This one should easily win the weekly–and monthly–award for most unexpected MMA story. In a move that should stun most, former two-time UFC middleweight contender Chael Sonnen is headed to Bellator. The news was first broken by the Associated Press , and has since been reported by multiple other news outlets–including Fox Sports, ABC News and MMAFighting.
Sonnen has not seen the inside of a MMA cage since his UFC 167 loss to Rashad Evans, in November of 2013. Several months after that bout, Sonnen tested positive for multiple banned substances on two separate tests. First, before a scheduled bout at UFC 175 against Wanderlei Silva. Then a second time, a few weeks later, when the Nevada State Athletic Commission asked him to take another blood and urine test. Those two failed tests sandwiched Sonnen’s apparent retirement from the sport.
Former two-time UFC middleweight contender Chael Sonnen is headed to Bellator.
But you can’t keep an old “gangster” down. Sonnen’s two year ban from the industry recently ended. Meaning the 39-year-old was able to seek a new license. Earlier this year, in an interview on UFC Tonight, Sonnen’s manager Mike Roberts noted that his client would be willing to return to action for the “right fight.” Most assumed that would come against a noteworthy opponent within the confines of the UFC. He even, reportedly, re-entered the companies USADA random testing pool.
However, if reports are to be believed, one of the best self-promoters in the sport secured his release from the company and has signed with the next best thing–Bellator MMA.
While surprising, it may make sense for all parties involved. At an advanced age, and with a record of 3-3 in his last six fights, Sonnen doesn’t have quite the same value he once did to the UFC. Though, surely Sonnen himself still feels he’s worth a pretty penny. With all of the above, matched with his multiple failed tests (which includes another failure after his near-miss battle with Anderson Silva at UFC 117), it would stand to reason that the UFC may look at him as damaged goods.
For a company on the rise, who could use every name they can get to compete, the move is a good fit.
Damaged goods do not bother Bellator. For a company on the rise, who could use every name they can get to compete, the move is a good fit. Sonnen is a recognizable name with a reputation that is impervious to bad press. He can bring attention to the company because he is an ace on the microphone. And while viewed by some as circus like at times, Bellator’s ratings have proven they put together fights people will tune in for.
The question is, who could be some of the possible opponents for Sonnen? Well, MMA journalist Ariel Helwani has already been informed that Sonnen has an name in mind:
Sonnen’s Bellator debut hasn’t been set yet, but I’m told he wants to Tito Ortiz ASAP.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) September 16, 2016
Also, a second attempt at the bout that never got to happen at UFC 175, between Sonnen and Silva would be a no-brainer for the company. Assuming Silva can rectify his own licensing issues here in the states.
Either way, it is another interesting add for Scott Coker, and the California based promotion, that is sure to stir interest for the fledgling group.