The Savage Truth: Statement Day

By Greg Savage Jun 17, 2014
Should Nevada make an example of Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva? Please tell us below. Photo: D. Mandel

Later this afternoon the Nevada Athletic Commission will hold a hearing in Las Vegas to determine the professional fates of Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen. It is time for them to make a convincing statement that if you are caught skirting the rules in the world’s top market for combat sports, there will be real penalties to pay.

Nevada has done some very good things in regards to curtailing the use of performance enhancing drugs in its jurisdiction. It has banned testosterone replacement therapy, instituted the most robust out-of-competition testing in the country and has always had some of the stiffest fines and sanctions in the business.

This is its chance to hammer home the point that people who allegedly cheat and ignore regulations are not welcome in the Silver State.

It looked as if they were going to have a say in Vitor Belfort’s mixed martial arts career as well, but the former Ultimate Fighting Championship title holder has dropped off the docket for the June 17 meeting since his bout with Sonnen was scrapped due to the Oregonian’s recent drug test failure. Thus, Belfort no longer requires a license in Nevada at this time.

In an amazing turn of events, the NAC’s (semi) random drug testing program has wreaked havoc on the UFC’s ability to promote three of its more recognizable stars.

First it was Belfort, who earlier this month admitted he tested above the allowed limit of testosterone during a surprise NAC test while he was attending an MMA Awards show in February of this year. He released his test information and stated that his regime had been adjusted since the earlier test. He also provided results that showed he had been below the maximum allowable levels in every self-administered test since.

His uncertain license status in Nevada led to Belfort being dropped from a title fight against Chris Weidman that was originally scheduled for May 24 in Las Vegas.

Belfort’s fortunes changed when fellow Brazilian legend Wanderlei Silva allegedly ran out a side door -- as told by Sonnen anyway -- when the NAC showed up with pre-fight licensing paperwork and a sample collector for his urine and blood. A missed or declined test is, and should be, viewed as a failed test in any respectable regulatory body’s rules. It was apparent something happened and now, a few months after losing his title shot, Belfort was there to save the day and step in for Silva.

All that stood in the way of Belfort moving on with his career was a hearing before the NAC and a vote to license him. It was implied that it would be a mere formality when you listened to Vitor discuss the situation. The promotion had announced the bout but UFC President Dana White did hedge his bet, stating that there was no fallback plan should something go awry during the licensing process.

Media and fans alike were buzzing, curious to know how the NAC, whose day-to-day operations were now headed by former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Bob Bennett would handle their first go-around under the microscope with him at the helm. Would they drop the hammer on Belfort? Would they invite him to participate in an advisory position like former NAC chairman and current commissioner Skip Avansino shockingly did during Sonnen’s last trip before the commission?

Well, little did we know, when Tuesday’s meeting still had Belfort in the main event, there would be so much more on the line. Granted Belfort is not going to be applying for a license, but now we get to see how the commission deals with both Silva and Sonnen.

It will be a precedent-setting affair and I don’t blame Belfort one bit for heading to the hills on this one. I wouldn’t want to be in the same area code when this commission makes their decision on how they are going to handle these types of situations going forward.

I have to say, I expect the NAC to come down pretty hard on both Silva and Sonnen (who has since retired) and I expect the sanctions to be severe. I expect the UFC to cut Silva should the NSAC ban him from competing in the state.

Silva has never really established himself as a top-level fighter since making his way back to the UFC in 2007. In just over six and-a-half years “The Axe Murderer” has run up a 4-5 record. Not exactly the kind of guy the UFC just has to keep around.

Sonnen is an entirely different animal.

He is extremely popular and has done quite a bit to help the promotion as a spokesman on their Fox broadcasts. He has also been a company man who will fight anyone, anywhere, anytime. That is an attitude that has endeared many a fighter to UFC brass.

However, Sonnen has fallen on some hard times as well. He has dropped three of his last four fights over the past two and-a-half years and was stopped in all three losses. To his credit he was competing against some of the best the UFC has to offer in Anderson Silva, Jon Jones and Rashad Evans.

His retirement, should it be permanent, seems like a best-case scenario for the charismatic face of the UFC’s Fox broadcast team. Should he want to return to active participation I would imagine the NAC would want to know why, after he had all kinds of problems in California due to disclosure issues surrounding TRT, he would fail to inform them he that he was taking banned substances, needed or not.

Hell, they may want to know despite his abrupt departure from being and active fighter.

With Belfort’s withdrawal of his application and Sonnen’s sudden retirement the laser focus of the commission’s ire will be directed solely at Wanderlei Silva. He will be the guinea pig as the rest of the sport’s alleged cheaters will be watching later today.

Depending on the outcome, hopefully some of the other state commissions will take notice as well.

Come on Nevada, the sport is rooting for you. Don’t embarrass us or yourselves.

We’ve had enough chicanery the past couple months to hold us over for a while.

Greg Savage is the Executive Editor of and can be reached via @TheSavageTruth on Twitter.


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