforts have been reduced to zero, the faith in the justice of the main principles of Olympism has been lost.
“We believe that athletes should compete against worthy opponents, since it is the core principle for the development of sports, and our national team is one of the strongest in the world.
“A completely competitive and constantly developing national team was swept aside from the global MMA,” he added.
“I would like to point out that this year the Russian national team was made up of athletes within the framework of the national championship and it is ready to take part in all global tournaments next year.”
Emelianeko’s request comes after the IMMAF banned fighters from both Russia and Belarus in March, following the lead of various other sporting federations and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The IMMAF wrote at the time that it had taken these measures “with great sadness” but said it took the step as a measure of solidarity with Ukraine.
“We believe in the power of sport to unite people beyond politics,” it said in a press release at the time.
“However, the homeland of our friends and colleagues in the MMA League of Ukraine is under attack and they have been forced from competing in next week’s Super Cup as they take to defending their country.”
Emelianenko is a legendary figure in mixed martial arts history, and has compiled a professional record of 40-6 (1).
https://ift.tt/K9T5SIw 08, 2022 at 11:33PM
from RT – Daily news