LAS VEGAS – Floyd Mayweather has two shticks – I’m rich and I’m great – and a thousand varieties of each. The superstar boxer is a relentless self-promoter whose innate marketing genius made him one of the game’s greatest attractions.
And though he’s now retired – yes, it says here, for good, at 50-0 and a Hall of Fame spot awaiting in 2022 – he still occasionally needs to feed the beast.
That desire to keep his name in the headlines, to have people talk about him, is where this talk came up that the UFC would somehow pay him $1 billion for three or four mixed martial arts fights.
Rest assured that’s not happening, but it never hurts to toss it out there and allow the public to run with it, as happened when he posted a video on Instagram that was recorded on FightHype and discussed the, ahem, possibility of a career in MMA.
Have no doubt Mayweather would have been great – one of the best ever – had he chosen to go into mixed martial arts when he was young. The guy is a fighter, through and through, and had he learned MMA from an early age, we would be talking about him now as one of the great MMA fighters ever rather than one of the greatest boxers ever.
But it’s not happening now, not at nearly 41 years old, with millions in the bank and hundreds of fighters who would love nothing more than to be the one to get their hands, and legs and elbows and knees, on him in an MMA fight.
It’s part of the job and it’s what he does.
The second part of his job is constantly reinforcing the notion that he’s rich. He spent a long time during his Instagram chat talking about his cars and the cars he bought for his trusted employees.
Since his retirement, there are no $250 million paydays coming in every few months, so he earns additional cash where he can. One of the ways he does is by making appearances, as so many athletes and celebrities do.
But Mayweather has made a very poor choice this time. He posted a video on his Instagram of Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov, a thug who has been accused of murder, kidnapping and political oppression. He’s anti-gay and reportedly had a plan in place to kill and torture homosexuals in Chechnya. He didn’t have to do it, he said, because there are no gays in the Russian republic.
The United Nations Human Rights Council released a statement in April which, according to a report in The New York Times said, “These are acts of persecution and violence on an unprecedented scale in the region and constitute serious violations of the obligations of the Russian Federation under international human rights law.
“The arrested men are subjected to physical and verbal abuse, torture including with electric shocks, beatings, insults and humiliations. They are forced to give contact details of other gay people and threatened with having their sexual orientation disclosed to their family and community — a move which could put them at risk of ‘honor killings.’ ”
Kadyrov is also not a supporter of women’s rights. He believes in polygamy and when he was criticized roundly for his views on social media, his advice to men was to “lock them in, do not let them go out and they will not post anything,” according to The Times.
Kadyrov is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, which should be enough to make any American wary of him. But Kadyrov has created a propaganda machine and he uses fighters – boxers and mixed martial artists alike – to help sanitize his image and present an acceptable public-facing appearance.
He’s flown numerous fighters, including Mayweather and ex-heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, as well as MMA stars such as Chris Weidman, Frank Mir, Frankie Edgar, Fabricio Werdum and Khabib Nurmagomedov, to Chechnya and paid them money to take photographs with him so as to use them as propaganda tools.
The fighters, especially the MMA fighters, find it hard to turn down the money. They do so at considerable risk to their own safety. The State Department’s website explicitly warns Americans not to travel to the area.
Yet, there was Mayweather in a video he posted on Instagram with his arm around Kadyrov yukking it up.
“Hey, what’s going on!” Mayweather says on the video as he has his arm around a grinning Kadyrov’s shoulder. “Everybody that’s on Instagram, you better follow this man right here. This is my buddy. This is my guy right here. And yes, he is a part of The Money Team.”
The athletes who accept Kadyrov’s money are overlooking a long and tawdry list of human rights abuse the dictator is alleged to have committed in return for a few bucks. Mayweather was reportedly paid $86,000 for a visit to Chechnya earlier in 2017.
Is the guy who spends so much of his time bragging about his wealth so desperate for cash that he’ll associate himself with a ruthless dictator for less money than he earned a minute in his Aug. 26 victory over Conor McGregor?
It’s an embarrassment and Mayweather and other fighters who have accepted Kadyrov’s money should feel responsible for his actions if they choose to associate themselves with him.
It’s blood money and it’s an outrage that Mayweather thinks so little of human rights that he’ll throw his arm around such a disreputable character as Kadyrov.
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