Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a Mercedes-Benz to every Russian medalist at the Olympics - and now a new report reveals that Putin wired American Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Anthony Ruiz - $150,000 because of the resilience and strength he demonstrated in a brutal match in Sochi.
The fight took place in 2012 - Ruiz fought Russian-Bellator's middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko. For three rounds, Ruiz took a pounding from Shlemenko. It was clear that Ruiz was over-matched.
"He got the crap beat out of him," said Alexei Zhernakov, the evening's promoter.
By the end of the third round, Ruiz said, "My nose was broken all the way to the side in the last round. It was brutal."
Schelemnko said he couldn't understand how Ruiz kept getting up from the canvas, calling it a "mystery."
But get up he did - earning him the respect and admiration of Putin.
After the match, Putin approached Ruiz. "You need to fix your nose."
Two weeks later, Ruiz received a call from an unidentified person asking after his health and well-being. Ruiz told the caller he was fine, and then the mysterious person asked him for his "SWIFT code - the standard means of transferring money between banks, used predominantly internationally," the Bleacher Report article says. "Not knowing what the caller was talking about, Ruiz wen to his bank and asked what it meant. When he found out, he gave the caller his swift code, just to see what would happen."
Ruiz found out that $50,000 had been wired to his account from the Russian Federation two days after he gave the caller the code. Not believing his eyes, he went back to the bank to verify the transfer "was legitimate. Ruiz got another $50,000 the next day. And then, he received a third $50,000 wire," the article says.
"The bank was telling me there's some people who aren't all that straight doing transfers and stuff like that," he told Bleacher Report. "I also knew it was coming from Putin, and he's one of the wealthiest persons in the world. So, really, $150,000 ain't that much to him. That's what I'm telling myself to justify it. Sure enough, I kept it in there and left it alone. It was real. It really happened."
He says he likes martial arts because "victory always goes to the genuinely strongest." "Not chance, but the athlete's own will, and not the team's strength, but personal skill and courage decide each combat's outcome. There is no hiding behind your teammates in martial arts."
The Bleacher Report says, "Putin is said to be especially enamored with combat sports because of what they reveal about people."