Chael Sonnen has created a persona of a loudmouth “bad guy” in the UFC world, but he actually is a pretty good guy away from it. Sonnen comes from a wrestling background and is a huge advocate for the sport. It means so much to him that he even randomly paid for a former US Olympic wrestler to train in Russia a few years ago.
Bloody Elbow’s Mike Riordan shared the story Friday of how Sonnen learned about Beijing Olympian Andy Hrovat’s desire to train in Russia. Hrovat was 28 and did not medal in Beijing, but he wanted to go to North Ossetia — the heart of world-class wrestling — to learn more about the sport from the best in the world. Hrovat went to Russia a few times in 2009, and the coaches told him he should come back and stay longer term so he could really learn more. He did that thanks to some help from Sonnen, whom he actually wrestled in college, though he doubted Sonnen remembered it.
Hrovat recalled to Bloody Elbow that Sonnen contacted him at random following his first fight with Anderson Silva in 2010 to tell him he was going to send him some money.
So after the [Sonnen-Silva fight], I get an email from him saying ‘Hey, I want to send you some money, it’s going to be in an envelope that looks like junk mail, because it was from his bank, his bank just cut a check and sent it and they send them in unmarked envelopes so people don’t steal the mail.
He sent me three or four thousand dollars, and for me every thousand dollars was a month’s pay. Room and board were a thousand dollars a month.
What would possess Sonnen to send a few thousand dollars to a random wrestler he didn’t know? He apparently saw an interview where Hrovat expressed a desire to go train in Russia. Sonnen liked the idea and wanted to contribute, which is why he reached out. Sonnen continued to send money to Hrovat and the two kept in touch via email.
Hrovat didn’t make the London Olympics team, but he learned a lot about wrestling from his time in Russia, and he’s now sharing that knowledge as a coach of the Cliff Keen wrestling club. Sonnen’s investment did not pay off with a medal at the Olympics, but maybe it will help ensure the future of American wrestlers is better thanks to some of the knowledge Hrovat acquired during his training.