Video footage of children as young as eight competing in brutal UFC-style cage fights has sparked outrage in Russia – with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov blasted for allowing his own kids to compete.
The shocking bouts were broadcast live on Russian television on Tuesday, showing youngsters beating each other senseless with vicious kicks and punches to the head.
A huge crowd cheered encouragement as the young fighters entered the arena to loud rock music, high-fiving spectators as they made their way down the stairs.
The shirtless youngsters, who were not wearing protective head gear, then showed no mercy as they savagely attacked one another just like their adult counterparts.
WSHH Shocking scenes as to children fight each other on television Republic of Chechnya head Ramzan Kadyrov
Chechen leader Kadyrov was filmed sitting in the crowd, supporting his sons Akhmad, Eli and Adam in their respective fights, which all three won.
He later proudly posted a video of his children in the ring, saying he forsaw "many victorious fights ahead".
But the event, held in Grozny, has been blasted by professional MMA fighters, with Kadyrov coming in for particular criticism.
Fedor Emelianenko , a former MMA fighter and current president of the Russian MMA governing body, wrote on Instagram: "Fights were carried out according to the rules that exist for adult professional athletes that are not appropriate for children.
WSHH A young lad is given pre-fight advice by a trainer before engaging in brutal combat
"What happened at the tournament in Grozny is unacceptable and, moreover, cannot be justified.
"I’m not talking about the fact children under 12 are not even allowed in the audience, but the kids who are eight years old beating each other’s eyes out in front of happy adults.
"Is it really so important to organise a spectacle to the detriment of the health of the children?"
Dad viciously kicks seven-year-old boy in head before stamping on him because he thought he was bullying his son
Emelianenko added he "resented" seeing Kadyrov in the crowd, and asked why his advisors had not informed him of the rules surrounding children under 12 at MMA fights.
He added: "Participation in fighting on the same level as adults can cause irreparable damage to children’s health that will not only allow them to continue their career, but harm their physical and psychological condition."
Fedor Emelianenko has criticised the event and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov
The Russian Sports Ministry has launched an investigation into the event, Russian media reported.
According to RT, Abuzayd Vismuradov, president of the Akhmat Fighting Club which organised the event, said the children’s bouts " were of an exhibition nature and only aimed at popularizing the sport in Chechnya.