Bulgarian police have arrested a known criminal in connection with the stabbing of Bellator heavyweight Blagoi Ivanov at the weekend.
Ivanov was injured in a bar brawl during the early hours of Sunday morning when eight men set about him and his two companions with bats and knives. Ivanov suffered a stab wound in the upper chest which reached his heart and he has been on life-support since.
Yesterday police arrested a man with the initials ‘D.S’ but their official announcement of the arrest referred to him only by his nickname of ‘Dampela’. The 23-year-old has a criminal record for extortion, drug possession, drug supply and possession and distribution of fake car registration documents.
According to the Bulgarian Interior Ministry, Dampela has been charged with premeditated murder and will be kept in custody for the next 72 hours at least while investigations continue. Those investigations are being handled by detectives from the 1st Sofia Police Precinct and from the Main Directorate Criminal Police.
According to the Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, the case is a straightforward instance of a fight being triggered by “drunken rage”. But this explanation is highly unconvincing, not least because the eight men who attacked Ivanov’s group entered the bar armed and intent on violence.
Far more probable is that the incident is related to some underworld fallout. The Bulgarian crime world is, like much of the former Soviet communist bloc, peopled extensively by former athletes who were supported and sponsored by the communist regime but found themselves on hard times after it fell.
Wrestlers in particular feature heavily in Bulgarian criminal circles, with a healthy smattering of boxers, weightlifters and other combat sports athletes. Ivanov is a world champion in Sambo and a regular on the Sofia nightclub scene, where he has frequently been pictured with models from Bulgaria’s edition of Playboy on his arm.
Interior Minister Tsvetanov is himself a graduate of the National Sports Academy, which teaches coaches and various sports and physical arts. He long held a reputation as a stern and honest police officer before entering politics but has suffered some setbacks since.
He was accused of tax evasion when it emerged he owned a number of properties in the Bulgarian capital and his government department was investigated after it transpired it had been receiving ’donations’ from local business, despite being one of the best-funded of all government departments. The setbacks meant that he missed out on being his party’s candidate in the recent presidential elections.