Hey, ever hear of that guy named Chael Sonnen?
The former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight number one contender, aside from being one of the top mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters in the world, is a polarizing figure, one who can spark a debate with just the mere mention of his name.
Or Anderson Silva's.
Most of the UFC fan base are familiar with his on-screen personality, as Sonnen and his sharp tongue slice and dice their way through pre-fight interviews and media appearances. In fact, outside of Brian Stann at UFC 136, you'd be hard-pressed to find the former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler having anything nice to say.
Or so we thought.
Underneath the hard shell, the barrier that separates Sonnen the personality from Sonnen the human being, lies a "gentleman" who -- with the cameras off and crowd out of sight -- gave one lucky fan, 11-year-old Ty Costlow, an experience he'll never forget.
"I took my 11 year old son, Ty, to UFC 136. He is a huge UFC fan and we traveled from NJ to go to the Fan Expo and attend the fight. After Chael's victory, my son approached the security gate to get his autograph. Chael lifted my son over the gate and took him behind the scenes where the other fighters were either recovering from their fight or preparing for an upcoming battle. A security guard brought me back as well, and what followed is a father/son moment that we will both never forget."
See the rest of Ty's story, after the jump.
Chael took off his wraps and signed them for my son. There are professional photo sessions taken immediately after the fight, Chael included my son with him in the photos. He then took us to each locker room, introduced us to the fighters and had them sign Ty's shirt, hat, and program. We then were allowed into Frankie Edgar's locker room where he was warming up for his title fight. Frankie stopped his warm-up and spent time talking to my son and signing various items. We returned to our seats to watch the final two fights. Chael had the security people take us to a section where UFC fighters sat who were not fighting that evening. Each of them signed my son's program.
Chael was a gentleman and gave my son an experience that he will never forget. The entire UFC family could not have been more accessible and friendly. I'm sure that there is not another group of professional athletes that would be as inviting to an 11 year old boy during an event. I will always be a Chael Sonnen fan after seeing his heart warming interaction with my son.
This is one of many UFC fan experiences that largely go unnoticed, but should be recognized.
I stumbled across a comment left by Ty's dad on one of the UFC forums and contacted him to not only give Sonnen the credit he deserves, but to illustrate what so many detractors of MMA will never understand.
Fighters are not bloodthirsty barbarians who thrive on violent encounters.
They're real athletes, real sportsmen and above all, real human beings. Ty's story, borne from a desire to do nothing but reward a fan of the product, is proof of that. And that proof can be seen at the 5:28 mark of Dana White's UFC video blog right here.
Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Chael Sonnen. The fighter you never knew.