The trials and tribulations of UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen continued on Tuesday, as the promotion suspended the one time championship contender to encourage him to focus on his personal life.
TMZ.com spoke to UFC president Dana White who commented on the suspension, which is technically the promotion’s way of freezing his contract for the time being, and then when he has things sorted out he can return to the Octagon.
“Chael Sonnen has gone through a lot in the last few months and we think it’s important for him to focus on getting his personal life together before focusing on his career in the UFC,” White told TMZ.com.
“I spoke with Chael earlier today and he agrees that setting priorities in his life is the best thing for him right now. I sincerely hope Chael is able to straighten out his personal life.”
The issues that White spoke about came to light on Monday when Sonnen pled guilty in Federal court to a money laundering charge that will likely result in a $10,000 fine, two years of probation, and the revoking of his real estate license.
Sonnen had already come under scrutiny after his drug test following UFC 117 in August came back for elevated levels of testosterone, and he was suspended by the California State Athletic Commission. Sonnen’s sentence was eventually reduced to six months, which runs through March 2.
Earlier on Tuesday, MMAWeekly.com reported that Sonnen had agreed to meet Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 128, but with the suspension issued by the UFC later in the day, the fight is now likely off the table, at least for March.
Sonnen will go back to court in late March for his sentencing after pleading guilty to the money laundering charge, but with the suspension from the UFC there is no time table for his return to fighting.
This sets a new precedent for the UFC in regards to athletes lives outside the Octagon. The promotion has not taken a public stance in the past in regards to an actual suspension when a fighter has come under fire for legal or personal reasons.
The UFC has in the past however “frozen” a contract for personal reasons. When former UFC lightweight Matt Grice entered the police academy in his home state of Oklahoma, the promotion allowed him to take the time off to complete his training before picking back up the remainder of his contract when he returned.
Sonnen has yet to make a public statement since he entered the guilty plea on Monday or the latest news of the UFC suspension on Tuesday.