It appears the far right has taken advantage of pandemic at-home fitness trends to expand its decade-plus radicalization of physical mixed martial arts (MMA) and combat sports spaces.
Earlier this month, researchers reported that a network of online “fascist fitness” chat groups on the encrypted platform Telegram are recruiting and radicalizing young men with neo-Nazi and white supremacist extremist ideologies. Initially lured with health tips and strategies for positive physical changes, new recruits are later invited to closed chat groups where far-right content is shared.
Physical fitness has always been central to the far right. In “Mein Kampf,” Hitler fixated on boxing and jujitsu, believing they could help him create an army of millions whose aggressive spirit and impeccably trained bodies, combined with “fanatical love of the fatherland,” would do more for the German nation than any “mediocre” tactical weapons training.
In more modern times, far-right groups have launched mixed martial arts and boxing gyms in Ukraine, Canada and France, among other places, focused on training far-right nationalists in violent hand-to-hand combat and street-fighting techniques. It’s caught the attention of intelligence authorities, especially in Europe, where various reports have noted the role of combat sports and MMA in radicalizing and promoting far-right violence. A series of collaborative efforts between governments, national sports associations, and local gyms in places such as Germany, Poland and the United Kingdom have introduced intervention and prevention programs.
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