Former UFC middleweight and light heavyweight title challenger Chael Sonnen has signed an exclusive multi-fight, multi-year contract with Bellator MMA.
Sherdog.com confirmed the news with a promotion official on Thursday following an initial report from The Associated Press. A debut date for Sonnen has not yet been determined.
Earlier this summer, Sonnen confirmed that he had entered the USADA drug testing pool, the first step toward making a comeback with the UFC. However, USADA does not handle drug testing for Bellator MMA, perhaps making it easier for Sonnen to make a quick comeback, as he would be required to be in the testing pool for four months before he could fight again in the UFC.
Sonnen recently finished serving a two-year suspension from the Nevada Athletic Commission for testing positive for anastrozole and clomiphene in an out-of-competition drug test in 2014. He later failed another drug test a few weeks later, this time for HGH and anastrozole again.
The West Linn, Ore., native announced his retirement following the revelation of the initial positive test. He was supposed to face Wanderlei Silva and then Vitor Belfort at UFC 175 prior to the failed drug tests. He was also fired as a studio analyst for Fox Sports.
When asked by the Associated Press why he decided to go back on his decision to retire, Sonnen simply said: “I’m a heel. Heels lie.”
According to the report, Sonnen said he willing to fight in multiple weight classes within the California-based promotion, and he is not seeking any specific matchups.
The 39-year-old hasn’t fought since UFC 167 on Nov. 16, 2013, when he lost to Rashad Evans via first-round technical knockout. The Team Quest representative rose to fame on the basis of his rivalry with then middleweight champion Anderson Silva, nearly upsetting “The Spider” at UFC 117 before being submitted in the fifth round. He fell via second-round TKO to the Brazilian in their rematch at UFC 148.
Sonnen later challenged Jon Jones for light heavyweight gold but was stopped in the first round at UFC 159.