Chael Sonnen announced his retirement from the sport of mixed martial arts yesterday on the ‘UFC Tonight’ show a day after it was revealed that he had tested positive for banned substances during a random NSAC drugs test.
Immediately after the show he then released a statement confirming that he was hanging up his gloves, bringing a 17 year career to a close.
“I want to take an opportunity to officially announcement my retirement from competitive mixed martial arts. I had a great time. I want to thank Roy Pittman. I want to thank Dave Sandal. I want to thank my coach Clayton Hires. These guys taught me how fight, they taught me how to persevere and they stood by me through thick and thin.
“I want to thank FOX, I want to thank the leadership of the UFC. I want to thank a man named Bill Brady, who gave me a second wind if you will. He’s a member of the Nevada State Athletic Commission and he believed in me at a time when I really needed somebody too, and I owe the second wind of my career to him. I am proud to call him a friend. I also want to thank the most important opponent I’ve ever had. I couldn’t have got here without this dance partner, and that is of course you, Anderson Silva. Thank you for the opportunity. Thank you for the memories, thank you for the invitation to the barbeque, even though I didn’t take you up on it.”
Sonnen will go down in the record books as one of the most charismatic, yet also controversial UFC fighters of all time.
Up until 2010 Sonnen was enjoying a solid, but not stellar MMA career, competing in the likes of the UFC and WEC and holding a 25-10-1 record.
However, a three-fight winning streak combined with harnessing his gift for the gab helped him talk his way into a middleweight title fight with Anderson Silva in 2010, creating one of the sports most memorable rivalries in the process, and to his credit also putting on a performance in that bout that would make it a instant classic.
Though he ultimately lost the fight this was still the high point of Sonnen’s career.
However, it was quickly to be followed by the darkest time in his career as he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone well above the legal limit following the fight and further shocked the world months later when he also found himself in court pleading guilty to money laundering charges in connection with mortgage fraud, narrowly escaping a jail sentence in the process.
Despite these revelations Sonnen remained with the UFC, and after serving his testosterone suspension he returned to the Octagon, now legally using Testosterone Replacement Therapy.
Wins over Brian Stann and Michael Bisping (following a stint as coach on The Ultimate Fighter) set up one of the biggest rematches of all time against Anderson Silva, and while he wasn’t nearly as successful in the second fight, losing out by TKO in the second round, UFC 148 proved to be a huge success, setting the MMA gate record in Nevada together with almost a million pay-per-view buys.
Sonnen’s star status was sealed by this stage and he was snapped up by FOX as an analyst and co-host while somehow managing to talk his way into a light-heavyweight title fight with Jon Jones which would again end in defeat.
The final win of his career would follow afterwards, and a notable one at that, submitting former champion Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, before a TKO loss to Rashad Evans.
An ongoing rivalry with Wanderlei Silva that boiled over into a physical confrontation during a coaching stint on TUF Brazil 3 ensured that Sonnen was still one of the most talked about fighters in the sport this year and fans had eagerly been awaiting a fight between them at UFC 175 in just a couple of months time.
However NSAC’s random drug test caught them both by surprise, with Silva refusing to take it which lead to the fight being canceled, while weeks later the result showed Sonnen had banned substances in his system, leading to last night’s retirement announcement.
Despite his career ending on a low note, this won’t be the last we’ll see of Sonnen by a long shot as FOX look set to overlook his latest transgression and now that he’s no longer a fighter it’s almost certain that we’ll be seeing more of him than ever on our television screens.