PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), have urged the UFC to "evaluate its relationship" with Khabib Nurmagomedov after "loathsome" footage resurfaced of the Russian wrestling a chained-up bear.
Numerous clips of Nurmagomedov fighting with a bear he describes as his "old friend" have reared their head on social media since the mixed martial artist beat Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 on Saturday.
In three separate videos — one from when he was a child, and two which were posted on his and his trainer's Instagram accounts in 2014 and 2019 — the 30-year-old fighter is seen grappling and pulling the brown bear by its neck and arms while it's chained to the floor by a steel collar and muzzled.
"PETA encourages the UFC to evaluate its relationship with Mr Nurmagomedov until he shows a clear change in attitude and a commitment to showing animals the respect that they deserve," PETA Director Elisa Allen told Business Insider after reviewing the shocking footage.
"Wrestling with a chained bear is loathsome behavior that shows an utter lack of respect for and consideration of who these animals are.
"In the wild, bears roam across vast territories, foraging, swimming, digging in the dirt, climbing trees, searching for a mate, and expressing other essential, natural types of behavior.
"Those used in Russia for 'boxing,' 'dancing,' or other archaic forms of entertainment are typically torn from their mothers as cubs, chained, caged, muzzled, beaten, and deprived of everything that's meaningful to them."
Allen concluded: "PETA urges Mr Nurmagomedov to stick to wrestling with willing human opponents."
Nurmagomedov's relationship with the bear seen in the footage reportedly goes back a long way.
The UFC champion's father and coach, Abdulmanap, told ToFight that he used to make his son wrestle the beast as a "test of character" when he was just nine years old.
Khabib himself has confirmed the unusual training method, telling Bloody Elbow: "It was a secret video and I do not know how that got on the internet."
He has continued to meet and spar with the bear in recent years, taking to Instagram to post photos and videos alongside his chained-up "friend from childhood."
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Nurmagomedov defended his UFC lightweight championship on Saturday when he beat Dustin Poirier by submission in Abu Dhabi.
The Russian is expected to face either Tony Ferguson or Conor McGregor in his next fight, which could take place in Africa early next year.