Eye$ Wide Shut

The “Eye$ Wide Shut” series are a collection of articles discussing past and current involvement of organized crime in combat sports. Part 2 (HERE)

Jake LaMotta did it for a shot at the title and an extra $20,000 from the mob. Later in his life he talked about the dive he took against Billy Fox in 1947 at Madison Square Garden and how he regretted it for the rest of his life.

“I regretted it the rest of my life,” he says. “But it happened, and I had a good reason for it. All I wanted to do was become a champion. I wanted a shot at the title, and I finally did after I did what I did. “

Some fighters grow up with the mob or some form of corrupt government. It’s a lifestyle not many can avoid but others have a choice and they choose to turn a blind eye.


MMA fighters Khabib Nurmagomedov & Fedor Emelianenko most likely don’t have much of a choice when it comes to dealing with the Russian mob and Putin’s enforcers. No one can really tell the dictator of a country that they’re not feeling like supporting his campaign on a given day.

Karim Zidan from BloodyElbow and SportsPolitika has consistently worked to pull the curtain back in an effort to offer a glimpse of what it’s like to be an athlete in that part of the world.

There are well documented accounts of fighters like Ex-Bellator fighter Shahbulat Shamhalaev being ambushed after he was out looking for his own target.

There are known gyms operated by gangsters. Recently a news story exposed the Akhmat Fight Club for being funded by Chechen Strongman Ramzan Kadyrov. This is a snippet taken from Kadyrov’s wiki:

He has come under heavy criticism from the international press and Russia, due to alleged human rights violations, corruption, theft of public funds and protection of criminals of Chechen origin.

via BloodyElbow

Yet, despite everything that is known about Kadyrov some fighters still choose to do business with the war criminal.

via Deadspin

Former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum recently signed on to be an ambassador for the Chechnya’s Akhmat Fight Club. What does that title even mean?

According to his manager Ali Abdelaziz this wasn’t just about money, Werdum was treated like a king (which I believe still has to do with money somehow).

“Fabricio was happy to accept what ultimately was a very lucrative offer, but this deal is not just a financial arrangement,” Abdelaziz said. “He was in Chechnya earlier this year, and he was treated like a king. It was an amazing experience for Fabricio, and the opportunity to partner with Akhmat Fight Club was something he didn’t want to pass up.

“Honestly, I think opportunities like this are something all managers should be looking for in the sport. With the changing landscape of sponsorship opportunities, you have to think outside of the box.”

Ali has a point about “thinking outside the box”, since sponsorship deals have historically been a big factor in fighter pay and the UFC limiting this income for fighters these past couple of years. But how far is Ali willing to go?

Ali Abdel Aziz

Shady deal accusations and public criticism is not new for Ali Abdel Aziz. You may recall that WSOF was sued last year due large part to Abdel Aziz double-dipping and receiving two paychecks as both manager and WSOF matchmaker. On top of his reported $100K per-year WSOF salary, Abdel Aziz took an estimated 20% commission on each purse and sponsorship he helped facilitate for each of the 40-50 clients he managed under the Dominance MMA umbrella.


Things start to add up when each WSOF card is made up by as much as 50% Dominance MMA fighters. The promotion’s planned New Year’s Eve card features Dominance clients Justin Gaethje, Joao Zeferino, Jake Shields, and Marlon Moraes to name just a few – some of whom make upwards of $150K per-fight.

Ali also has a criminal record and ties to The Muslims of America, which was uncovered and reported by Mike Russell at RealFightStories.

Ali spent 16 months in prison for check and passport fraud. His ties to the MOA made him a valuable confidential informant for the FBI-NYPD Intelligence Division. He was a CI from 2003 until 2010, and the FBI released him from his CI role after he started failing lie detector tests. The Bureau believed Ali was working as a double agent and could no longer be trusted.

According to RealFightStories, Ali was granted asylum in January 2011 due to fears of being killed if he returned to Egypt.

During one meeting detailed in Russell’s latest report, Keith Evan’s, who was the COO of WSOF at the time, spoke about his concerns of having Ali at WSOF events and how an event could potentially be target as revenge against Ali.

Despite the warning signs and allegations, fighters keep signing with him.


This is a situation Irish fight fans know all too well from their own experiences.

Ireland & Spain

via Mirror

The image above is a screenshot of a video taken at the Dublin Regency Hotel during a weigh-in earlier this year, for a fight featuring Irish boxing star Jamie Kavanagh.

The shooting resulted in the death of David Byrne who was a lieutenant in the Kinahan cartel. The intended target was Daniel Kinahan the son of Christy “The Dapper Don” Kinahan. Who along with Chris Jr Kinahan operate one of the most successful drug cartel in Europe. Previously based out of Marbella, Spain the Kinahan crew have since fled to Dubai, due to the current war they helped spark.

The Kinahan cartel are at war with the Hutch Gang over the death of Gary Hutch, the nephew of Gerry “The Monk” Hutch. Gary was killed by the Kinahan cartel after he was labeled a rat. This led to retaliations, causing the war snowballed into what it is today. To date, 10 people have died, most of whom were gang members, and the war is nowhere close to being over.


Not only is Daniel Kinahan a cartel boss, but he is also the manager of MGM Marbella. The gym is set up using former British-Irish boxer Matthew Macklin’s image. The gym is located in Marbella, Spain where the Kinahan cartel control the port used to smuggle tons of drugs and guns.

The MGM gym was recently raided and authorities seized cash and computers.


Fighters like Conor McGregor, who grew up with members of the Kinahan cartel, were lucky enough to escape a direct involvement with the cartels business. However, Irish boxer Jamie Kavanagh was not so lucky. Jamie’s uncle and father were both a part of the Kinahan cartel and were also labeled as rats; both were executed by the Kinahan Cartel.


McGregor attended the funeral of gangster Paul Kavanagh. His presence was likely out of respect for his childhood friend Jamie Kavanagh, who frequently poses with McGregor on social media.

Even with all of this documented information out in the open, MGM Marbella has secured some very high profile boxers, most recently Irish Olympian Paddy Barnes.


When these fighters are asked, why? They deflect.

So what?

Paddy Barnes was asked in an interview why he would sign with a gym known for its criminal ties? His response:

“I know nothing about all that, I’m a sportsman and my only interest is in boxing”, he said.

“MGM Marbella has some world class boxers signed to them and have done great things for the fighters that they work with.

“I’m obviously friends with Jamie Conlon and they’ve been brilliant for him and so I’d no hesitation signing for them.

“They showed an interest in me and I was impressed with them and am looking forward to working with them.

“I’ve obviously seen things in the papers and whatever, but I don’t concern myself with all that, I want to concentrate on the sport and that’s it”.

When fans on Twitter reach out to Ali’s fighters in an effort to warn them of their manager’s history, they either get blocked (most likely by Ali who is known to have access to their Twitter accounts) or they down play it, like the UFC’s Derek Brunson.


No one cares bro…At least until something happens.

Like the time former British Boxer Jamie Moore “felt helpless and lonely lying there bleeding to death”. Jamie was standing outside a property owned by cartel boss Daniel Kinahan when an assassination attempt took place. The hit men confused Jamie with Gerard Kavanagh and shot him repeatedly, leaving him there to die. Luckily, Jamie survived.


Fighters will continue to ignore reality and focus on their own financial gains. It doesn’t matter if it is covered by CNN or RealFightStories. Money talks.

Hopefully nothing as serious as the Jamie Moore shooting occurs again. Hopefully the money is worth the risk these fighters take, or maybe they could learn a thing or two from Jake LaMotta.


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