They’ve been catapulted to global viral fame in recent days but the purported MMA showdown between two diminutive protagonists in Russia has not gone down well with the country’s Dwarf Athletic Association.
Any combat sports fan taking a casual glance at Twitter or Instagram this week will have seen the appearance of two unlikely stars – Dagestani blogger Khasbulla ‘Khasbik’ Magomedov and rival Abdurozik from Tajikistan.
The pair’s face-offs have been viewed millions of times online, capturing the attention of the fighting community and even beyond, with the likes of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal posting a mock-up of the clips.
Magomedov is a well-known celebrity in Dagestan, counting Khabib Nurmagomedov among his pals and often posing with the UFC legend.
While many take him to be much younger due to his proportions, Magomedov is actually said to be 18 years old and suffers from a rare genetic condition.
Abdurozik, 17, is likewise a similar star in his homeland, known for his musical talents and like his would-be foe Magomedov, he suffers from a growth disorder.
Under the auspices of Chechen blogger and MMA fighter Asxab Tamaev, the plan is seemingly for the pair to meet in actual combat – although despite teasing a May 18 date, organizer Tamaev has yet to share any footage of a fight beyond a few face-off scuffles.
The furor has divided opinion in Russia, with some seeing it as harmless fun, some taking offense, and some simply being oblivious to the fuss.
But one group apparently nonplussed is the Russian Dwarf Athletic Association, whose head, Uliana Podpalnaya, has called it “unethical.”
“It’s not even like a show fight – they get paid a lot of money and it’s a show to make people laugh. There’s nothing serious about this, this isn’t sport,” Podpalnaya told Gazeta.ru.
“This is unethical, wrong, from my point of view. It seems to me that only on the one hand it can be correct and beautiful – if martial arts among small people are made a Paralympic sport.”
“It could be judo, karate, and people will understand that this is a serious sport, serious performances, and not some kind of laughing show.
“Events like this don’t draw attention to the sport of little people [dwarves]. If interest in this appears, it’s only because a lot of money is being invested in it. And from the point of view of the sports career growth of these guys, there are no prospects.”
That assessment has been backed by others online, including one popular Twitter account which labeled the scenes between ‘Khasbik’ and Abdurozik a “cringefest” and “vulgar.”
Others, however, have found the whole thing highly amusing – including the likes of Russian former UFC bantamweight champion Petr Yan and English star Darren Till.
“I’d pay good money to watch this,” wrote Till on Instagram, sharing the fiery face-off between the two compact would-be fighters.
— Petr “No Mercy” Yan (@PetrYanUFC) May 17, 2021
Tamaev has suggested that both protagonists will be rewarded for their performances, while the pugilists themselves have already seen their fame rocket severalfold in recent days.
Whether the public gets to see an actual fight remains to be seen.