Photo from Keith Mills
Veteran MMA fighter Chael Sonnen is returning to the Octagon, Sonnen will join UFC's top competitor, Bellator, both the fighter and company confirmed Thursday.
Sonnen signed a multiyear, multi-fight contract with the Bellator, according to the Associated Press.
Earlier this summer, Sonnen confirmed that he had entered the USADA drug testing pool, the first step toward making a comeback with the UFC. USADA does not handle drug testing for Bellator MMA, making it easier for Sonnen to make a quick comeback, as he would be required to be in the testing pool for four months before he could fight again in the UFC.
Sonnen recently finished serving a two-year suspension from the Nevada Athletic Commission for testing positive for anastrozole and clomiphene in an out-of-competition drug test in 2014. He later failed another drug test a few weeks later, this time for HGH and anastrozole again.
The West Linn, Ore., native announced his retirement following the revelation of the initial positive test. He was supposed to face Wanderlei Silva and then Vitor Belfort at UFC 175 prior to the failed drug tests. He was also fired as a studio analyst for Fox Sports.
When asked by the Associated Press why he decided to go back on his decision to retire, Sonnen simply said: “I’m a heel. Heels lie.”
According to the report, Sonnen said he willing to fight in multiple weight classes within the California-based promotion, and he is not seeking any specific matchups.
Sonnen hasn’t fought since UFC 167 on Nov. 16, 2013, when he lost to Rashad Evans via first-round technical knockout. The Team Quest representative rose to fame on the basis of his rivalry with then middleweight champion Anderson Silva, nearly upsetting “The Spider” at UFC 117 before being submitted in the fifth round. He fell via second-round TKO to the Brazilian in their rematch at UFC 148.
Sonnen later challenged Jon Jones for light heavyweight gold but was stopped in the first round at UFC 159.
Bellator president Scott Coker released a statement confirming the news.
"Chael is an incredible athlete that has competed at the very highest levels of the sport, and I know that he is going to continue to do just that here at Bellator," said Coker. "He has that entertainer X-factor that can't be taught. When we were talking, Chael was adamant that he wants to compete in three divisions here. He already has unfinished business with Wanderlei Silva, but he also wants to fight Tito Ortiz, Fedor Emelianenko and even Rory MacDonald at middleweight. These are all fights that I'd be very inclined to watch, so hopefully we can put some, if not all, of these matchups together."
Shawn Stewart is Host of The Shawn Stewart Show Tues-Thurs 6-8pm est on Sports 4 Fanz Radio.