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UFC champion Makhachev, refuses to celebrate win in show of solidarity with Palestine

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The UFC lightweight champion Makhachev refused to celebrate his 294th victory on Saturday in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

“I am not celebrating [the] win today because [of] the crazy things that are happening around the world. Palestine, we stand with you,” he said in a post-fight interview.

Makhachev, who shares a very close bond with former UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, was seen carrying the Palestinian flag after beating his opponent Alexander Volkanovski in a 13th consecutive win.

The Russian fighter has a huge fanbase in the sport, many of whom took to social media to applaud his stance for Palestine while others criticized Makhachev and blamed Hamas for igniting the conflict.

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READ ALSO: Thousands of Muslims stage mega rally for Palestine in Lagos *Demand Two states resolution

Athletes facing backlash

Last week, Egyptian swimmer Abdelrahman Sameh said he had “been getting death threats” for expressing his support for the people of Palestine after he refused to celebrate his gold medal at the World Aquatics Swimming World Cup 2023 in light of the ongoing war.

Sameh won the men’s 50-meter butterfly final at the tournament in Greece but said it was difficult for him to celebrate after a “mentally tough week.”

“I have been getting death threats – people have been attacking me all week for supporting Palestine,” he said in an interview after his win.

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“My family goes to sleep, not knowing if someone is going to break into my room, if somebody is going to break into my apartment. They have to wonder every time I don’t pick up a call, ‘Is he busy or is someone trying to kill him?’”

Several Muslim football players have also been suspended or face investigation after they showed support for Palestine on social media, including Dutch national Anwar El Ghazi who plays for the German club Mainz 05 and French club Nice’s Youcef Attal.

France’s forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Nations League – League A Group 1 first leg football match between France and Denmark at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on June 3, 2022. (AFP)
France’s forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Nations League – League A Group 1 first leg football match between France and Denmark at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on June 3, 2022. (AFP)
French football star Karim Benzema also faced harsh criticism after he posted on X, formerly Twitter, in support of the people in Gaza.

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France’s interior minister Gerald Darmanin accused Benzema of having ties with terrorist organizations while a French senator, Valerie Boyer, demanded that the 2022 Ballon D’or winner be stripped of his French citizenship.

More than 3000 civilians killed
Hamas militants stormed into Israel on October 7 and killed at least 1,400 Israelis and foreign nationals.

Israeli army  around 1,500 Hamas fighters were killed in clashes before its army regained control of the area under attack.

More than 3,700 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed across the Gaza Strip in relentless Israeli bombardments in retaliation for the attacks by the Palestinian militant group.

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