craig jones azov

Gordon Ryan Calls Out Craig Jones for Associating with Ukraine’s Azov

Grappling star Craig Jones has stirred up controversy over his recent trip to Ukraine to hold seminars and show support for Ukrainians amid the ongoing war. Jones was photographed holding a flag of the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian militia regiment that has been accused of having ties to far-right nationalist and neo-Nazi groups. Rival grappler Gordon Ryan heavily criticized Jones for the Azov imagery, accusing him of associating with neo-Nazis.

The backlash has overshadowed Jones’ promotional efforts for his new Craig Jones Invitational (CJI) tournament. The $2 million CJI event is set to directly compete with the prestigious ADCC 2024, and has already lured away top athletes like Ffion Davies and the Tackett brothers from ADCC.

As Jones defends his intentions in Ukraine, he now faces scrutiny while trying to build momentum for his rival CJI tournament against the established ADCC event.

What Happened in Ukraine?

Craig Jones visited Ukraine in March 2024 to show his support and hold a charity seminar for troops who train or used to train BJJ before the war. The seminar aimed to boost the morale of the Ukrainian fighters and raise funds for their needs.

During his visit, Craig met with Roman (@sawbonemesslife), a Ukrainian black belt who lived in Marseille, France before the war. At the beginning of the conflict, Roman chose to return to Ukraine as a volunteer and has been fighting ever since. Despite having the option to leave, Roman stayed to defend his country.

Together, Craig and Roman visited a small town about 8 km from the frontline. Roman shared a moment with Craig, saying: “Craig waiting you in Donbas next week, for some heavy shit:) Can’t promise we won’t die, but you’ll have lots of fun:)”

Craig waiting you in Donbas next week, for some heavy shit:) Can’t promise we won’t die, but you’ll have lots of fun:)

This visit highlighted the dire situation on the ground and the ongoing conflict that Ukrainian fighters face daily. It showcased the solidarity and support from the international community, represented by Craig Jones and his efforts to bring attention to the Ukrainian cause.

Jones’ trip to Ukraine was not just about seminars; it was a gesture of international solidarity, aiming to uplift the spirits of those on the front lines and to raise awareness about the ongoing struggle. His actions were a testament to the global support for Ukraine in its fight against aggression, making his subsequent controversy even more impactful and significant.

The Backlash Over Jones’ Azov Flag Photo

In May 2024, Jones went to Marseille, France to conduct another seminar, with all funds raised being donated to Roman’s military unit in Ukraine. It was during this Marseille seminar that a controversial photo was taken of Jones holding an Azov Battalion flag. This image, which Gordon Ryan shared on social media, ignited backlash against Jones for his perceived association with the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian regiment accused of having neo-Nazi ideological ties and using Nazi symbols.

Craig in the center, Roman on the right

Who are the Azov Battalion?

The claims that Ukraine’s Azov Regiment are a bunch of neo-Nazis are complete and utter horseshit peddled by the russian disinformation machine. It’s a pathetic attempt by Moscow to manufacture a pretext for its unprovoked invasion and brutal war crimes in Ukraine.

The truth is that the modern Azov forces have been depoliticized and are just an elite Ukrainian military unit hellbent on defending their country from russian aggression. Any extremist roots from when Azov was a small militia in 2014 have long been expunged.

Reputable experts like Anton Shekhovtsov and Ivan Gomza have definitively concluded Azov’s recruits nowadays join for its badass fighting reputation, not out of some nonsensical allegiance to Nazism. Their old controversial wolfsangel emblem has been abandoned.

Moreover, there is zero evidence of anti-Semitic incidents by Azov members, despite being based for years in Mariupol which has a sizable Jewish population. Ukraine itself ranks among the least anti-Semitic nations in Eastern Europe based on polling data.

The “Azov Nazis” smear directly contradicts the fact that Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is Jewish and has family members who perished in the Holocaust. It’s an absurd insult to imply neo-Nazis dominate Ukraine’s military forces.

This narrative is a classic russian “whataboutism” tactic to falsely morally equate Ukraine with the actual neo-Nazi military contractors that Putin himself celebrates and decorates, like the tattoo-clad Wagner Group mercenaries.

It’s clear this is all disinformation garbage russia is spewing to justify its indefensible crimes against Ukraine. Don’t be a useful idiot – get your facts straight from authoritative sources that conclusively debunk this myth.

For a detailed rebuttal, see this point-by-point rebuttal.

Azov in Captivity

Since 2022, many Azov fighters who bravely defended Mariupol are still held captive, with over 900 servicemen in captivity. Lieutenant Colonel Denys “Redis” Prokopenko, the Azov Brigade Commander, mentioned that it has been two years since these fighters left the Azovstal steel plant. Despite many efforts, their release has not happened yet, leading to nationwide protests.

Every weekend, people all over Ukraine hold marches in support of Azov. Men, women, children, and even dogs join these marches, carrying signs that say “FREE AZOV,” “Return my son from captivity,” “Do not be silent, captivity kills,” and “While you are silent, my family is being tortured.” These rallies show how much the Azov fighters mean to the Ukrainian people and how they are seen as national heroes.

The Mariupol defenders bravely held out for 86 days against a harsh siege that killed 20,000 to 22,000 people in the city. Among the victims were 101 children. On May 4, 2022, russian forces broke into the Azovstal plant, leading to intense fighting. By May 17, the Ukrainian soldiers were captured following orders to save their lives.

Some exchanges have happened, including the release of leaders Denys Prokopenko “Redis” and his deputy Svyatoslav Palamar “Kalyna.” However, the situation is still serious. For 19 months, russia has hidden the status and locations of 1,600 captured defenders, and there have been no major exchanges for the last six months, the longest period without trades since the conflict began.

President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Main Intelligence Directorate are working hard to free these soldiers, but their situation remains urgent. The ongoing efforts to “Free Azov” show the strong desire for justice and human rights in Ukraine during this conflict. The Azov fighters are national heroes, loved and important to us all.

Honoring Azov’s Soldiers Despite Misinformation Efforts

Despite all the misinformation out there, the bravery and dedication of the Azov Regiment are clear. These fighters are national heroes, loved and respected by Ukrainians. Every weekend, people across the country march with signs demanding the release of these brave soldiers.

Let’s be honest—people like Gordon Ryan should stick to what they’re good at, which is BJJ. Outside of that, he doesn’t know much and falls for every conspiracy theory out there. His comments about Azov show the danger of not doing proper research and falling for russian propaganda.

There’s nothing Nazi about Azov. They’re an elite military unit focused on defending Ukraine from aggression. The claims about their ties to extremism are just tactics to undermine their bravery. Understanding the real story and honoring their sacrifices is crucial. The fight to free over 900 captured Azov soldiers continues, showing just how important they are and how determined Ukrainians are to stand by their heroes.

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