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How Hasbulla and Abdu Rozik are poised to dominate with their brands.
It’s nearly one year to Hot Chips, and I haven’t had any time to think about how one year of this newsletter has flown by. Life’s become pretty hectic, which might explain this delay. But I’m not complaining.
All I do know is I’m glad where it is going, what it’s been through, and I massively enjoy writing this newsletter. I think I can do this for a long enough time without feeling bored, or worrying about the motivation to write something big day in and day out. And I’m glad that close to 350 folks have stuck around for this journey :))
That being said: this might have been the toughest piece I’ve done. I’ve been stuck at various points, because I have known the story in my head for more than a month-and-a-half. It had a beginning and an end, but a sketchy middle act. And I had a tough time deciding the song. I wanted this to be as thorough as possible, because I felt like this story could be deeper than what average internet-savvy person might give it credit.
But a few things clicked. I needed a track that felt both genuine and ironic in its usage. A few days before publishing, I changed the track and had Aubrey Drake Graham enter my life again. I know what you’re going to say: “Pranav, is there ever a waking moment you’ll ever stop having Drake on your mind, for good or for bad?” But here’s the thing: he’s the (ew) superstar that embodies traits of both the main characters in this story. Trust me on this — this song feels “hell ya fucking” right for this piece.
I suggest you get a speaker, a Coke, and (ahem) a borgir to read this :)
The last year or so saw the rise of short king spring.
Conventional societal knowledge states that it’s hard out on the streets of love for a man below 6 feet. Which is why a lot of guys love rounding off their heights to the nearest acceptable benchmark. 5’10” and 5’11” become 6 feet. And on meeting, it certainly feels underwhelming, but you can’t quite place why without a physical measurement scale. Hell, I’m short, but I wouldn’t go as far as to do that. If only I had been a basketball fan in my early adolescence.
But now? It’s hip to be short. What began as a meme song in 2019 from The Lonely Island-ripoff Tiny Meat Gang has materialized into something much bigger:
“Standing 5'8", voice 6'5""
Tom Holland is short, and he’s with Zendaya. TikTok is rife with the hashtag #shortking. Anthony Fauci is 5’7”, and he saved an entire country. TikTok was rife with creators who couldn’t see over the dinner table. And the TikToks are about, well, interesting things: how to pose for a short king when you’re a tall queen, how to handle height differences in a relationship, and flexes of how that when God made short kings, they forgot a few inches.
But I suppose no one embodies that last line more than two guys who originally became big on TikTok, measuring a bit above 3 feet, who choke-held the internet by going toe-to-toe against each other.
If He Dies, He Dies
Hasbulla Magomedov was born in 2003 in a Russian village called Aksha, before moving to Makhachkala. He suffers from some form of dwarfism which has limited his body and voice development. But his position is that his likeness with the most famous (and arguably most talented) GHD victim of all — Lionel Messi — exists beyond just sharing the condition.
He’s 3’3”, and harbors dreams of making it to the UFC. If he couldn’t be as big and laterally quick as his idol — Khabib Nurmagomedov — he was going to imitate him in style and spirit. So he started making videos of himself shadow boxing, imitating UFC fighters, punching his crew and getting away with it slyly. Since discovering that he has the advantage of looking too innocent for a 19-year old (now 20), he created a lot of content around pulling pranks on his friends/crew. And, of course, doing random things on the street. Like bossing the dust around on an ATV, playing with a monkey, and most notably, wielding a gun like a gangster. One look at his Instagram might make one concerned as to how much he loves his guns. Russian gun laws are wild.
Before you knew it, he was clicking pictures with Khabib, who has pretty much taken Hasbulla under his wing. Hasbulla started having his own manager for fights — a man named Asxab Tamaev. They have reportedly broken up, and they’ve had a couple of scuffles that we’ll get to eventually in this story.
But all things aside, Hasbulla created a unique image of himself in front of the world. One that is often described by many as “cute but dangerous”, “adorable but intimidating”, “spirited but ready to throw a punch”, and “a player of the highest order”. There’s a Twitter page (@HasbullaHive) dedicated entirely to posting photos of Hasbulla with the corniest of captions about how he’s a ladies man. He’s about to steal yo girl. Note that HasbullaHive is not run by Hasbulla’s team. It’s a fan account with more than 660K followers.
Before April 2022, not much was known about who he is as a person, until he did his first public interview with Barstool Sports. And, well, he pulled no punches. He annoyed the heck out of the interviewer (and punched him), called him unintelligent, talked about his cat who he wanted to bring to Dubai. Hasbulla has dreams, which may or may not involve holding a pistol on either hand. But he originally wanted to be a trader or a truck driver, only to eventually get into car business. He claims to have learnt boxing himself. You know what they say about violence: when your guns fail, only your hands can save you. He wants to be the Minister of Internal Affairs for his district, Dagestan, so that he can make his haters parade around the city with him. And remove all speeding limits.
But above all, he will beat up Abdu Rozik till he bleeds to death.
Tajikistan’s Very Own
Abdu Rozik was born a year after Hasbulla, in a village in Tajikistan. It may not be too far to assume that the two of them meeting could probably be destiny. Abdu had a humble beginning. He too suffers from dwarfism, and had a phase of rickets as a child. His parents weren’t rich enough to afford treatment for his height problem at the time. However, Abdu had one trait that few people do: an angelic voice. And he was discovered by a Tajik rapper named Baron, who took him under his reins to the capital city of Dushanbe, under the label he was part of — Avlod Media.
Abdu was born to be don the hat of a singer with a forlorn love. And his first tryst with internet fame was a track named “Ohi Dili Zor”. While there’s not been an attempt to translate the lyrics of the song, one look at his emotiveness should be enough to give away the possible theme of the song. Short, adorable king who can sing? Hallelujah.
Abdu’s Instagram immediately pops out — sometimes he’s doing the most adorable things, like standing headfirst on a snowy ground (and tumbling), going to fancy restaurants, doing funny impressions, dancing, singing, and meeting every celebrity he can. For the longest time, his dream was to meet Cristiano Ronaldo — which he also accomplished this year. He’s met everyone — Ronaldinho, Paul Pogba, Munawat Farqui, Salman Khan, AR Rahman, Sadiq Khan. He’s adorable, photogenic, seemingly very approachable, and full of life.
While both Abdu and Hasbulla seem to have had similar come-ups to fame, their external brands, and the way they both present as adorable, could not be more different. Besides boxing, the one thing common to both of them is that they’re both fairly religious. Hasbulla gives off the vibe that he doesn’t have two shits to give about celebrity status or celebrities. He’s naughty, cunning, sometimes a bit sinister. Most of his pictures contain a grumpy face of him. He embodies the “I’mma get rich and get my homies rich, by hook or by crook” mentality, and that’s all there is to the game for him. He doesn’t care who’s in front of him, or what setting he’s in — they’re all getting a punch when they least expect it. He couldn’t care too much about being a superstar, or being likable. He’s just himself.
Which is not to say Abdu isn’t himself, but it’s almost as if he was always meant to be a superstar entertainer — who are, by nature, are the subject of a lot of love and adulation. He understands how to captivate audiences, how to generate mass appeal, and how to churn hits. He wants to dress and look fancy, live fancy, and have some jolly good fun and laughter while he’s at it, while gripping the world in a chokehold with the supposed innocence of his heart.
It is entirely possible that these are just characters. But it doesn’t matter: Hasbulla and Abdu Rozik are aces at building hype around them. So it’d only make sense for them to find ways to monetize their popularity.
The catch is that there’s virtually very little on the internet regarding how both of them are going about brand-building. An attempt to take a stab at it took me to a few interesting places, doing some piecing from their socials, and a lot more enlightenment regarding the journey of a content creator.
I spoke with Avantika Gupta and Rayees Shaikh, two folks from the influencer marketing and social media division from the music label, Big Bang Music. A chat with them led to listing down factors that we thought evoked certain kinds of feelings from each account. An analogy that helped frame this was Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan: both popular among the masses, but known for very different movies tonally, having very different vibes.
Body language (insert image) — Hasbulla is almost always stiff. His face is often grumpy, and it feels like he’d rebuff you if you approached him for a selfie. Even if he smiles, it feels like he has something up his sleeve that he wants to surprise you with. Abdu Rozik, however, is extremely expressive: loves using his hands. His smile feels warm, and he seems very emotive. He’s playful, but not in a sly manner. You can ask him for a selfie.
Dressing sense: Hasbulla is the influencer version of rap Drake. Never mind that I was listening to 21 while writing this: Hasbulla has tons of photos where he is actually strapped. And except for when he has to tend to prayers, he’s wearing “I don’t give a fuck” clothes. But Abdu Rozik has a suite of suits. He has something for every occasion. He wants attention. He’s pop Drake.
Company: A quick look at how either of them hangs out with gives you distinct impressions. They could replace Mickey and Rocky with Khabib and Hasbulla chasing chickens and it would still be a great movie. Hasbulla is always ready to throw down the gauntlet, and he’s not showing you his tricks until it’s time to have the upper hand. And you won’t see Hasbulla with any women, ever, even though he gives you the idea that he has that ladies’ man touch. But Abdu is a meet-and-greeter of the highest order. He thrives as an extrovert. Men, women, they all love him.
Andre Agassi might not agree, but image is everything. But a character? You believe in a character, even if its smoke and mirrors. And more than anything, Hasbulla and Abdu Rozik are the main characters in a world where short-form content is commanding authority and attention. PR is king in world-building around a character, and it can be ever so deliberate. As a character, BeerBiceps is someone who the average listener would associate traits like humility, learning, positivity, health, and now entrepreneurship. You could play a drinking game everytime he says he’s humble. But it’s the lengths to which his team goes to maintain that character that boggled me. There is never a content piece that’s not manicured by him. His angel investments in startups (which are fairly recent) make quite some noise — most notably, his cheque for consumer tech company Nothing. If cricketers and Bollywood stars can hire PR, why can’t influencers?
Neither Hasbulla nor Abdu Rozik has had to deal with particularly bad PR yet, but the brands of both these people look so deliberately controversy-free. It’s just two people from humble backgrounds and a couple of physical shortfalls living their dreams, devoid of real-world politics or social issues.
And the dreams are tall. Both of them frequent/live in Dubai, and flex to the point where you ask yourself whether there are any dreams worth more than money. How much the net worth of either influencer is, is yet to be known. With the diverse revenue streams that an influencer may have, your guess is as good as mine. But here’s the kicker: Hasbulla, at the very least, is never shown doing a single brand deal on his Instagram. The man is pure gangster. There’s no question he must have brands chasing after him every other day. But he’s clearly very selective about being a sellout. He doesn’t even have his own product suite yet. However, r/hasbulla loves keeping track of every single thing Hasbulla does — like a shoe line with his name on it that cost $25K.
However, both Hasbulla and Abdu Rozik would have a more secret source of income: private events. David Royce, a podcaster who operates out of Dubai, tells me that the average amount highly successful influencer charges for a private event is $100,000. And it checks out: Dubai as a city has more than enough propensity to pay to have an influencer entertain them in their dining rooms. Abdu Rozik, on the other hand, goes to new restaurants every other day, or so say his stories — specifically to eat burgers. He also makes money from his YouTube channel, which easily rake in a million views for any one video. Which might raise the question: “Why hasn’t a McDonald’s or a Burger King approached him yet for a borgir deal? What’s the hold up?”
I had a chat with the official Instagram account of IFCM. They were vague regarding Abdu’s brand endorsements and deals, and explicitly refused to reveal any numbers and financials. However, the nature of the relationship between Abdu and IFCM was made a little clearer — IFCM doesn’t look at itself as an agency. In its own words: it has no clients, but rather it tries to fund those who have talent but no means to reach. Basically, this implies some sort of financial and networking assistance, beyond its general services I’ve mentioned above. However, what is unclear is if this sponsorship also has an underlying contract with certain conditions as to revenue-sharing, disclosure of deals, and so on. If nothing else, they help Abdu Rozik make some rousing content like this. IFCM finds a mention in many of Abdu’s stories and reels.
Both of them have also been quick at embracing some newer, more advanced forms of minting money. Earlier this year, both influencers announced their own NFT projects. Hasbulla’s NFT airdrop is an attempt to create an enviable community around him, that gets exclusive access to him — both in-person and online. The project is in its 2nd phase (out of 5), and currently, only 2000 of these NFTs have been minted. The end goal is to launch a crypto token in his name, and launch a metaverse game where the NFT holders can play to earn Hasbi tokens. Many NFTs are designed in a way where Hasbulla’s likeness is transposed to that of famous celebrities, characters, and avatars. Holder benefits also vary depending on how many Hasbi NFTs one holds. It grants you discounts, invites, free flight tickets, and certain deals with the project’s partnerships — like Khabib, Shaquille O’Neal, Logan Paul, Barstool Sports, and LAD Bible (of all websites).
Abdu Rozik’s project also seems to be similar. His socials mention an “abduverse” — hinting at a play-to-earn metaverse game as well, much like Hasbulla. The larger community roadmap, however, does not seem as well-outlined yet as that of Hasbulla. The first phase will have 5,555 hand-drawn NFTs minted of Abdu Rozik in his different outfits and avatars.
These NFT projects are coming in at a time when creator interest in the web3 world has reached a high. Creators are investing their time in building a strong, high-paying community that can earn from owning a stake in that creator’s journey. Gary Vaynerchuk’s VeeFriends project is a solid example of a successful creator-led NFT project. Of course, the success of a project like this would depend on a) the creator’s currency, b) the community and how active it is, c) the NFT’s utility, and d) if there’s a token launch, then the tokenomics. Usually, the biggest creators have The creator interest in web3 is also part of a wave of influencers trying to find new ways to monetize their brand. New product lines, equity deals, affiliate programs for younger creators, NFTs. (insert diagram)
Come, See, Conquer
This diversification of bag-chasing probably doesn’t make it too much of a surprise that Dubai has become the preferred choice of place of operations for both of them. Hasbulla has mentioned it numerous times as a city he loves, Abdu practically lives there. Why does the city have that kind of pull, besides the obvious lifestyle improvement it has to offer? Is it an influencer haven of some kind?
One starting point to answer that question might be the Nas Summit which was held this year there. Influencers from all over the world, including a significant number from India, headed over there. It had some venture capital backing — including from GSV and Lightspeed. Companies like Snap, LinkedIn, and for some reason, Barbados Tourism attended the 3-day fest. Clearly the summit was great exposure to many.
But the UAE itself wants more people to adopt the country as home — which is why it has some of the most convenient visa policies in Asia: both for tourists and potential businesses. David mentions that you can legally register a business within 3 days of getting a license. The UAE government believes that influencers have the power to promote Dubai as a possible expatriate destination. So it has people like Abdu Rozik promoting some of its biggest attractions, like the annual Dubai Expo. I spoke to Pranav Panaplia — the founder of an agency called Opraahfx, who refers to the popularity of the #VisitDubai campaign. You can tell what influencer posts are sponsored by peeping that hashtag. The city became an unofficial influencer capital last year itself — at the height of the second CoVID wave. Hotel chains like Radisson are chipping in, featuring travel bloggers on their ads. Some creators have decided to permanently move to Dubai as well — like MoVlogs and SuperCarBlondie. Indian creators feel the Arab heat too — like Dubai-based Ritu Pamnani, who has cracked a Cosmopolitan cover, among a number of deals in fashion. Influencers on Dubai billboards aren’t uncommon either, as David tells me.
The world has adopted influencers into mainstreamity. They’re not just online personalities anymore, but rather people who you might end up seeing on large billboards and TV advertisements. Some people get deals from BBC. Some get deals from Spotify. Some appear on IPL ads (ask). Big brand deals are one signal of becoming more mainstream, and why not? Brands feel that influencers are more efficient conversion-wise, while charging less than what a conventional celebrity might. Some of the bigger ones pull a pivot so big that you forget they ever advocated for something problematic. Pranav gives me the example of Logan Paul — he went from being known for filming a suicide victim in Japan to now being on the same stage as Arnold Schwarzenegger, the same IG live as Drake, and the same frame as the guests he interviews on his podcast — Logic, Mike Tyson, Kevin O’Leary, Triple H, to name a few. It’s also the diversity of what he’s doing that has made his brand strategy so successful. “No publicity is bad publicity” — it would have been pretty easy for Paul to fall out had he continued being edgy after that controversial video.
This sort of mainstreamity is also aided not only by the ability to be forward-thinking, but also enter new markets; sometimes switch to new ones. In the case of the latter, Logan Paul is a great example — his claims to fame have shifted across the years; from hilarious and edgy Vines, to matters more serious. So is Tanmay Bhat — who changed careers altogether in the quest for a successful pivot where his current audience doesn’t resemble (in size or composition) what it was as a comedian. He’s now much better known for being an advocate of Indian entrepreneurship, personal finance, and deep conversations with accomplished people.
But when it comes to new market entry — if an influencer needs to expand their market to a location other than their home location, the easiest way to go about that market entry is to collaborate with the local influencer of the target location. One of Dubai’s most popular influencers is a man named Anas Bukhash — who was described to me as the BeerBiceps of the Middle East. He runs a YouTube channel called ABTalks, where he releases podcast episodes with celebrities — Max Verstappen, Masaba Gupta, Atif Aslam, Nora Fatehi. And interestingly, he has one episode with a very popular Indian dude who buys jungle land for a living. You might better know him as Sadhguru — who has been all over Instagram this year for his Save Soil Foundation.
That being said, Abdu is on track to being a superstar. He bagged the role of a gangster, in Salman Khan’s next flick — very obviously boringly-named Bhaijaan. He’s driven his India market entry straight into 5th gear in the most explosive way possible — entering Bollywood. And all the while, multiple Indian influencers, actors, comedians, bosses of music labels, create Instagram stories and reels with him. He’s danced with Varun Dhawan and Munawar Faruqui, sang AR Rahman’s songs to the man himself, posed with Sara Ali Khan. Of course, much of this may not have been possible without the networking efforts of Abdu’s “sponsor”, IFCM. His activity in the last few months has included a lot of collaborations with Indian influencers, too. But Bollywood will ensure he’s in everyone’s minds rent-free after he’s on the big screen.
The production team behind the Ranbir Kapoor-starrer Shamshera invited an entire summit of creators for promotions — proving that even an effective marketing campaign can’t save a forgone movie. But more importantly, Bollywood stars are realizing the power of building an online presence. Some of the biggest Hollywood actors and sports superstars figured out early on that YouTube is extremely effective, and much easier than shooting for movies. Will Smith, The Rock, and now Varun Dhawan and Kartik Aaryan — who actually has more 200K more subscribers than Dhawan. Aaryan has his own talk show too, where he interviews big names, some of who might even be his friends. Are actors increasingly pivoting to “content creation”? The answer is a yes.
And this kind of mainstreamity was not really a goal for influencers in the beginning. The start was all about blitzscaling their content, and the process of making content. Siddhansh Agarwal, who manages PR for a few influencers, says that mainstreamity was only a by-product that eventually turned into a blueprint. However, that doesn’t underlie its importance to those who chase it. Influencing is not a traditional career path, and requires more than a little acceptance from society. Then what better way to prove that you’ve made it than on a front-page ad in a national daily? Or film?
But mainstreamity also brings with it a fear of saturation. “The moment an influencer appears on a TV ad, they stop becoming an influencer”, says Avantika. The concern also comes with the perceived yield from sporting an influencer on huge advertisements. Diminishing engagement and conversion rates from macro-influencers might force brands to re-orient their strategies a little more. But if you’re on one of those moving screens in CyberHub, you might as well be a celebrity.
Hasbulla, though? Hardly any celebrities in sight when it comes to his mentions. He’s not concerned about popularity contests or new markets or any of this. He just wants what we call the bag. When asked about Abdu Rozik meeting Cristiano Ronaldo, Hasbulla ended up mocking the Portuguese footballer’s style of play, and called himself a bigger celebrity than CR7. His most talked-about public sighting in recent memory is a trip to Australia, which was organized by a management company called The Hour Group. Their past arrangements include sportspersons like Kobe Bryant, Jayson Tatum, Anderson Silva, Khabib himself, and for some reason, Kyle Kuzma; and musicians like YG, Jhene Aiko, Tyga. This year, they’ve called Hasbulla and Shaquille O’Neal, and I would have not commented on the certainty of their paths crossing. Until this happened while I was writing this piece. Maybe Hasbulla doesn’t just want to settle for a small piece of the pie.
If I had to describe Hasbulla with a few music lyrics, this would be it (insert):
LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLEEEEEEEE
Much of Hasbulla and Abdu’s come-up boils down to, and also stems from, the clip that made both of them extremely famous. The most common thread that ties them both is the prospect of an MMA fight between them.
But, um...what’s with influencers and MMA fights? And why does either person want a UFC fight with the other so bad? We’ll need to do a little rewind for this, because key to getting to the answer to the first question is understanding the hype and economics of a widely advertised mixed martial arts bout.
The UFC is the most well-known brand when it comes to MMA fighting. Right now, we often associate high-profile UFC fights with exotic locations, the world’s biggest sportspersons and celebrities showing up, and a ton of pre-fight press conferences. But there was a time when MMA fights were not accompanied by a lot of fanfare. The first UFC event ever took place in 1993, and it was pitched as an 8-man single elimination tournament, with no weight categories or time limits, much unlike today. This took place in Denver — a city with no regulations around boxing. It drew more than 86000 paid viewers, which was pretty impressive for a first outing. But it struggled in the 90s, because of how it was perceived to be violent, and the fact that it started to face some state heat. One future presidential candidate called it “human cockfighting”. It wasn’t doing great. In fact, it was doing so bad, the parent entity, Semaphore Entertainment had to sell the “UFC.com” domain to some random company called “User Friendly Computers”. It had to strip itself of everything except the UFC brand name, and the infamous octagon where the fighters spar.
Enter Dana White — the current president of the UFC. White has seen some shit — including an alcoholic dad, a divorce, dropping out of college, and one supposed encounter with infamous mobster Whitey Bulger. He used to work as a boxercise (boxing but you just punch the bag) coach. He started training under a Jiu Jitsu expert named John Lewis, who was also competing in the UFC This led him to being connected to, and eventually becoming the manager of two fighters — Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell.
While working for them, White met Bob Meyerowitz — the owner of Semaphore Entertainment. Bob told him that he was looking to sell UFC, at which point White linked him with a childhood friend of his named Lorenzo Fertitta — who made significant money running casinos, and was also the once-chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. TL;DR, the man understood the fighting business. Lorenzo and his brother Frank purchased UFC under a parent entity called Zuffa for $2M in 2001. White was instated as president.
By 2015, UFC became a cash machine, making $600M in gross revenue. White explored and unearthed new fighters from regions outside America — arguably the biggest one of the 2010s was Irish. The fights brought in a lot of attention with respect to where they got held: casinos, stadiums, arenas. In 2016, when Zuffa as an entity got sold to Endeavor Group, UFC was valued at $4B — a 20x multiple of what it was bought at by the Fertitta brothers. In that new valuation, it saw 23 celebrities who put $250K each as angel money. White ensured that each major fight was backed by huge sponsors. Everyone from Kevin Durant to Donald Trump shows up at a major fight. Today, the annual revenue of UFC is around $1B. UFC is possibly singlehandedly responsible for the popularity of competitive MMA as a sport.
Why influencers started using competitive MMA as a tool to prove who’s better, no one knows. But the thinking around is simple: there’s a lot of money to be made in a standard fight, and we will indeed come to the ways fighters make money. This is also important, because money was a bone of contention in the proposed fight between Hasbulla and Abdu Rozik.
Roll back to 2018. A British YouTuber named KSI challenged Jake and Logan Paul to a bout for the YouTube Boxing Championship Belt — an unofficial trophy that was minted for KSI after he won a fight against another YouTube named Joe Weller. It was just bragging rights, but the fight was very real. The press conferences were brutal — families and girlfriends were proxy victims in a war of words, much like how the tour for real UFC fighters would take place. Avid fans of the YouTubers brawled with each other pre-fight. The result of the fight doesn’t really matter (it was a draw), but this was the start of a trend where extremely popular content creators went gladiator-style against each other to prove who had bigger balls. YouTube numbers are old school.
Maybe a regulated fight is an acceptable way to have grown men use their fists, because KSI was serious about becoming a professional fighter. But MMA, like any other sport, isn’t easy. It didn’t stop influencers from going beyond their ambit — Logan Paul called on boxing legend Floyd Mayweather for a match. I need not tell you how that ended. More recently, the royal prince of wolfpack incels, Andrew Tate staked a Bugatti worth £4.1M for a fight with Logan Paul. And in case it isn’t clear already — Logan Paul himself admitted that he would love to monetize the sudden rise in Tate’s popularity over the last few months.
The Hasbulla-Abdu Rozik fight, then, should come as very little surprise. But they have a lot more reason than just bragging rights. Hasbulla hails from the same region that Khabib calls home. His come-up to ~3M followers on Instagram started with him posting funny clips of him emulating the legendary fighter. He is extremely passionate, possibly to a fault, about MMA as a sport. He is unironically putting in some serious time in the weight room.
It’s pretty vague as to where Abdu’s interest for MMA comes from. It is worth noting, though, that the man has actual representation for his supposed “sports appearances”. IFCM — the agency that represents Abdu Rozik — stands for International Fighting Championship Management. Their service offerings are very much in line with what you’d expect from a talent management setup: paid celebrity meet-and-greets, original merchandise, event management (concerts, private events), et al. But true to name, this agency does one other thing that most others may not: sports events.
While there’s no way to verify this via billings, one look at the media of the agency website tells that Abdu Rozik definitely brings in the big bucks. The website only lists two other clients:
Yousef Al-Matrooshi — a 19 year-old international-level swimmer, who also competed in the Olympics for the first time in Tokyo. He was the flagbearer for the UAE contingent, and his ambition is to become the first Emirati to compete in 3 consecutive Olympics.
It doesn’t make a lot sense for a swimmer to be represented by a talent management agency this early. For starters, he has 5200 followers on Instagram — nothing in comparison to Abdu’s monster 3.5M.
But it may be important to set a little context. The UAE only sent 5 competitors from 4 disciplines to Tokyo 2020. 2 of those are not originally Emirati. Since 1984, which is their first appearance in the Olympics, the UAE has won only 2 medals — a gold and a bronze. Backing a 19-year old swimmer then seems like an early bet.
Jad Hadid — a Lebanese model and actor. He has 370K followers on Instagram, has a few TV show appearances under his belt, and some major collaborations: Quaker Oats, Reebok, Toblerone and Lipton, to name a few of them. He also has a really cute Apple Music playlist dedicated to his daughter, who is plastered on what is otherwise the Instagram wall of a hot Arab man with a lot of motivational speeches in him.
(payments structure and economics of UFC — tie in with the fight itself)
A note of thanks to the following people who helped make this piece happen: Saumya Saxena, Aditi Singh, Siddharth Rao, Rasleen Grover.