Chael Sonnen’s Indefinite Suspension Upheld, May Prompt Retirement

May 18, 2011
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Chael Sonnen at the May 18 CSAC hearing

Chael Sonnen at the May 18 CSAC hearing

The long and winding road of Chael Sonnen’s career just careened down a steep descent of switchbacks on Wednesday, possibly signaling his retirement from mixed martial arts competition.

Sonnen, who just recently thought he would be reinstated as a fighter in both California and Nevada, was back before the California State Athletic Commission on Wednesday. He was trying to alleviate a recent indefinite suspension handed down by California, but the end result was a continuation of that suspension.

CSAC Executive Director George Dodd, in speaking with last week, confirmed the two factors behind the current suspension: Sonnen’s guilty plea for his money laundering case in Oregon, and also the possibility of false testimony during the UFC fighter’s hearing before the commission on Dec. 2, 2010, to appeal his last suspension.

“What we’re going to be looking at is his testimony (about) his discussion that he had with the Nevada State Athletic Commission,” Dodd explained. “Because that could have led some of the commissioners to change or sway their vote as far as… the testosterone use. So, we’re going to look at that.”

And that is exactly the tack the commission took, under the representation of deputy district attorney general Karen Chappelle, and with testimony from Keith Kizer, the executive director of Nevada’s athletic commission.

Sonnen was questioned heavily about his Federal money laundering conviction in Oregon, and the statements he made not only to the athletic commission at a December hearing, but also comments he made in media interviews.

The commission argued that Sonnen had been misleading in some of his statements both at the December hearing and in the media, particularly about his interaction with the Nevada commission regarding his testosterone therapy for hypogonadism.

Sonnen responded by saying he had relied upon poor information from others, both in regards to whether or not he was clear to fight while under the testosterone treatment and in regards to the money laundering charge. He said that he had since taken the step of handling such matters directly, not leaving issues such as matters with the athletic commission to his manager, Matt Lindland.

“If I am not granted a license to fight, I will be effectively retired,” Sonnen pleaded, the emotion evident on his face. “I don’t want to retire today.”

At the end of the day, the hearing about whether or not to license Sonnen in California boiled down to his alleged inconsistent statements and the money laundering conviction.

During deliberation, the consensus among commissioners was that the inconsistent statements were the primary consideration regarding Sonnen’s licensure in California, not so much the money laundering conviction.

The commission openly doubted the sincerity of Sonnen’s statements; commissioner Eugene Hernandez referenced a comment Sonnen made during Wednesday’s hearing as to part of the reason why.

“When I am on stage I am performing. No different than any other actor. I charge for those interviews,” he had said in regards to the media interviews that were called into question.

Following closing testimony, Hernandez motioned for Sonnen’s current suspension to be upheld indefinitely. The motion was quickly seconded by commissioner Christopher Giza.

After hearing public comment, which included a plea from Sonnen’s mother, the commission voted 4-1 to uphold the indefinite suspension. That means that Sonnen is under suspension until June 29, 2011, when his current license expires. The soonest he would be allowed to re-apply for a license in California would be June of 2012.

CSAC Executive Director George Dodd told that the action is under his jurisdiction only, and that Sonnen could try to get licensed in other states, similar to Josh Barnett, who has not regained his license in California, but will be fighting in Texas in June. It is up to the other state commissions to decide whether or not California’s ruling has any effect on their consideration of granting Sonnen a license.

Sonnen was believed to be under strong consideration to coach on Season 14 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” The outcome of Wednesday’s hearing effectively knocks him out of any further contention for the position.

(Reporting by Nick Solomon,

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Ken Pishna is the managing editor of
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  • I think they had their minds made up before the hearing took place.

    • It sure sounded that way from how the hearing went.

      • Ya_Veo

        I don’t know the full story but you are correct they had their minds made up. He clearly made someone on the committee mad………..

      • jared499

        Do you think that the Nevada Commssion should allow him to fight. In my opinion California snuck in right before the Nevada hearing because they knew what they were going to do.

        I hope Keith Kizar and the other states decide not to uphold the CSAC ruling. I mean at some point we have to let it go. He served his suspension, which was reduced to only 6 months, and then California steps in and makes it indefinate. If this is the new policy that if you are caught using steroids you are banned for life, make it so, but until then do not condem one man and not another.

  • Prodigy815

    What a character

  • mirko crocop

    Can someone please explain to me how this can occur? This seems highly discriminatory. This commission of what, 5 people have effectively taken away the opportunity for some of us that would have loved to have seen a rematch between Sonnen and Silva. There are a lot of exciting fights but I would have really liked to have seen a rematch.

    • Simple. It’s called government regulation.

  • collideoverme

    His money landering charge has nothing to do with his fight career. But yet they made it as such. It’s a total travisty and he should be able to file a lawsuit for such an act.

  • phrankthetank

    He’s obviously screwed up considerably, but perhaps he’s learned from it. He’s not getting any younger, let the man fight!! If he screws up again, then suspend him. But for every day he’s not allowed to fight he gets a little older and loses a touch of his potential.

  • Vermillionm

    Seriously? Has’nt he been punished enough? Come on…

  • chuckalugk

    The CSAC is a joke. Power hungry dickheads. It seems like everyone has problems with them. Sherk said he would never fight in California again.

  • BigGuy

    I guess Chael’s mouth finally sealed his own doom. I don’t think they should suspend him over the money laundering issue, because it has nothing to do with his fighting career. I do think he should be suspended for the illegal drug use, which is obvious he knew about all along! But, suspended for how long is the issue!

  • collideoverme

    The fact is, he served his suspension. It was even shortened to 6 months. So that the hell does the CSAC think they are doing? The man should be allowed to make a living and like I stated before, he should file a lawsuit against the CSAC for failure to allow him to do that, and using the information about the money landering in a case that does not involve it.They should not have even asked any questions about it at all, yet they did extensively. It is definitely an injustice.