It was less than a year ago when Chael Sonnen was perched and literally minutes away from defeating Anderson Silva to become the UFC middleweight champion.
Sonnen lost the fight in the final moments as Silva submitted him via triangle choke, and now he may have lost the ultimate battle with the California State Athletic Commission. He has been indefinitely suspended by the sanctioning body.
Due to the suspension, Sonnen will be sidelined in regards to California at minimum until June 2012 when he can re-apply for a license in the state. Add to that the fact that most major athletic commissions, including Nevada, will likely uphold California’s ruling, and Sonnen could be effectively sidelined for at least a year.
Sonnen, during Wednesday’s hearing, basically echoed those same sentiments as he pleaded with the commission to see his side of things, and allow him to get back to work as a fighter.
“If I am not granted a license to fight, I will be effectively retired,” Sonnen said. “I don’t want to retire today.”
According to Sonnen’s testimony, he was in place, if the commission had approved him, to become a coach on the 14th season of “The Ultimate Fighter” opposite Michael Bisping, with the two facing off after the season with a shot at the middleweight title on the line.
Now, with this suspension firmly in place, Sonnen will not be coaching and may not be fighting for a long, long time.
While Bisping and Sonnen seem to be perfect rivals for reality TV, even the British born fighter expressed his displeasure in the commission’s ruling that saw the Oregonian get suspended and without a license to fight for the immediate future.
“Gutted for Chael Sonnen,” Bisping wrote on his Twitter page. “People make mistakes, he paid his dues and should be allowed to continue with his career. Real shame for the guy.
“I did wanna fight him, as it would have been awesome, and a No. 1 contender match-up, but my own personal wants aside, I do truly feel for the guy.”
Technically, Sonnen can still apply for a fight license in other states besides California and Nevada, but most commissions tend to honor the suspensions handed down by other licensing bodies.
As California State Athletic Commission Executive Director George Dodd said when speaking with MMAWeekly.com earlier this month, each state commission makes their own decisions, much like what happened with boxer Antonio Margarito after he was suspended in California, but still fought in a different state.
“It’s kind of like the (Antonio) Margarito hearing (in boxing), where we had him on an indefinite suspension. Each state can make a determination of what they want to do with him.”
Dodd went on to state that the Nevada State Athletic Commission will also honor whatever suspension they hand down in regards to Sonnen.
“Nevada and a lot of other states work together, and they honor each others’ suspensions,” Dodd stated. “They have chose to honor our suspension.”
MMAWeekly.com sent messages to Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer for comment to confirm their stance on Sonnen’s suspension, but no response was given by the time of publication.
Sonnen was actually set to appear before the Nevada Commission this month before California stepped in and re-suspended the fighter, forcing him to re-appear with that commission, which effectively canceled any hearing he had with Nevada.
Was this ultimately a witch hunt to make an example out of Chael Sonnen? That’s one question that remains to be answered, but whether it was or not, the suspension is in place.
Beyond the issues that Sonnen will now have for at least a year in states like California and Nevada, is what the UFC would be willing to do with him while under suspension. The promotion has free reign to use their athletes in other areas, even those like the United Kingdom where no athletic commission is present, they have typically always stood by any suspension handed down.
It’s not likely the UFC would have Sonnen fight in another state or even another country because of the suspension, but he is able to apply for a license in other states if they wish to try.
What it means for certain right now is that Sonnen will not be a coach on the next season of “The Ultimate Fighter” and will likely not be able to face Michael Bisping, much less face Anderson Silva in a rematch for the UFC middleweight title.
Sonnen has yet to make a statement following the meeting with the commission on Wednesday, but for now the fighter that has been called ‘the most interesting man in MMA’ will have to wait and see if he’ll be able to continue with his career.
Damon Martin is the lead staff writer and radio host for MMAWeekly.com.
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