In 1997, Chael Sonnen, then age 19, began his career in combat sports. His time in mixed martial arts spanned 22 years and four different major promotions.
On June 14, after sustaining a knockout loss to Lyoto Machida, the former MMA champion and current commentator’s time in the cage ended.
Following the Bellator 222 co-main event, Sonnen revealed his intentions to retire from the sport he gave over half of his life to as a fighter, saying simply:
“I appreciate the memories, and goodbye.”
In addition, Sonnen, who had previously retired from MMA as a competitor five years ago following a stint in the UFC, noted that Bellator MMA president Scott Coker signed him to a five-fight contract in 2017, a contract which he honored to completion.
Looking back on a career that was:
In May 1997, during the Battle of Fort Vancouver in Vancouver, WA, “The American Gangster” recorded his first MMA victory, a unanimous decision against Ben Hailey. He followed it up in 2002 with another unanimous decision against Jason Miller on March 30 of that year.
A few weeks later, during the Dangerzone 13: Caged Heat card, he competed and won the Light Heavyweight tournament. In so doing, he captured that division’s title.
In 2004, Sonnen landed his first exposure in major MMA, competing in WEC 12: Halloween Fury 3 and won by decision against Alex Steibling.
Sonnen’s first UFC stint began in October of 2005, losing in UFC 55 against Renato Sobral by submission due to a triangle choke.
He’d go 1-2 in the UFC before being cut from the promotion, later rejoining the UFC in the winter of 2009.
Second Stint in UFC
In his second stint in the promotion, he’d fight in the Light Heavyweight and Middleweight ranks, competing in championship bouts for both divisions, yet he failed to capture the belt.
After a November 2013 fight in UFC 167 against Rashad Evans, a TKO loss, Sonnen left the UFC amid positive drug tests, being given a two-year suspension.
In light of these events, Sonnen retired as a competitor.
Two years ago, he returned to MMA in Bellator, initially competing as a heavyweight before moving back to light heavyweight for his final appearance.
In recent years, Sonnen has entered the broadcasting arena, working as an analyst for onsite studio segments of Bellator events; he had previously worked for FOX Sports as a studio analyst on UFC coverage.
Additionally, Sonnen is a veteran of the annual “SmackOff” contest on The Jim Rome Show on CBS Sports Radio. In 2015, Sonnen collaborated with fellow Clone Mike in Indy for a tandem call during the program, one year removed from the two sharing the championship.
Sonnen was a solo SmackOff champion in 2012, becoming the first athlete to compete in the SmackOff since Jim Harbaugh.
On behalf of all of us at Armchair, best of luck to Sonnen in the next phase of his life.
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