For weeks fans and media raved about Chael Sonnen's pro wrestling-esque interviews building up his title challenge against Anderson Silva at UFC 117. Sonnen talked a great game, mixing together outrageous trash talk and rare honesty in a bravura performance. It really did feel like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson had given the Team Quest star plenty of pointers. It wasn't a question of whether Sonnen's verbal tirades worked - the question was whether or not his newly found box office clout would change the way the UFC promoted fights going forward.
Inside the cage, Sonnen was as great as we've ever seen him. He outperformed Anderson Silva for four and a half rounds before being caught in a submission. Unfortunately, according to the California State Athletic Commission, Sonnen's performance was even more like pro wrestling than we thought. Sonnen, officials say, was aided by illegal performance enhancing drugs. From Sherdog:
"[Sonnen] received his notice yesterday," Dodd told Sherdog.com shortly after the Shane Mosley-Sergio Mora boxing match ended Saturday night in Los Angeles.
In a conversation the day before, Dodd declined to comment on the situation, other than answering that all fighters from UFC 117 had passed drugs-of-abuse scans, but that the commission was still waiting on performance-enhancing drug screens from the event.
Dodd did not state which banned substance was red-flagged, but with a clean drugs-of-abuse scan it is clear the positive test was for a performance-enhancing substance.
Sonnen not only showed the MMA community the pro wrestling industry's promotional punch, he also showed the hidden side of pro wrestling's continued success. The performers in that industry are able to give their all, and look great doing it, thanks to an often lethal cocktail of steroids, growth hormone, and pain killers that keep their bodies artificially able to give one hundred percent.
What should happen next? More after the jump.While we don't know the details of Sonnen's case yet, it seems likely that punishment is forthcoming from the state of California. Hopefully the UFC will send a message as well. When Sonnen returns from a suspension that will probably be at least six months in length, he should return to a position in the middle of the pack. His immediate rematch with Silva should be canceled and he should be forced to work his way back to that position, to show he can earn his place drug free.
I don't hold high hopes for that. Through his actions, UFC President Dana White has shown a tacit support for the abuse of performance enhancing drugs. When Sean Sherk tested positive for steroids, White wasted little time inserting the former champion immediately into his highest profile bout to date. In fact, each and every PED abuser in UFC history has returned immediately to the exact same position on the card, as if the cheating had never occurred. Only Josh Barnett wasn't brought back into the fold - and that was the result of a bitter contract dispute, not a steroid scandal.
Talking with fighters and managers in the industry, it seems obvious that the sport has a PED problem. It's time for the UFC to continue its role as the industry leader. They've led the sport forward for almost ten years. Now it's time to grab the reigns and guide the industry into a drug free future. It's the right thing to do. And they can start by making an example of Chael Sonnen.