Former UFC veteran Chael Sonnen has ended his retirement by signing with rival promotion Bellator MMA.
Chael Sonnen ended his mixed martial arts career following a positive test for performance enhancing drugs and a subsequent two-year suspension. That all came to an end on Thursday night, when the Associated Press reported that Sonnen signed a multiyear, multi-fight deal with Bellator MMA, the UFC’s largest competitor. Bellator officials confirmed the signing to SI.com.
Sonnen also confirmed his return with a simple tweet.
“I'm consistently blown away by the product and presentation that Bellator is bringing to the fans,” said Sonnen in a press release. “I'm not nearly done competing and I'm coming after everyone, everywhere. I'm not sticking to one weight class either, I fight at ‘Gangster Weight’ and nobody is safe.”
Sonnen also said the reason for choosing Bellator over a return to the UFC came down to the dollar amount of the contract, according to Greg Beacham of the Associated Press.
According to report, Sonnen said he is open to fighting at any weight in Bellator. During his UFC career, Sonnen competed at 185 and 205 pounds.
There are certainly appealing, fights to be made for Sonnen in either division. Right now the middleweight division lacks star power and Sonnen could come in and be the king of that division. Former UFC welterweight title contender Rory MacDonald, who also recently signed with Bellator, mentioned pursuing titles at 170 and 185 pounds. A potential fight between MacDonald and Sonnen could loom.
There are intriguing fights with old foes as well, like Tito Ortiz and Wanderlei Silva, the latter of which was a fight the UFC tried to book several times. Bellator president Scott Coker even brought up Fedor Emelianenko as a potential opponent.
“Chael is an incredible athlete that has competed at the very highest levels of the sport,” Coker said. “I know that he is going to continue to do just that here at Bellator. When we were in the process of signing him, 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 guys like 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 starting before the end of the year.”
While Sonnen could inject life into a struggling middleweight division, he also brings a promotional arsenal that could be extremely beneficial to Bellator.