Putin meets Van Damme at mixed fight championship

Moscow, July 15: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with Hollywood star and martial arts expert Jean-Claude Van Damme at a mixed fight championship which kicked off Wednesday in Russia's southern city of Sochi.

"Putin met during lunch with the famous sportsman and actor Jean-Claude Van Damme, who arrived as a guest at the Mixed Fight European Championship, as well as with well-known Russian sportsman Fyodor Yemelyanenko," said Dmitry Peskov, the prime minister's spokesman.

This is not the first time the star of blockbusters such as "Blood Sport" and "Kickboxer" have come to Russia for the Mixed Martial Arts Championship.

In 2007, Van Damme attended the Mixed Fight Championship between teams from Russia and the United States in St. Petersburg's Ledovy Dvorets Arena (Ice Palace Arena), where he sat together with then-Russian president Putin and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Putin is a judo black belt and an honorary president of the European Judo Union. He is also a co-author of book "Let's Learn Judo with Vladimir Putin".

Russian heavyweight mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Yemelyanenko is the current World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts (WAMMA) champion.

The ongoing championship will see fighters from Russia's M-1 Global and Sambo-70 clubs go up against the best European contenders.

The organisers of the event said that the tournament will see five fighters from each team in the heavyweight categories of 93 kg (205 lbs) and over.

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