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Four Russian fighters could all be forced out of UFC London due to sanctions from the Ukraine war.
After Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion on Ukraine, several sanctions and penalties have been imposed on Russia — and Putin himself — by the US, UK, and its other allies.
The impact of this war is obviously immeasurable, and even just on the niche combat sports side of things, several athletes are already beginning to be affected as well.
Ukrainian former heavyweight boxing stars Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko have been directly involved from early on, as the latter is the current mayor of Kyiv. Current boxing world champions Vasiliy Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk have also both issued anti-war statements before returning to Ukraine. These multimillionaire athletes could’ve lived comfortably anywhere else, but have since decided to defend their home country.
Russian athletes are also starting to feel the sanctions imposed on their country. A member of the British Parliament announced on social media that “The UK will not welcome the national sports teams of those countries who are complicit in Putin’s unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine.”
She stated that the visas of the Belarusian Men’s basketball team have been cancelled, and the ruling could also affect four UFC fighters looking to compete in London this March.
MMA Fighting reports that UFC officials are “looking into the situation for possible solutions.” It’s still unclear whether they’d look for replacements or try to move the fights on a different card, but UFC London’s main event and three other bouts are in jeopardy.
Russian heavyweight contender Alexander Volkov was supposed to headline the event against Tom Aspinall. Timur Valiev, Shamil Abdurakhimov and Sergei Pavlovich are also three other Russian fighters booked for the UFC event.
Volkov, the number six ranked UFC heavyweight, has headlined five UFC events in his career. The 33-year-old has also been a staple of the UFC’s EMEA events, having been part of six of their shows in the region since 2016.