UFC: Will Nevada Allow Chael Sonnen to Fight at UFC 148?

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UFC: Will Nevada Allow Chael Sonnen to Fight at UFC 148?
Image via Sherdog.com

Earlier today, UFC President Dana White announced to the world that the rematch between Chael Sonnen and Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight championship, will be moved from Brazil to Las Vegas to headline UFC 148.

It's a shame we will miss out on the extreme partisan reactions of the Brazilian crowd as they cheer on their countryman Silva. But, no matter where the fight takes place, it's bound to be hotly anticipated and an extravaganza like few others in MMA history.

There's no question that the MMA world is in a frenzy over this fight. In their initial match, Sonnen beat Silva from pillar to post before eventually succumbing to a final round submission from a battered champion. After the fight, it was revealed that Sonnen had competed while being treated for hypogonadism, a condition that prevents the body from producing normal levels of testosterone.

While defending his testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio of 16.9-to-1 (the legal ratio in California was 4-to-1), Sonnen told the California Athletic Commission that he had been approved for a therapeutic use exemption in the state of Nevada, allowing him to use testosterone legally. Nevada's Executive Director Keith Kizer categorically denied the claim:

Keith Kizer, executive director of the NSAC, testified over streaming video from Las Vegas that neither he nor Nevada commission-licensed doctors granted Sonnen a therapeutic use exemption, which allows for prescribed medication to be used by a licensed competitor if it's deemed necessary for his or her well-being.

Sonnen, Kizer said, was never told he didn't need to disclose testosterone treatments.

"That is a false statement," Kizer said.

Kizer would eventually meet with Sonnen, his then manager Matt Lindland and members of the UFC's senior management team. After much discussion and thought, Kizer tells Bleacher Report that he doesn't see why Sonnen wouldn't be eligible to fight in the state. In fact, he might even be eligible for an administrative license, meaning he would be approved without the necessity of a commission hearing.

"If he files, any and all relevant issues will be addressed," Kizer said, conceding Sonnen's past would potentially be an issue. "There is always more scrutiny, but that does necessarily mean a hearing is needed. That is something to be decided but I think he may be eligible for administrative licensing, i.e., no need for hearing. The final decision on that point would be the Chairman's."

The standard licensing procedure does present some potential pitfalls for Sonnen:

  • Therapeutic Use Exemption: While Sonnen can apply for an exemption to the Commission's prohibition against artificial testosterone, even having the proper paperwork isn't a guarantee that it will be approved
  • Criminal Record: Sonnen will need to disclose a 2011 guilty plea in a federal money laundering case:

U.S. attorney's office spokesperson Gerri Badden told MMA Fighting that Sonnen was sentenced on Friday to 24 months probation, a $10,000 fine and forfeiture of his real estate license as the result of his Jan. 3rd guilty plea.

In his plea, Sonnen admitted that he was part of a financial transaction that was conducted or designed to disguise the ownership of funds due to wire fraud. The charge had carried a possible fine of up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

  • While there is no reason to assume that Sonnen isn't clean, he should learn a lesson from Alistair Overeem and expect to be tested by the Commission when he applies for his license. Nevada reserves the right to test the athletes out of competition and upon request for licensure. I suspect Sonnen may be asked to submit to drug testing before the bout.
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