The night was alive with excitement as the Russian fighters took on a “world” team in a mixed martial arts contest at a beachside nightclub in Sochi. The crowd, made up of scantily dressed women waving Russian flags, cheered them on as the home squad dominated the fight.
The highlight of the evening came when a 44-year-old American fighter was knocked out, leaving the crowd erupting into cheers. It was August 2013 and Vladimir Putin himself was in attendance, sitting in a front-row seat wearing a white dress shirt and surrounded by security guards and political followers.
Little did anyone know that six months later, Russia’s president would initiate the country’s path to war by seizing Crimea from Ukraine. This led to a full-scale invasion that is now entering its third year next week.