Chael Sonnen’s challenge to Anderson Silva after beating Brian Stann at UFC 136 was equal parts usual and unusual.
That Sonnen, who came two minutes from a dominant middleweight title victory over Silva last year and followed with a one-sided win over a legitimate contender in Stann, would issue a challenge for a title rematch is something to be expected.
But Sonnen went beyond the norm, naming the time (Super Bowl weekend) and adding “loser-leaves-town” stipulations, saying if Silva lost, he would leave the middleweight division, and if Sonnen lost, he would never fight in UFC again.
Sonnen’s attention-getting demands caused a fight that already would have a lot of interest to be taken to a new level. But in the big picture, the Oregonian’s self-imposed stipulations are not best for his long-term future.
The UFC traditionally runs a pay-per-view show the night before the Super Bowl in Las Vegas. It’s happened every year since 2004. While UFC has not yet asked the Nevada Athletic Commission for a date on Feb. 4, 2012, UFC president Dana White has confirmed they are planning on keeping the “Super Saturday” tradition going for the ninth straight year.
And that’s where Sonnen could run into trouble, as his licensing status in Nevada remains unresolved.
In a complicated matter, Sonnen failed a steroid test after his loss to Silva in Oakland, showing he had used testosterone prior to the fight. Sonnen had admitted the use to the California commission, claiming it was based on medical need. But he didn’t go through proper procedure to clear such usage, and in a hearing before the California board, said he had already been approved personally by Keith Kizer, the NAC’s executive director.
That claim helped get Sonnen’s suspension cut from one year to six months. Problem was, Nevada never approved the testosterone therapy and Kizer had never spoken to Sonnen. California suspended Sonnen a second time based on what they believed to be dishonest testimony in the initial hearing. The suspension, based on the intent of the commission, would still be going today, but due to a technicality, instead ended at the end of June.
The suspension was still long enough to kill the UFC’s plans for Sonnen and Michael Bisping to coach the current season of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show, because fighter seconds have to be licensed in Nevada for the show, and Kizer refused to license Sonnen.
In fighting Stann, Sonnen became the third fighter in recent years suspended and not relicensed in California, to hold their comeback fight in Texas instead, a state that, unlike most major commission states, doesn’t require fighters to first be cleared by the commission in the state their infractions occurred. Texas had already approved unlicensed boxer Antonio Margarito and MMA heavyweight Josh Barnett in the past year, and did the same with Sonnen.
So, will the state of Nevada approve Sonnen for a potential big-money Silva rematch? Kizer has adopted a wait-and-see attitude.
“Anyone can apply for a 2012 license after Dec. 1,” he said. “There has been no application filed for 2012. Medicals would have to be done by Dec. 1, but there’s nothing on any fighter to talk about yet.”
If Sonnen has no issues in the aftermath of the Stann fight, his Texas experience would likely help his case. There is precedent for Nevada allowing suspended fighters back after going to fight for a rogue commission. In 2002, Nevada wouldn’t license Mike Tyson and other commissions backed the ruling. But Tennessee agreed to license him and he fought twice in Memphis. Nevada then re-licensed Tyson.
With Sonnen, though, the issue is more complicated than that of Tyson, Margarito and even Barnett. Sonnen has claimed medical need for a testosterone exemption due to his own body producing low levels. The practice is controversial, as the potential for abuse among fighters is high.
Nevada has been vigilant when it comes to testosterone use exemptions, as only three MMA fighters have been approved.
“A fighter couldn’t do it unless you get approval from the commission, and he’s never applied for it,” said Kizer.
While Sonnen mentioned a preferred date of Super Bowl weekend, the Silva-Sonnen rematch, which White said he’d be stupid not to put together, given the public’s interest, would probably be better off in a location other than Nevada.
UFC is making plans to run a 2012 stadium show in Brazil. A few weeks ago, company officials met with Sao Paolo city officials about running at Estadio Cicero Pompei de Toledo, a stadium that holds 67,428 for soccer. Given Sonnen’s comments about Brazil over the years, and Silva being one of Brazil’s most popular athletes – and their rivalry – there is no more natural matchup for such a venue.
No other main event has the potential to create a once-in-a-generation atmosphere in the venue like Silva-Sonnen could. The only negative would be security concerns for Sonnen’s safety. Sonnen didn’t go to Brazil to be in training partner Yushin Okami’s corner on Aug. 27 for his fight with Silva in Rio de Janeiro because of threats made against him.
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Then there are Sonnen’s self-imposed stipulations. At the end of the day, fighting is still a business. If Silva agrees, he would up interest in a second fight, but in the long run, they don’t make business sense. If Silva wins, that would end Sonnen’s career. Sonnen is now one of the company’s top stars at a time when they are running so many shows they need every star they can. If Sonnen wins, a trilogy fight would be even bigger, given they would then each have a win, and Silva’s title reign coming up on five years is the all-time longest in history.
With Sonnen age 34 and Silva 36, both hear the clock ticking on their ability to garner the type of paychecks that come with headlining huge pay-per-view events. To then make challenges that would definitely hurt one, and possibly both, when it comes to future earnings, doesn’t make sense.
Sonnen, for his part, didn’t want to discuss his brash words at UFC 136.
“Moving forward at this point, [I’m] putting that night behind me,” Sonnen said in an email to Yahoo! Sports.
Where to rank Edgar? Controversy rages
After Frankie Edgar defeated Gray Maynard to retain the lightweight title in the UFC 136 main event, White declared that Edgar was the No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
While the consensus seems to be that Anderson Silva is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport followed by Georges St. Pierre, White’s reasoning is that Edgar is the only champion who has routinely beat fighters larger than himself.
Unlike most fighters, who routinely cut 15 pounds – some more, to make their weight class – Edgar cuts very little. He wrestled in college at 141 pounds, but fights at 155. There are fighters his size fighting two divisions below him at bantamweight.
Edgar likely goes into the cage only a few pounds heavier than bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, and likely goes in lighter than featherweight champion Jose Aldo Jr., both of whom cut a massive amount of weight to make their division. It would be impressive for any champion to consistently beat bigger men, but in the UFC lightweight division, which has more depth than any division in the sport, it’s even more so. No other champion is always fighting against bigger men, and no champion continues to ignore the obvious talk of moving down a weight class.
Some have also taken White’s words as a slight against St. Pierre, who cuts 15-20 pounds to make the 170-pound welterweight limit but has been modern MMA’s most dominant champion. St. Pierre has not only won nine fights in a row, but he’s never been in trouble during any of those fights, and rarely even been in a disadvantageous position. But he’s come under criticism because his last four fights have gone the full five rounds.
Edgar, on the other hand, was a split second from being done in the first round in his last two fights with Maynard. Before finishing Maynard in the fourth, he had also gone to a decision in seven of his eight prior fights.
White’s words, and the two fighters’ respective Saturday night performances, led to Edgar and Aldo Jr. flip-flopping from their pre-fight positions in the Yahoo! Sports’ pound-for-pound rankings, with Edgar taking the No. 4 spot. Aldo Jr., who had been No. 3 most of the year, dropped to No. 4 last month due to UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones’s meteoric rise, and fell to No. 5 this month after going to a decision against Kenny Florian.
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Aldo Jr., who had dominated everyone coming into 2011, lost the fifth round to Mark Hominick on Apr. 30 in his prior fight, and the first round to Florian. Even including Saturday’s performances, where Edgar was more impressive in finishing a previously unbeaten Maynard, Aldo Jr. has been the far more dominant fighter inside the cage.
But the question is how voters will weigh that against Aldo Jr. being a big featherweight who has to nearly kill himself to make 145 pounds, and Edgar giving up 10-20 pounds a fight, and beating B.J. Penn twice and Maynard once. As of now, the 22 voters have voted in favor of Edgar over Aldo.
Former MMA fighter suspected of murder
Joseph Son, an early UFC fighter, is being investigated for the homicide of a cellmate at Wasco State Prison near Bakersfield, Calif., where he is serving a life sentence for a brutal rape and torture conviction.
Son, 40, was convicted earlier this year in a December 24, 1990, rape case when he and another man allegedly dragged a 19-year-old woman who was walking her dog into their car and repeatedly raped her at gunpoint, before pushing her out of the car and yelling “Merry Christmas.”
The hideous case went unsolved for 18 years until Son had a DNA sample taken after pleading guilty in 2008 to a felony vandalism charge. The DNA matched a sample taken from the victim’s body, which allowed the police to solve the case.
Son’s cellmate, a 50-year-old sex offender, was found dead Monday with trauma to the chest. The two were the only ones in the cell. Son had been at the prison since Sept. 16.
Son, who played “Random Task,” in the 1997 movie, “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery,” was probably the most well-known fighter ever with an 0-4 record.
He first appeared in UFC as the second of Kimo Leopoldo in his legendary fight UFC 3 loss to Royce Gracie. But it was at UFC 4 on December 16, 1994, show in Tulsa, Okla., where Son had his role in one of the most infamous moments in early mixed martial arts history, as he fought Keith Hackney.
During the fight, Son clamped a guillotine choke on Hackney, and Hackney responded by throwing a series of hard punches directly to Son’s groin. At that time, low blows were legal in UFC. When the brutal clip aired on news show after news show, the moves were then banned, but not before plenty of damage was done to the UFC’s image.
Son ended up a cult favorite in Japan. He had a gimmick where he would fight wearing nothing but a thong in the carnival-like PRIDE promotion, as well as in Japanese pro wrestling matches. He lost all his matches quickly, but the gimmick got his fights photos in a lot of newspapers and magazines at the time, earning him a degree of notoriety.
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