It’s been a busy, testosterone-fueled few weeks in the busy, testosterone-fueled life of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Last week he increased the size and intensity of his war games in Eastern Siberia, filling the West once again with dread that the Cold War-like atmosphere brought on by Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 is getting worse. In addition, there have been numerous reports of increased Russian military activity in Syria, leading to speculation that Putin is either looking to strengthen his strategic position in the Middle East or curry favor with Europe and the U.S. by taking the lead in the fight against ISIS, or both. To top things off, Putin’s good friend and brother in Russian masculinity Fedor Emelianenko announced last week that he will be returning to competitive mixed martial arts after a three-year retirement, further proof for a man like Putin that the blood of Russian fighters never really cools and that Russian manliness needs to be taken out and displayed to the world from time to time in order to strike fear and awe in the hearts of all men who witness it. Men like Barack Obama and Donald Trump and Fabricio Werdum.
Still, even for a true man’s man like Vladimir Putin, life can’t be all military exercises, shirtless horse rides, and pectoral displays. There are other, more sensitive muscles that need to be flexed as well, muscles hidden away from the world. Even a dictator needs love, see, and unfettered Russian male muscularity must have its mate: unfettered Russian female muscularity. “That no one can deny.”
And so: the delicious rumors that Putin has been taking time off from planning the slow takeover of the Middle East and the not-so-slow reclamation of former Soviet Republics to date a former female boxing champion, or rather the female former boxing champion. Last week the president was seen making eyes with Natascha Ragosina, aka “The Sledgehammer,” aka “The Russian Tsarina,” a former undefeated boxing champion from Kazakhstan who retired in 2009 with nine belts to her name and a reputation as the greatest female boxer alive. She was also a three-time kickboxing champion and the subject of a seductive Penthouse pictorial spread. In other words, she’s the kind of woman put on earth to delight a man like Vladimir Putin, in as much as a man like Vladimir Putin can feel delight.
So where do a former boxing super-champion and a judo-loving, revanchist Russian president go when they’re courting? The gym? The shooting range? Crimea? How about an international combat Sambo tournament in the Black Sea coastal town of Sochi, site of Putin’s multi-billion-dollar corruption-plagued 2014 Winter Olympics? Where better to be Vladimir Putin on a date? There last week, decked out in a tight blue dress and a large silver cross necklace, Ragosina watched fighters from around the world beat each other senseless while seated awkwardly between Putin and the man she’ll most likely have to fight for first place in his heart, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, with whom Putin spent the rest of his Sochi trip lifting weights, grilling steaks, sipping tea, and (possibly) plotting destruction.
In other words, just another weekend in the strange tiger-shooting, hormone-addled world of Vladimir Putin, a world where great military moves are made and political strategies enacted based on the rises and falls of one man’s desires, insecurities, and ego. No one would put it past Putin to flex his geopolitical muscles simply because Fedor Emelianenko (the man Putin wishes he could be) is returning to MMA. Or because the Russian president apparently turned down a martial arts fight with longtime friend and American anomaly Steven Seagal, proposed by China’s deputy prime minister, Wang Yang, last week while the three men toured a giant aquarium in Vladivostok. Maybe it was the shame of refusing that fight that led Russia’s fearless leader to kick things up a notch in the Middle East and Ukraine. Or maybe it was the reminder deep down in Putin’s tormented soul that he’ll never be the “man” Emelianenko is, that there are in fact limits to his own seemingly limitless masculinity.
Or maybe it was just love.
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