LOS ANGELES — Chael Sonnen is returning to mixed martial arts with the Bellator promotion, the veteran fighter tells The Associated Press.

The 39-year-old Sonnen signed a multiyear, multi-fight deal with the UFC’s largest competitor on Thursday night, Bellator confirmed to the AP.

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Sonnen has fought for the UFC middleweight and light heavyweight titles during a tumultuous MMA career. The talkative, versatile fighter became one of the sport’s most visible figures before he received a two-year suspension in 2014 for failing a drug test.

Sonnen announced his retirement after that positive test, and he repeatedly denied interest in returning. When asked Thursday why he took that stance, Sonnen said: “I’m a heel. Heels lie.”

Sonnen says he is willing to fight at any weight in Bellator, and he won’t ask for any specific opponents.