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Polish freak fight promotion under fire for using ex-mobster in PR stunt

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MMA-VIP, a freak fight promotion that made circles around the internet last November due to staging two intergender matches once again found itself under fire for giving exposure to one of the most notorious mob bosses in Poland’s history. 

Who the real boss is?

At the beginning of Saturday’s press conference that was broadcasted on YouTube, promotion’s founder, Marcin Najman declared that unlike in other freak fight organizations, wherein Professional Wrestling like fashion various celebrities play the role of on-screen authority figures, MMA VIP is ruled by a real boss.  

After that, the main musical theme from the Godfather movie started to play, and the masked individual made his way to the center of the stage and sit on a throne-like chair. The suit-wearing man took the mask off and was revealed to be Andrzej Zieliński, better known under his nickname ‘Słowik’ (Nightingale), one of the former bosses of the Pruszkow mafia. 

Although his participation was short, as he invited everyone to watch the upcoming event, it caused a wave of critique toward Najman, the promotion itself, and its sponsors. 

The life and the crimes of Andrzej Zielinski.

Zielinski committed his first crime in 1978 when he was only 18 years old. While on a car trip with his friends he drove the car from the road and crash it. It was decided to leave the vehicle because no one wanted to take the blame for the accident. The next morning, he was arrested by the police as the car was reported stolen and Zielinski was sentenced to 1,5 years in prison, which in his own words totally deprived him and set the curse for his future.

Being out and in prison for multiply theft and robbery charges he makes a name for himself and wide connections in the underworld. In the late 80’s he moved to Warsaw, where he switches to burglary and extortion. In 1987 he was sentenced to 6 years in prison, but two years late he left jail due to health issues. During this stay, and soon after leaving the jail he is introduced to Pruszkow mafia members. 

Pruszkow mafia, a name taken after the city located near Poland’s capital Warsaw,  was founded during the disturbing time caused by the transition from USSR tied the People’s Republic of Poland into a democratic state. Zielinski, among other mobsters, took part in smuggling contraband, mainly illegal alcohol, extortion, robbery, drug trafficking, kidnapping, and assassination. The Pruszkow mafia was so notorious and feared through the country, that other, smaller crime organizations paid ‘licensing deal’ to pose as its’ branch in order to run their operations without interference from authorities or other gangs. 

In 1993 then-current Poland’s president, Lech Walesa has pardoned ‘Slowik’ canceling his six-year sentence. It was rumored that the mob boss has paid off Walesa with $150 K bribe, but it was never proved. 

In 2000 he runs to Spain to avoid being charged with running a criminal organization, but four years later he’s brought back to Poland by extradition and sentenced to another six years in prison. During the sentence, he was also charged with being a hiring party in the contract killing of Poland’s Police chief, Mark Papala.  Charges were dropped in 2013, the same year he left prison after being sentenced for other, unrelated to Pruszkow Mafia, crimes.

‘Slowik’ was once again arrested in 2017 and charged with tax extortion. He reportedly exhorted 35 million PLN in a tax return. He left prison in 2020 after paying 400 K PLN bail. 

Disgusting glorification 

The press conference was held to announce the card for the upcoming MMA-VIP 4 event that will take place in Kielce, but it can be said that the plan backfired as the only thing that is talked about is Zielinski’s participation. Many viewers didn’t hide their disgust and called it a disgusting glorification of an individual who’s responsible for destroying countless lives and harming many more innocent people. One of the more popular comments on Twitter states that ‘Slowik’ must be very confused as in his days he had to use brutal force to get any money and now he simply gets it by standing in the spotlight. 

 Marcin Stępniewski who’s a member of Kielce city council announced that he informed the mayor about the whole thing as the event was planned to take place in a venue owned and run by the city itself.  He later stated that city authorities decided to withdraw from renting the venue for this particular event. 

As it was not enough, in the main event Najman is scheduled to fight another famous mobster, Mirosław Dąbrowski who is better known under the nickname ‘Bear from Nadarzyn’.  His criminal activities began in the late 80’s with smuggling contraband, later he transferred to selling stolen cars, illegal alcohol, and drugs trafficking. He had many run-ins with the law and was charged with drug and firearms possession but despite his notoriety and connections in Warsaw’s underworld never was proven of running an organized crime group, or belonging to one. 

For many, the fact of using former mobsters as a publicity stunt is proof that Mixed Martial Arts is targeted toward an audience that applauds crime and holds it in high regard as a way of ensuring a better life. Others point out that this sort of promotion is typical of a freak fight circuit, as the promoters are willing to push the envelope in order to get the attention, even at the cost of being tasteless. There are also those, who summary this whole thing to point out the sad state that Poland is in, as a country where mobsters are treated like celebrities, despite their brutal and dark past.

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