OAKLAND CA - AUGUST 07: Chael Sonnen walks to his corner in between rounds of his fights against Anderson Silva during the UFC Middleweight Championship bout at Oracle Arena on August 7 2010 in Oakland California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Chael Sonnen No Longer Suspended In California

UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen, who has not competed since UFC 117 in a loss to Anderson Silva, is now back in hot water with the California State Athletic Commission for allegedly perjuring himself in a previous hearing where he battled suspension in a hearing for elevated levels of testosterone.

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Chael Sonnen No Longer Suspended By California

UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen is no longer under suspension by the California State Athletic Commission. CSAC executive officer George Dodd told Michael David Smith that Sonnen has been removed from the suspension list and is free to apply to be licensed in any jurisdiction. Sonnen would have to appear before the CSAC to be re-licensed in that state. 

Sonnen was originally suspended after his UFC 117 title fight against Anderson Silva for failing a post-fight urine test and was suspended for a year. He successfully appealed to have the suspension reduced in December of last year. At that hearing, Sonnen claimed that Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Keith Kizer had cleared his use of Testosterone Replacement Therepy (TRT).  Kizer denied that he'd ever spoken to Sonnen.

In January, Sonnen pled guilty to a felony money laundering charge. The CSAC re-instituted his suspension Sonnen in May as a result of Kizer's statements and the felony guilty plea.

Sonnen appeared before the CSAC on May 18 and unsuccessfully appealed the suspension. 

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UFC Will Honor CSAC's Suspension Of Chael Sonnen

According to a report from MMA Junkie, UFC President Dana White indicated the Ultimate Fighting Championship will not book UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen to fight either in U.S. or international territory until his suspension with the California State Athletic Commission is resolved. When asked by reporters at UFC 130 what his intentions were - would the UFC book Sonnen to fight in another state or unregulated territories such as Abu Dhabi - White was emphatic they would not. To wit:

"You show me a guy who fought the government and won," White said to MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). "Show me that guy. I want to meet him. I don't want to be the next guy to try it. I'll do what I'm told."

...

"We won't let him fight anywhere," White said. "We'll honor that suspension until it's cleared up.

"He's going to have to pay his dues and straighten this stuff out with these guys and then do it, even though I think it's wrong."

Sonnen's employment with the UFC, while problematic for the time being, does not appear to be in existential question. Still, Sonnen's statement during his May 18th hearing that unless he were able to have his license reinstated that day he would be "effectively retired" does not appear to be true. It is not clear whether White once said it and has since changed his mind or if it was never true.

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Chael Sonnen's MMA Suspension Expires In May 2012

Initial reports from yesterday's hearing with UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen in front of the California State Athletic Commission indicated the fighter would be have his indefinite suspension upheld until June 29, 2011. At that point, so we were told, Sonnen would be able to reapply for a license, although there would be no guarantee the commission would approve the request. Today we learn from ESPN's Josh Gross that Sonnen's suspension runs much longer. In fact, a full calendar year with yesterday's hearing as the starting point:

Just confirmed w/ CSAC exec. officer George Dodd: Chael Sonnen's suspension remains until they lift it; he cannot reapply until 5/18/2012.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

 

Yahoo's Dave Meltzer believes this isn't a "death sentence" but more a "significant blow" to his career. Sonnen is able to compete elsewhere, but under the UFC's banner, promoting a fighter with this kind of Scarlet Letter carries significant risk to the brand as well as the company's effort to achieve sanctioning in New York.

Ben Fowlkes also notes reapplying for the license in California won't be a rubberstamp process:

If and when Sonnen does reapply for a license in the Golden State, Dodd said, he would have to show the commission proof of his rehabilitation, much like Josh Barnett was asked to do in his recent CSAC hearing.

"[Sonnen] is going to have to show that he's done something to promote the sport, promote goodwill," Dodd said. "He does a lot of good things already. He talks to kids and stuff like that about making right decisions. But he's going to have to show that he's making the right decisions as well. You can say it, but you have to make those decisions yourself."

As for Sonnen's use of testosterone, Dodd said a therapeutic use exemption is still not out of the question, but the fighter would have to go through the proper channels first.

"What would happen is he would...request it through the athletic commission. The commission would probably request that the medical advisory committee review it. The medical advisory committee would review it and then make a recommendation back to the commission whether or not to approve or disapprove."

With respect to the UFC, they've declined to comment for the time being:

The UFC is declining to comment on the Chael Sonnen situation at this time.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

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Chael Sonnen's MMA Career In Peril As California State Athletic Commission Upholds Indefinite Suspension

The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) upheld UFC middelweight Chael Sonnen's indefinite suspension today in a special hearing at the Ronald Reagan State Office Building Los Angeles, California. In a vote of four to one, the CSAC voted to uphold the suspension that was placed on Sonnen around late April for concerns Sonnen had perjured himself in December in a previous CSAC hearing to address elevated levels of testosterone as well as concerns over his admission of guilt in a federal case involving mortgage fraud.

During the hearing, Sonnen told the commission he needed his suspension lifted in order to take advantage of opportunities the UFC had presented him, namely, a coaching job on Spike TV's 'The Ultimate Fighter' alongside Michael Bisping. In addition, Sonnen indicated the the UFC told him the winner of a potential Sonnen vs. Bisping bout would receive a title shot. Sonnen also said if he were to not have his license reinstated, UFC President Dana White would take that to mean the middleweight would be effectively retired:

"If I don't get my license today I'm effectively retired. That came from the boss, Dana White." -- Chael Sonnenless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

 

As for what this means, Josh Gross explains:

Indefinite means suspended until his license in California expires June 29. Sonnen goes on MMA commission watch list. Can apply elsewhere.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply


While Sonnen can apply to fight elsewhere, he still has unresolved issues with the Nevada State Athletic Commission. In addition, his controversial standing with the CSAC, even if resolved, makes it highly unlikely the UFC would put any promotional resources into his career.

More on this story as it develops.

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More Details About Chael Sonnen's May 18th CSAC Hearing

David Bixenspan put together a fantastically comprehensive timeline of the meteoric rise (beginning with his rise to prominence pre-UFC 117) and Shakespearean fall of UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen. We've got a miniature version of that wrap-up here, but I wanted to point out new details about Sonnen's future that are worthy of a second look. Namely, what's in store for his May 18 hearing with the California State Athletic Commission and what various outcomes could mean for Sonnen's career. To wit:

As would be expected since the commissions respect each others' suspensions, Sonnen is effectively suspended in Nevada as well.  [NSAC Executive Director Keith] Kizer told [Steven] Marrocco that the Nevada hearing is now on hold pending the results of the California hearing, which will take place a week from today in Los Angeles.  Deputy Attorney General Karen Chappelle will represent the state of California and Dodd will be there to testify if called to do so, since "I'm kind of at the center of certain subject matters that have been brought up, so I'll be there."

To clarify and add to what was already reported, I called Dodd a few minutes ago to ask the questions I had after reading what's come out since last night.

  • The most interesting response was with regards to when he was first made aware of Kizer's comments.  Dodd actually found out during the original hearing, but since he was not sure about what the exact circumstances were, he couldn't testify about it.  
  • The letter to Sonnen notifying him of the suspension was sent during the third week of April.  The timetable was based on working with Kizer to straighten out what happened and what Sonnen's claims have been.  It seemed like the "I meant to say 'my manager,' not 'I'" meeting may have dug him into a much deeper hole.
  • For now, it's an athletic commission matter.  The rest is up to Karen Chappelle.  If she feels that criminal charges are warranted after the commission hearing, then she could move forward with them, but there's no way to be sure for now.  It's only a criminal case if she decides to make it one.
  • Finally, there may or may not be a live video stream of the hearing like there was last time because it's in a different location that's not already set up for that.  It's being looked into and there should be a more concrete answer at the beginning of next week.

I'm not certain what the probabilities are the State of California will pursue criminal charges in the event they believe Sonnen perjured himself. I'm looking into it now, although one wonders if there's a difference in penalty for lying in a hearing for an athletic commission versus a criminal or even civil trial.

But I ask that you simply consider the moment at which we have arrived with Sonnen. From the second minute of the fifth round of his main event fight at UFC 117, take a second to inventory his collapse.

I'm at a loss trying to find an analogous situation in sports with another controversial figure. Certainly sports, and combat sports more specifically, are full of sad sack tales of epic misfortunate or personal negligence. But the swiftness of the timeline here is what stands out. It hasn't even been a year since Sonnen nearly snatched the title away from MMA's best fighter. Since then he has tested positive for steroids, seemingly perjured himself, lost out on multiple opportunities to fight, missed a chance to host MMA's most important television show, pleaded guilty to federal money laundering charges, been suspended by the UFC, forfeited his real estate license, spent thousands of dollars in lawyer fees, lost an additional $10,000 in a fine as part of a plea bargain to avoid jail time, lost his ability to even promote or corner in MMA and is now potentially facing further criminal charges.

I don't know what the future holds, but I suspect Sonnen is a desperate man today. It's not at all inconceivable the UFC middleweight will never fight again, at least not in anything resembling a world-class environment. And given that he's got no real estate career to fall back on, that sets up a tricky predicament.

I'm unable to extend sympathy. This is a web of misfortune spun solely by Sonnen. It's a tale of fantastic miscalculation, a farrago of transparent lies and bravado born of showmanship inappropriately applied to events of consequence. We're either on the verge of witnessing one of the great comebacks outside of the competition space in combat sports history or the final, undeniable moment of crash and burn. If I'm a betting man, I'm thinking the latter is more likely.

But this is MMA. Anything can happen.

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Chael Sonnen Indefinitely Loses California License, Continues Tour Of Epic Fail

It's easy to act in front of undiscerning pro wrestling fans and except bad shtick to work. Unfortunately, you won't get the same results with discerning adults. UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen is in serious trouble with the California State Athletic Commission. Josh Gross breaks the news:

The California State Athletic Commission has indefinitely suspended mixed martial artist Chael Sonnen's license to fight in the state pending a May 18 special hearing in Los Angeles.

CSAC executive officer George Dodd said the action was taken because the panel's legal counsel felt Sonnen may have perjured himself during testimony at an appeal hearing in December related to his ban for elevated levels of testosterone, which at 16.9 was four times higher than the state's allowable testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio.

Sonnen did not respond to ESPN.com's requests for comment.

The suspension, issued two weeks ago by the CSAC, puts Sonnen on the national database used by regulators to monitor medical and administrative suspensions, and asks North American regulatory bodies to contact California before issuing the UFC middleweight contender a license to compete, corner, promote or act as a manager.

Gross' article provides full details of why Sonnen is in the predicament he's in now, but here's the gist. After testing positive for grossly elevated levels of testosterone after losing to Anderson Silva at UFC 117, the California State Athletic Commission suspended the UFC middleweight. In a hearing where he tried to mitigate the punishment for the suspension, Sonnen made a number of outlandish claims, one of them being this:

Sonnen said he did not do so in part because Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Keith Kizer was aware of the prescribed testosterone treatment and approved it as part of that state's therapeutic use exemption program. Kizer immediately denied ever having conversations with the fighter, and specifically said a discussion involving steroids and therapeutic use exemptions did not take place. Sonnen, Kizer countered, has not been issued a therapeutic use exemption in Nevada.

Sonnen has since amended his statements to suggest that he misspoke about conversations with Kizer, and that it was his management that approached the executive director. Asked if Sonnen's management sought a therapeutic use exemption for prescribed testosterone on the fighter's behalf, Kizer simply told ESPN.com, "no."

Let me see if I'm able to articulate how much fail there is in all of this.

While Sonnen was initially able to have his suspension reduced to 6 months and a minor fine in California, things only got worse. If Keith Kizer of the Nevada State Athletic Commission is correct, Sonnen used a series of lies in his California hearing about actions that "happened" to Nevada to avoid more severe punishment. Except that Kizer is saying Sonnen is not telling the truth about what happened in Nevada and now wants answers. Worse, this isn't just about Sonnen's ability to obtain a license again. The UFC wanted Sonnen to coach the next season of The Ultimate Fighter alongside Michael Bisping, but since Kizer has yet to clear Sonnen of his impropriety, that opportunity has likely passed.

Now the trouble has boomeranged back to California. The excuse he used to diminish punishment in California caused problems in Nevada. Those new problems caused in Nevada - coupled with his recent admission of money laundering in federal court - have now made his original problems far worse in California. Oh, and remember when Sonnen went on ESPN's MMA Live and mocked the CSAC's requirements for disclosure after being cleared? I'm sure they'll want to know what compelled Sonnen to do that as well.

Where the UFC middleweight goes from here, who knows? He's now facing two highly skeptical commissions in arguably the two most-important states in combat sports, both of whom he has arguably lied to in the course of self defense. Sonnen's California hearing is set for May 18th, but there's no word on when he'll be able to rectify his problems in Nevada.

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