Yesterday, while interviewing with former WWE superstar Steve Austin, Chael Sonnen made the claim that his contract with the UFC ran out four months ago and he never signed a new one. He went on to claim that he never signed a contract or any sort of agreement to fight Anderson Silva.
Here's the quotes as transcribed by MMA Mania:
"I never, to this day I don't have a contract to fight Anderson Silva," Sonnen stated in the interview. "I never signed an agreement that said I would fight him, we never picked a dollar amount, we never picked a weight class. Nothing. I told those guys I would show up and I did.
"They never had a contract with me, they said what they would do and they did. My UFC contract expired about four months ago, I don't know if they just haven't realized it because they're so busy, or if they just know they don't need one with me. But, I got a world title fight coming up, we've got a sold out venue -- I don't have a piece of paper with my name on it or Jon Jones' or anything else, but I don't need one either."
Every bout that takes place in a regulated state has to have a signed bout agreement -- which absolutely is a legally binding contract -- specifying the date, opponent, fight purse, weight the bout will be contested at and length of the bout. A sample of a Nevada bout agreement contract can be seen here.
The unarmed combat rules in Nevada also spell out that the UFC would be subject to disciplinary action if there was not a bout agreement in place by the time of the weigh-in:
NAC 467.117 Provisions for filing bout agreements; failure to file; contracts for rights to broadcast, televise or take motion pictures. (NRS 467.030, 467.120, 467.137)
1. A bout agreement between a promoter and an unarmed combatant for the main event of a program of unarmed combat must be placed on file with the Commission at least 3 working days before the program unless the Commission gives special approval for filing the bout agreement closer to the time of weighing in.
2. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 1, bout agreements for all unarmed combatants who will be contending in a contest or exhibition must be filed before the scheduled time for weighing in.
3. A promoter or matchmaker who fails to file a bout agreement for an unarmed combatant whose name is released to the news media is subject to disciplinary action.
4. Any contract by the promoter for the sale, lease or other use of rights to broadcast, televise or take motion pictures of a contest or exhibition, including, but not limited to, a contract for the rights to make a closed-circuit telecast of a contest or exhibition, must be placed on file with the Commission at least 10 working days after the contest or exhibition.
Knowing this, I contacted Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission who verified that a bout agreement was filed with the commission for the fight.
Sonnen could have simply been exaggerating (lying) to make it seem like he never signed anything when the NSAC bout agreement is absolutely by every measure a contract. Maybe he doesn't have an active multi-bout contract with the UFC and he was simply trying to extend that because...well, that's what Sonnen does.
New Jersey will be collecting signed bout agreements next Wednesday for UFC 159, so an agreement will be on file at that point for Chael's fight with Jon Jones.
"Common practice" in the fight world is that promotions have a signed agreement in advance of even announcing the fight. But it's possible the UFC put itself in a horrible position and didn't have any agreement on paper for Sonnen's fights, leaving themselves completely exposed to him trying to pull some last minute nonsense, having all the power to hold an event hostage without any sort of fighter/promotion agreement in place in the lead-up. Maybe the UFC is actually doing that, but it goes against every bit of fight promoter common sense.
Regardless, the claim that "I never, to this day I don't have a contract to fight Anderson Silva," is simply not true.