Chael Sonnen announced his retirement yesterday, June 11, on the heels of a failed drug test he took on May 23 with the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The 37-year old fighter out of West Linn, Oregon was set to fight Vitor Belfort on July 4, after Sonnen’s previous opponent, Wanderlei Silva failed to show up for a drug test of his own.
This is not the first time Chael Sonnen has been busted by NSAC but it is the most notable, as it prompted Sonnen to announce his retirement on Wednesday’s airing of Fox Sports 1’s “UFC Tonight,” a show he co-hosts with former UFC fighter Kenny Florian.
For Sonnen his decision seemed simple. Family, health, and longevity over fighting without the proper care his body needs in order to compete.
“I don’t ever want there to be a day where I don’t have the ability to have the title as parent and father and husband. My health has got to come first.”
Chael Sonnen is referring to his former testosterone replacement therapy exemption for therapeutic use that was taken away on Feb. 27, after NSAC decided to ban the use of TRT for all athletes competing in the UFC.
But unlike many other fighters who have been busted with high testosterone levels, Sonnen actually needed it. Sonnen suffers from hypogonadism, and can’t produce sufficient levels of testosterone on his own.
TRT or not, Sonnen retired more than just another fighter. Sonnen was the voice for a sport in need of one. With so many fighters unable to articulate their feelings or from other countries and unable to speak English, the UFC lacked personality. Chael P. Sonnen, the West Linn gangster, was that personality.
Sonnen was a showman through in through. Simple Q&A’s or pre-fight press conferences turned into impromptu Sonnen shows. He was a linguist, a modern day Robert Frost, spouting at the mouth nursery rhymes about a fighter as they sat and watched in disbelief. He was the self-proclaimed bad guy, and relished in the moments when everyone around him fell for it.
Sonnen was never more cunning or more ruthless then his banter leading up to his fights with Anderson Silva. Sonnen would do anything to provoke Silva. From simple jokes like comparing Silva’s black belt to a happy meal to more disrespectful comments like slapping Silva’s wife on the ass and having her make him a steak, medium rare, just the way he likes it.
Sonnen made it worth watching pre-fight pressers and brought the art of self-promotion to a sport lacking in it.
But Sonnen shouldn’t be remembered as just a talker. Sonnen was a warrior, a fighter who lived by the moto, “Anyone, anywhere, anytime, don’t ask what the guy weighs.”
Sonnen fought the best of the best. Michael Bisping, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Brian Stann, Yushin Okami and Jon Jones, just to name a few, there was never a fight Sonnen wasn’t willing to take part in.
Sonnen’s greatest moment may have come in the form of a loss to Anderson Silva in an epic five round war. Sonnon made Silva, who seemed untouchable around the time, look very human and put the champion in positions he had never been in before. Silva was able to pull off a triangle choke/armbar with less than two minutes left in the fight but for four and a half rounds Sonnen looked like the champion.
Chael Sonnen left his mark on the sport inside the cage and with his new job hosting “UFC Tonight,“ seems to already be leaving his mark outside of it as well. It seems fitting that a man with the gift of gab would be talking about the sport he has given so much to, after he is done competing in it. And with Dana White, the President of the UFC making comments about Sonnen being the kind of guy who could take over his job when he’s done, it seems as if Sonnen has plenty of options. Even though Sonnen never held the gold around his waist, what he left behind may have changed to the fight game, forever.