Glory Kickboxing Terminates Contracts of All Russian Competitors, Including 1 Champ

Months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine started, Glory Kickboxing is taking a stand on Russian fighters.

The organization announced via press release on Friday that it was ending the contracts of all Russian fighters under its banner. It explained its reasoning in a lengthy statement, which included “travel bans, safety concerns and payment blockages.” It is unclear the specific number of kickboxers that have been let go by the promotion, but this does include reigning light heavyweight champ Artem Vakhitov. While Glory did allow Russians to fight and represent no nation or any flag – much like how the Professional Fighters League is handling fighters from the country – it is now taking things a step further. It is unclear what caused the sudden change in status.

“Due to the Russian government’s invasion of Ukraine which Glory condemns, Glory has encountered a variety of obstacles that have made it impossible to arrange bouts for its Russian athletes, barriers like travel bans, safety concerns, payment blockages in an environment of worldwide financial sanctions against Russia, and unwilling opponents,” the statement wrote.

It continued, stating, “Current Glory Light Heavyweight Champion Artem Vakhitov was amongst several Russian athletes to have their contracts released, thus vacating the Light Heavyweight title. Glory adopted the International Olympic Committee’s recommendation since last February of allowing Russian athletes to fight only as neutral competitors without any national affiliation. However, as the war has continued, the organization determined it is in the best interest of the careers and safety of these athletes to release their contractual obligations to Glory, thus removing them from the rankings and allowing them the opportunity to compete elsewhere.”

In light of Vakhitov’s release, the organization was quick to announce a new bout for the now-vacant light heavyweight strap. On Aug. 20 at the Castello Dusseldorf in Dusseldorf, Germany, Glory will stage Glory 81, where Luis Tavares and Sergej Maslobojev will vie for that belt.

Glory Executive Vice Chairman Scott Rudmann also made his own statement regarding the contract terminations and the new bout, saying, “We’d like to deeply thank our Russian athletes for their cooperation during this challenging time and for their historic performances in our league. We value them as athletes, competitors, and friends, and this regrettable situation is not their fault. It’s not out fault either.”

He continued, “This new era in the division starts with a compelling fight between Luis Tavares and Sergej Maslobojev. Both of these men are outstanding fighters and skilled martial artists, and with the Glory World Light Heavyweight Championship title as the prize, the bout goes to a new level.”

Many other international combat sports organizations have kept Russian competitors on the roster, and some have even refrained from commenting on the invasion altogether. Since it commenced on Feb. 24, for example, Ultimate Fighting Championship has staged 14 events. Of those cards, four headliners hailed from Russia, while a plethora of other fighters at those cards represented Russia as well. Another major MMA organization of Bellator MMA has also continued to allow Russians to compete without apparent restrictions. The aforementioned PFL has removed the displayed flag from Russian fighters and all mentions of their country during broadcasts, while still letting them enter the cage.

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