Anastasia Yankova and Andrea Lee’s Nazi controversies – what does it all mean?

Everyone knows that MMA is a brutal sport. Blood, sweat, tears, and determination all play a part. After most matches, the combatants hug it out and put all of their animosities aside. During those moments when the fight is over, and hostilities have ended, the sport seems more like a brotherhood/sisterhood than combat. Even fighters that opposed our favorite fighters may get at least a modicum of respect from us, and sometimes more respect than we care to admit.

But what do we do when fighters that we have admired for their skill and heart in the cage seem to espouse hatred, not for their opponent, but their fellow man? Two recent situations demonstrate the difficulty of admiring fighters only to discover that they either promote or condone bigotry and intolerance.

The first was Bellator flyweight fighter Anastasia Yankova. The popular Russian flyweight had become quite the sensation with her combination of beauty and fury that she arguably became Bellator’s most popular female fighter. But when more of her past came out, it was discovered that her MMA debut was in Russia’s White Rex promotion, a neo-Nazi MMA organization that makes no secret of its political affiliation. Coupled with an Instagram post featuring a seemingly positive view of Adolf Hitler, Yankova has recently had to field more questions about potentially being a fascist than her fighting skills and numerous tattoos

Tattoos are what sparked the most recent controversy involving Andrea “KGB” Lee, who recently made her long-awaited UFC May. For the last few days, instead of continuing to bask in her unanimous decision victory over Veronica Macedo, she and her husband/trainer Donny Aaron have been on the defensive about some of the tattoos adorning Aaron’s arm. Several of the tattoos are Nazi-inspired, including a swastika and the double “S” of the dreaded SS, one of the most infamous divisions of Hitler’s Nazi army.

Yankova has disavowed any Nazi leanings, and Aaron and Lee have apologized for anyone offended by the pictures showing the tattoos that appeared on social media. Unless either Yankova or Aaron/Lee say or do something else that belies their recent statements, all of this may blow over. It might give sponsors pause. It might cause Scott Coker and Dana White some agita. Otherwise, it may all blow over in a few weeks.

.But what are we supposed to do with all of this? As fans of the sport, we naturally gravitate toward certain fighters. When we find that they either currently or previously align themselves with the worst kind of depravity, how are we supposed to respond? Do we withhold our support? Switch allegiances and hope they lose? Do we forgive them? Is there any reason to think that they need forgiveness?

For most MMA fans, rationalizing errant fighter behavior has meant overlooking failed drug tests, questionable cage behavior, and in the case of fighters like Conor McGregor, general hooliganism. But when someone seems to align themselves with bigotry and genocide, the emotional stakes, in fact, every possible kind of stake, is raised to an unimaginable level.

There are no easy answers. Everyone will have their say and opinion. Sponsors will have their say, promoters will have their say, other fighters will have their say, and the accused will have their chance to continually refute and rebuff the accusations against them. The MMA fans and the media will also have their say.

We can’t be sure what will happen, but what we do know is that this won’t be the last time that our fondness and admiration for certain fighters will be challenged. For observers, that’s the price we pay for being fans of the sport and its combatants. For fighters like Anastasia Yankova and Andrea Lee, that’s the price for being in the spotlight, for making mistakes, and perhaps, for being human.

What are your thoughts on some of the recent controversies surrounding popular fighters?

Veteran martial arts writer also published in Black Belt and Fight! Magazine.


  1. Unless they start spewing racial hatred, I could care less what symbols they adorn themselves with, be it swastikas, skull and cross bones, rebel flags or even crosses. After all, some of the greatest atrocities done to man, i.e., the Inquisition, were done in the name of God, but I certainly don’t hold that against anyone that chooses to wear one.

  2. I’m a big fan of Anastasia and relatively favorable to Angela. That doesn’t mean I necessarily endorse all their opinions or (in Angela’s case) her husband’s tattoos. Accusations of racism are simply a popular means of bullying. Anastasia’s beauty is jaw-dropping and as a person she is very humble, even shy. She has written and posted herself reciting some beautiful poetry in praise of the people of Thailand. I guess this illustrates her “racism”.

  3. I think you are missing the magnitude of the situation. On Memorial Day when these 2 neo nazis where having fun boating while millions of American families were at grave sites paying respects to their husbands & sons & loved ones lost in WWII. Lets not forget that 4 MILLION Americans were killed and 6 Million wounded fighting this mad man and his EVIL regime. Not counting the 60 Million deaths worldwide. You want to give her a pass cause you think she is cute? This convict got his Swastika and SS Bolts in prison after he killed an unarmed black male sitting in his car for drinking a beer. At anytime he could have covered them up or blacked them out but didn’t cause he thought it would make him look like a Redneck. So its better to be a Nazi supporter then a poor American? And she is defending him? Someone who is rocking KGB another ruthless murderous gang. Seriously they should both be banned, shammed and kicked to the curb for their lame ass excuses. As far as I am concerned they are both 2 pieces of crap.

  4. I completely agree with Armani . There is no excuse for racism , ever. I will never support either one of these fighters and their highly photoshopped “modeling” pictures should not give them a free pass to participate in such a disgraceful organization. In Anastasia’s case, you have to believe she supported the views white Rex on some level considering their leader was quoted as saying “they are close and personal friends”. They are both trash !

  5. Armani you’re absolutely right. Jews, communists, Roma, disabled people, all wiped out en masse by a brutal regime romanticised by these literal fascists. Neo nazism is alive and well. Look at Anders Brevik, National Action, the literal missile seized from nazis in Italy this week. Its not harmless insignia its open alliance and normalisation of fascism, and we must do more to combat it. Banned from shows, sponsorships and so on. “sorry for my Nazi tattoos” doesn’t really cut it.

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