Russian MMA champion Nemkov says sport and politics should be kept separate

Russian mixed martial artist Vadim Nemkov says he believes sport and politics should be separated following the sporting fall-out of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Several International Federations have expelled Russian and Belarusian competitors from sport following Russia’s attack on its neighbour and Belarus’ supporting role, including the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation and the Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts.

However, Nemkon is signed to Bellator, and the United States-based mixed martial arts promotion has refused to cancel bouts involving competitors from the two countries.

The Bellator light heavyweight champion is due to defend his title against Corey Anderson of the United States at Bellator 277 on April 16.

“For me, I’m training,” Nemkov said prior to the fight.

“I try not to watch the news and I try to stay off social media.

“Keep sports out of politics.

“That’s not my focus.

“My primary focus is preparing for this fight and getting this win.”

He added: “I’m proud to be from Russia and proud to represent Russia.

“I think sports should be separate from politics.”

Nemkov is not the only Russian athlete to voice this view.

Grandmaster Sergey Karjakin claimed that the International Chess Federation (FIDE) “trampled” on the “basic principle” that sport and politics are separated.

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Karjakin, who was born in Crimea but has represented Russia since 2009, was suspended by the FIDE for six months after publishing a letter where he announced his support of Vladimir Putin’s actions.

FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich had previously admitted it was now “impossible” to keep sport and politics separate.

Russia’s Ivan Kuliak is also set to be banned by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) after displaying the nationalistic military “Z” symbol on the podium at the Gymnastics World Cup in Doha last month.

The FIG labelled it as “shocking behaviour” and opened disciplinary action against the 20-year-old.

Kuliak was one of the Russian athletes pictured at the pro-war Vladimir Putin rally held last month.

Also in March, Russian gymnastic coordinator Valentina Rodionenko told Russia’s official state news agency TASS that the FIG is to recommend a one-year ban and the Russian Gymnastics Federation were expected to submit material relating to the case.

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) recently celebrated its first court victory against sporting sanctions in relation to the Ukraine invasion.

The International Luge Federation’s (FIL) Court of Arbitration overturned the International Federation’s (IF) decision to suspend Russian athletes, coaches and officials from events following an appeal.

The ROC claimed in a statement following the lifted ban that the decision by the FIL “was dedicated solely by political motives and had no legal grounds for adoption.”

Russia’s official state news agency TASS labelled the ruling the “first victory over sport politics.”

In response to the ruling, Ukrainian luge athletes have called for a boycott of FIL events until Russian participation is banned.

The FIL Executive Board has since said it will explore new methods to ban Russian athletes from its events.

While the FIL Extraordinary Congress did not vote to expel the Russian Luge Federation, it did pass a motion to Russian officials from elected positions.

Yesterday, the United States President Joe Biden joined his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, in accusing Russian forces of committing genocide in Ukraine.

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