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Sonnen leaves UFC, signs with Bellator

Chael Sonnen's last MMA fight came in November of 2013

Chael Sonnen, mixed martial arts veteran and NCAA All-American wrestler for the University of Oregon, announced he has parted ways with UFC and signed a multi-year, multi-fight deal with Bellator.

Sonnen, 39, confirmed media reports with this simple message on his official Twitter account: "The Rulers Back."

The former Oregon Duck wrestler had built a 29-14-1 record in pro MMA going back to his first fight in May 2007 but received a two-year suspension in July 2014 from the Nevada Athletic Commission for failing multiple drug tests. After testing positive, Sonnen announced his retirement, and had been serving as an MMA analyst for ESPN. He repeatedly denied interest in returning to MMA. When asked Thursday why he took that stance, Sonnen said: "I'm a heel. Heels lie."

On Friday, Sonnen said his contract states that if he fails a drug test he will lose his entire purse and an additional $500,000.

"I had all of those [money] and ratings records when I retired," Sonnen said. "I lost them all, and I'm here to get them all back. ALL."

In July, Sonnen told The MMA Hour that he was interested in fighting again and had officially entered the UFC's USADA (U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) drug testing pool.

"I definitely have that itch," Sonnen said in that interview two months ago. "I fantasize about it. But it's one step at a time. I'm not holding back from you. I'm not acting like my return is some kind of breaking news. I'd tell it to you right now. But I have to pass this first test, quite frankly. It's still out there. I've gotta pass it. If I pass that, I'll pass all of them. But I have to know that everything is out. Boom, step one down."

The MMA fighter known as The American Gangster disclosed some of his plans in a conference call alongside Bellator president Scott Coker.

"I'm on a legends ass-kicking tour. I hope they book two guys because one of them is going to pull out. All I can tell you is that for myself, no matter what happens, I will make that walk when my music hits those speakers. Anybody, any time, any weight class, and that isn't bravado or tough guy talk. I've just had it, man. I thought my race was ran. I wrote the book on this thing, and I can tell there's a couple of chapters left."
"I'd like to go at light heavyweight," said Sonnen, who had made a name for himself competing in the Octagon at 185 pounds. "I've been mentally preparing to compete and I was thinking about going into the middleweight division. I think with the change of being over in Bellator, just looking at the lineup, looking at the guys they have, I just think 205 is the place to be for right now."

Sonnen hasn't fought in an MMA event since November 2013, when he suffered a first-round TKO at the hands of Rashad Evans at UFC 167.

Prior to launching his pro MMA career nearly a decade ago, Sonnen was a runner-up at the Oregon high school state wrestling championships. He originally started his wrestling career at Brigham Young University but transferred to University of Oregon when it appeared the Utah school was about to eliminate its wrestling program. While at Oregon, Sonnen earned All-American honors by placing eighth in the 190-pound bracket at the 1998 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. In addition, he was twice a runner-up at 197 pounds at the Pac-10 Conference Championships in 1999 and 2001. Sonnen also competed in Greco-Roman wrestling.

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