Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Russian republic of Chechnya, has been criticised for putting his three young sons into the ring to fight in a mixed martial arts (MMA) tournament. The head of the Russian MMA Union, Fedor Emelianenko, has led the wave of criticism against the event, and Kadyrov in particular, labeling the children’s participation “unacceptable.” The Kremlin declared that those fights should become a cause for a check of the supervisory authorities.

The "Akhmat" children's martial arts tournament was held in Grozny, Chechnya on October 4 on the eve of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov's birthday. Three of the children were sons of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov - 10-year-old Akhmad, 9-year-old Zelimkhan and 8-year-old Adam. Akhmad knocked out another boy on Tuesday in front of his father and a packed arena in Chechnya and won the “youth division” in 14 seconds. Eli Kadyrov and Adam Kadyrov also won their bouts, the latter trading blows and grappling with his opponent before throwing him to the ground.

After the matches, which were broadcast by an MMA television channel, the brothers posed with huge gold title belts.

Kadyrov gushed about the fights on Instagram, but Russia’s most famous fighter and MMA union head, Fedor Emelianenko, called them “inexcusable”, saying MMA rules did not allow children under 12 to compete. He also noted that the boys were not wearing helmets or protective vests, and said fights held according to adult rules could harm children physically and psychologically.

"Children under 12 aren’t even allowed into the hall as spectators, but here kids who are eight years old were beating each other up in front of delighted adults. Is it really that important for everyone to organise a spectacle at the expense of children’s health?” Emelianenko wrote on his own Instagram.

In line with the regulations of the Russian MMA Union, only children of age over 12 can be allowed taking part in the fights. Participants within the age groups of 12-13, 14-15 and 16-17 are obliged to wear rash guards (an athletic shirt made of spandex and nylon or polyester) and protective ammunitions.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman told journalists that the “knockout of a child, especially on television, is a reason for the appropriate oversight agencies to get involved”. The sports ministry told the news agency Tass that it would open an inquiry into the fights.

Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said it was high time to discuss this issue as well as the issue regarding illegal formats of competitions in the country.

"I think it is about time to raise this issue," he said. "There must not be a tournament in Russia if it does not comply with any officially registered sport. We need to return to this issue once again considering the fact that this format (of MMA fighting) has age limitations."

"In line with MMA regulations, children can take up this sport starting with a certain age, not to mention entering competitions," the sports minister added.

Several Chechen officials responded to Emelianenko with insults and accusations. Timur Dugazayev, Kadyrov’s representative in Europe and general director of the leader’s Akhmat MMA promotion, said: “Fedor should look at the situation from a man’s point of view.”

MP Adam Delimkhanov, a relative of Kadyrov, said it was “strange to hear such words” from a fighter who “stole a win” after “losing shamefully and being harshly beaten” in his controversial June decision over Fábio Maldonado. Valid Edilov, director of the Akhmat fight club, accused Emelianenko of doping and argued that fighting was part of Chechen children’s upbringing.