MMA Analysis: Chael Sonnen’s Suspension Upheld, Retirement Ahead


Chael Sonnen can be very entertaining.  He has always been quick witted and a savvy media manager.  However, with the State of California upholding his indefinite suspension, the circus act might be folding up and moving out of town for good.  Should we feel sorry for Chael?

Yesterday Chael Sonnen was submitted and could have been forced from the sport he earns a living in.  It didn’t happen in the Octagon, but rather a commission hearing room in the state of California.  After a hearing in which Chael spoke, his mother spoke, and others spoke on his behalf, the Commission, voted four to one to uphold his indefinite suspension.  Why?

Let’s jump in our time machine and go back to before UFC 117 and Chael’s classic performance leading up to his title fight.  He was everywhere, doing interviews, tossing out one liners, and having the time of his life.  He entered that fight while taking testosterone treatments and consequently failed his drug test.  He was met with a suspension.

He was supposed to have his highly anticipated and very lucrative rematch with Anderson Silva in February, but that fight went up in smoke after the suspension for elevated levels of testosterone were found in his blood after the initial Silva fight.  Vitor Belfort was instead granted the title fight with Anderson Silva.

Chael decided to go back to the CSAC and try to get his sentence reduced, as he had a medical reason for the testosterone treatment.  Apparently he was diagnosed in 2008 with hypogonadism a condition that requires him to take two shots a week of a synthetic testosterone.   The California commission cut his suspension by six months, ending on March 2nd, 2011.

At that point, the UFC had scheduled him to face Yoshihiro Akiyama on March 19th, at UFC 127 but by that time word had gotten out about a money laundering scheme he was convicted of.  That fight went by the wayside and it was looking like Chael had worked himself from the penthouse to the outhouse in a matter of months.

The conviction of money laundering charges stemmed from a real estate deal in Oregon.  Long story short he pleaded guilty to a scheme to pay a plumbing company for work that wasn’t done, and then pay that company 69,000.00.  When the house closed and title transferred the plumbing company paid the new owner 65,000.00.  That’s not legal and Sonnen accepted a plea for Mortgage Fraud and Money Laundering and will pay a 10,000.00 fine and is under two years’ probation.   That was the situation with that.

After the guilty plea, the California State Athletic Commission, led by George Dodd decided it was a smart idea to indefinitely suspend the Middleweight fighter due to the testosterone suspension coupled with the felony money laundering conviction.  Chael was unemployable.

This more or less brings us up to yesterday.  Chael pleaded with the Commission to reconsider the suspension stating that, “If I am not granted a license to fight, I will be effectively retired.”  He added, “I don’t want to retire today.”  Chael spoke on his own behalf, as did his mother who pleaded with the Commission to reinstate her son.  At the end of it all, California State Athletic Commission Executive George Dodd motioned for the current suspension to be withheld and it was immediately seconded by Christopher Giza.  After a brief vote, it was ruled 4 to 1 in favor of the continuance of the indefinite suspension.

Chael’s license in California runs out in June and the earliest he can re-apply would be June of 2012, but the likelihood of that license being granted is very slim.  Chael can still fight, other states can license him, but it’s not very likely it would happen, and moreover the UFC has a stance of standing by the decisions of the State Athletic Commissions.

The only thing left to look at is was the ruling was just?  Chael committed a felony, and was sentenced in an Oregon federal courtroom.  The jurisdiction of the state of California’s Athletic Commission is far reaching, but should it reach this far?  Haven’t there been other athletes who have been convicted, served whatever punishment was given to them and continued their career?  Of course.

Plaxico Burress shot a gun in a nightclub; he’s coming back to the NFL.  Donte Stallworth killed someone while driving under the influence, in 2009 and played last year, and was voted by his teammates to receive their yearly courage award.

The California commission is also saying there were some misleading statements in Chael’s first hearing where he was given a six month reduction.  I don’t understand the thinking there.  They are basically saying, we were duped, and now, you’ll pay the price.  The whole, we were fallible before so now we won’t give you the chance to fool us again is a mockery.  They are saying he told the CSAC that he had an in depth discussion with Keith Kizar of the NSAC and then Keith has stated that it wasn’t as in depth. Come on, big picture, you’re in reality ending a career here.  We trust these commissions to be just and do the right thing, but this time, they’ve missed the mark in a big way.

At this point the suspension seems very unfair and somewhat over the top.  Chael used an illegal substance; he was suspended and served that suspension.  He was found guilty if money laundering in an Oregon courtroom and he’s abiding by that sentence as well.  What the CSAC is doing is nothing more than kicking a man while he’s down.

The UFC has always come to the aid of their fighters.  When Quinton Jackson had his “issues” and found himself in legal troubles, Dana White was by his side and got him help and through the situation.  Where was the CSAC suspension of Rampage?

Let’s just allow Chael to move on and do what he does best.  Fight and entertain.  If he gets out of line legally, he’s in a ton of hot water with his federal two year probation.  It’s not up to the Athletic Commissions to police fighters after they’ve already been tried, convicted and sentenced.  His CSAC suspension on his testosterone charges ending in March of this year.   Sonnen was convicted of a felony crime, yet the only place he’s imprisoned is in the California Athletic Commission.   Enough is enough.

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