When authoritarian Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov began planning celebrations for his 40th birthday and re-inauguration this week, he appears to have grappled with two very different themes: underage mixed martial arts fighting and U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. So to keep things simple, he just went with both.
On the eve of his birthday, he premiered his three sons, all ages 10 and under, in what appears to be authentic, unprotected MMA matches in front of an audience of cheering adults. The boys, all three of whom won their divisions in the match-ups, fought without headgear or gloves. That earned major criticism from the Kremlin, despite Putin’s recent re-endorsement of Kadyrov, who won 98 percent of the vote in recent Chechen elections.
“[The] knockout of a child, especially on television, is a reason for the appropriate oversight agencies to get involved,” a Kremlin spokesman told reporters in Moscow.
And on Wednesday, because Kadyrov just likes a good show, he surprised his audiences once again when The Team, a Chechen spinoff of Trump’s The Apprentice, premiered on Russian state TV.
The American version of the TV program follows participants as they compete for a one-year, $250,000 salaried position at one of Trump’s companies. The goal in the Chechen version, however, is to be hired as Kadyrov’s assistant.
Each of the 16 contestants has been given a bedroom in a guest house on Kadyrov’s personal property, and will compete in each episode to remain in the running for the available gig.
The show opened with clips of him hiking through Chechnya decades ago, then shifts to him in modern-day, pointing to his walking stick.
“There used to be a machine gun, an automatic rifle or a grenade launcher; now I have this cane,” he said.
The first task of the competition was slightly confusing, as it required the contestants to use some 3,000 “volunteers” and organize them to spell out or represent their team name on a soccer field.
And although the 16 contestants are a mixed group of men and women, the possibility of winning lies entirely with the men. When one woman asked Kadyrov about whether or not a woman stood a chance for a high-ranking position in Chechnya, he responded by saying “the woman is a housewife.”
Photo credit: Kadyrov Press Office/Getty Images