Putin Greets Van Damme at Major Martial Arts Contest
16 April, 2007
Russian President Vladimir Putin Sunday received Belgian actor Jean-Claude Van Damme and other martial arts fighters at the Konstantinovsky palace, St Petersburg, the AFP news agency reported.
The meeting was following a mixed martial arts contest. “Russia versus America”, Saturday’s contest was won by Russian champion Fedor Yemelyanenko who defeated US rival Matt “The Law” Lindland.
Putin was shown on Rossiya television embracing Yemelyanenko after his fight and later hosting him at the tea party where cup cakes were served on a candlelit table.
“You have a very tough sport, but it is not without dignity and respect toward your partner,” Putin told the fighters. “Brave people are in this sport.”
Van Damme, the star of a string of martial arts films, dressed described the occasion as an honor.
“I know that officials can give speeches, but what the president just said was not a political speech, but that of a person speaking from the heart,” he said.
Mixed martial arts is a controversial limited-rules combat sport in which fighters use techniques taken from a variety of disciplines against each other.
Jean-Claude Van Damme