The UK’s decision to cancel visas for all athletes from countries supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine looks like it could cost UFC London its main event.
As if three years of COVID-19 haven’t been rough enough on the world, now we have to deal with a full scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
It’s looking like a new Cold War has kicked off between Russia and the West in response, and while that’s certainly better than a hot war involving nuclear powers, the wide-reaching repercussions of sanctions and restrictions and trade embargoes being thrown out haven’t really started to kick in just yet.
One small example of how this new geopolitical situation will affect everything can be seen with UFC London on March 19th, 2022. The UFC’s long-awaited return to the UK was set to be headlined by up and coming British heavyweight prospect Tom Aspinall and Russian Alexander Volkov. According to MMA Fighting, sources behind the scenes have revealed that Volkov may not be able to get a visa to fight in the United Kingdom.
On Friday, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel announced she was cancelling the visas of a Belarus basketball team set to play in the UK, adding “The UK will not welcome the national sports teams of those countries who are complicit in Putin’s unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine.” Belarus has allowed Russian troops to move through the country to attack Ukraine and there are reports its own troops are participating in combat operations.
Three other Russians were set to fight at UFC London: Timur Valiev, Shamil Abdurakhimov and Sergei Pavlovich. Valiev is set to face Jack Shore, while Abdurakhimov and Pavlovich face each other. The UFC is reportedly “looking into the situation for possible solutions.”
Thus far the United States has not announced any similar visa bans for Russian athletes, but past sanctions against Chechnyan leader Ramzan Kadyrov specifically targeted his Akhmat Fight Club promotion and resulted in many fighters being unable to secure US visas. So who knows what the future will hold given how this unstable situation continues to spiral into further division and restrictions.
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Author: Ryan Harkness