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UFC’s hypocritical suspension of Chael Sonnen

I’m a bit puzzled by Chael Sonnen’s suspension by the UFC. Yes, he pleaded guilty to money laundering charges and I’m not saying that the UFC shouldn’t take action. But it’s not as though Sonnen led police on a reckless high-speed chase through heavily populated neighbourhoods that resulted in multiple vehicles being smashed up and a SWAT team takedown in the middle of the street. It’s not as though he has DUI convictions like Chris Leben or Josh Neer (hell, Leben was busted for drunk driving in October 2010 and he fought in the UFC just last week). It seems very hypocritical.

Now, I’m not sure what the solution is. Sonnen is just coming off a bizarre suspension by the California State Athletic Commission (bizarre because of how it was handled by the CSAC), had spent weeks Twitter-taunting Wanderlei Silva with language that some deemed racist and xenophobic in the hopes of getting a fight and then agreeing to face Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 128. Akiyama will now face Nate Marquardt instead).

Is the UFC simply trying to distance itself from the controversial fighter (something it didn’t do with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Leben or Neer) and will welcome him back into the fold in a few months? In other words, a smoke-and-mirrors job that makes the UFC appear to be respectable. After all, Sonnen’s suspension has no time limits and other than the loss of the Akiyama bout, really won’t have much of an impact on Sonnen’s career, at least not in the short term.  Or is the promotion genuinely fed up with Sonnen’s antics? Maybe the UFC is really trying to clean up its own act in in the hopes of gaining greater mainstream acceptance, as  E. Spencer Kyte suggests:

By scrapping Sonnen’s scheduled fight with Akiyama and putting him on the sidelines for an indefinite period, the UFC is following in the footsteps of the other major professional sports organizations and showing that legal penalties are not the only consequences fighters need to be concerned about in these types of situations. In taking this course of action with Sonnen, Dana White and company are setting an important precedent for the organization and its athlete: that your ability to earn a living in the UFC doesn’t rely solely on what you do inside the cage and your personal conduct will be taken into consideration.

That’s all well and good. But whether genuine or not, the end result is the same: denying me (and doubtless many other fight fans) an opportunity to see Sonnen in a rematch with middleweight champ Anderson Silva. Because when it comes right down to it, it’s the fights that matter.

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