The Dilemma That is Chael Sonnen
By Michael Barton
A little less than a year ago, Chael Sonnen became a household name through self promotion that took many who follow UFC by surprise. He told stories, made fun of Anderson Silva incessantly, but surprisingly, he backed up his smack talking at UFC 117, taking Silva and dominating him for four and a half rounds before he was caught in a submission and forced to tap out in round five. A star was born, but sadly, this was also the beginning of a truly bizarre series of events that leaves both UFC and Chael in an awkward situation going forward.
While all the buzz post fight was incredible, problems had surfaced well before Chael’s drug sample came back positive for higher than normal levels of testosterone. For those that may not know, Chael was also a real estate broker at one time, and he was involved as a suspect in a felony money laundering case. He eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years probation and a 10,000 fine, as well as having his license revoked. Prior to his plea, Sonnen went before the California State Athletic Commission on December 2nd, 2010 to defend himself and explain the testosterone issue. The hearing itself lead to some very interesting reasons as to why his test was positive. Sonnen claims he suffers from hypogonadism, a condition which causes low testosterone production, and that he was under a doctor’s care and received shots twice a week to place his levels within normal range. Most have scoffed at this excuse, but this issue became secondary almost immediately after the hearing. For one, the commission itself came off as having no knowledge or idea about anything in regards to MMA, and they actually wound up reducing his suspension by six months. A short time later, another claim at the hearing by Sonnen (he claimed to have gotten clearance from Keith Kizer of the Nevada commission) was immediately refuted by Kizer himself. At first, nothing seemed to come of it, Sonnen cleared up his felony case by pleading guilty, and it looked as if Dana White was ready to have Chael and Michael Bisping (who is either loved or hated himself by the fans) be the coaches on the upcoming season of Ultimate Fighter, and it was likely that this show, based on the presence of Sonnen alone and his ability to self promote, would have likely done very good ratings. But the CSAC apparently has other plans.
It came out recently that Chael has been suspended indefinitely by the CSAC based on his testimony at the original hearing in December that has been refuted, as well as his conviction in his money laundering case. A hearing has been set for May 18th, where both sides will have one hour to present their cases before another vote is held about possible further punishment if it is found out that Sonnen lied to the commission. And although this suspension is only in the state of California, states usually have an unwritten agreement between them that if one state suspends someone, the others honor that suspension as well. This certainly puts the coaching position out of the realm of possibility, but this entire story also puts UFC in an interesting position as well.
On one hand, UFC is in the business of promoting fights and making money. Chael Sonnen has proven (through his sometimes outlandish bravado) that he has an uncanny ability to promote anything he happens to be involved in. As we can see from how quick Dana White, President of UFC, was ready to put Sonnen in the spotlight on Ultimate Fighter almost immediately after he resolved his legal issues, he sees what a lot of people see when you think of Chael – money. But Chael is facing an uncertain future, and there are still a number of issues revolving around him. It becomes an almost moral decision by UFC in a sense – here is a man who has the speaking ability of a great politician, but that ability has also put him in some serious trouble if the CSAC finds him guilty of lying to them. He appeared to be almost bulletproof to Dana after this first round, but as each day passes, his legacy is appearing to be more one of controversy than of one where he took one of UFC’s top fighters to the brink. For now, we can all only wait and see.
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