Chael Sonnen is headed to Bellator. After sitting out a two year suspension “The Bad Guy” has signed a deal with Scott Coker to fight for the UFC’s biggest rival. Bellator announced the signing via press release and Sonnen teased it on his Twitter account earlier tonight.
The Rulers Back.
— Chael Sonnen (@ChaelSonnen) September 16, 2016
According to Coker,
“Chael is an incredible athlete that has competed at the very highest levels of the sport, and I know that he is going to continue to do just that here at Bellator. When we were 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 match-ups together starting before the end of the year.”
In a somewhat surprising turn the UFC gave Sonnen his release after his suspension. Dana White had to know that he would likely fight again despite Sonnen’s constant denial since getting popped for HGH and EPO in 2014 before his fight with Wanderlei Silva. Ironically enough, Sonnen now is free to fight Silva who has also signed with Bellator.
Sonnen to AP reporter Greg Beacham that he wanted to fight Tito Ortiz in his Bellator debut in November. Sonnen vs Ortiz is a big fight that never happened in the UFC. Ortiz competed at 205 pounds while Sonnen mostly fought at 185. Both guys are brash fan favorites who could easily build a big fight for Bellator.
Another interesting potential opponent for Sonnen is Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Like Ortiz “Rampage” is one of the most marketable guys on the Bellator roster. If Coker can’t make Ortiz vs Sonnen “Rampage” is a guy who could get the bod for his first fight. “Rampage” was thought to be on the Bellator show in Memphis in October but he wanted to take some time off after fighting this earlier this summer. With only one fight left on his Bellator deal Jackson will likely angle for an easy fight instead of fighting someone like Sonnen who could dominate him with superior wrestling.
Like the press release states, Bellator has been active in free agency by signing guys like Rory MacDonald. MacDonald was a former #1 contender at welterweight but in Bellator he may fight at 170 or 185. The two never crossed paths in the UFC and is a big fight for Coker to make.
At 39 years of age Sonnen likely won’t be chasing Bellator gold. When you get to be pushing 40 as a fighter it’s time for big fights and big paydays. That’s likely why middleweight champ Rafael Carvalho and light heavyweight champ Liam McGeary aren’t mentioned in the press release.
With Sonnen crossing over you have to wonder what other potential big names are waiting to jump ship once their UFC deals are us. Phil Davis walked away from the UFC last year and has won three straight in Bellator. It’s no secret that Bellator has deep pockets due to being owned by TV juggernaut Viacom. With fighter pay being a big deal right now combined with the fighter’s disdain for the Reebok sponsorship deal Bellator is starting to look like a viable option. And with the UFC being sold by the Fertittas to William Morris there is a lot of uncertainty about the future of the promotion. If I am a free agent or have a deal about to expire I’m giving Coker and his expanding roster of name fighters a look.
It’s not known what Sonnen is getting paid but you can imagine that Coker backed an armored truck up to his house. Despite a 6-5 record in the Octagon Sonnen was always around the title picture due to this ability to sell a fight and his pro wrestling persona that made fans love him or love to hate him. “The Bad Guy” went 0-3 in title fights but was in one of the greatest fights of all time when he battered Anderson Silva for 4 1/2 rounds before getting caught in a submission with two minutes to go in the fight.
In recent months Sonnen has been tested by USADA foreshadowing his return to MMA. Last month he and his wife lost their newborn daughter who was born ten weeks premature after having listeria. Sonnen has kept busy by training and hosting his hit podcast “You’re Welcome” that is considered a must-listen for fight fans.
You can expect to see Sonnen Friday night at Bellator 161 live on Spike to do something hyping his return.