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SportsMixed Martial Arts

Chael Sonnen signs with Bellator, returns to MMA

Host and mixed martial artist Chael Sonnen arrives

Host and mixed martial artist Chael Sonnen arrives at the Fighters Only World Mixed Martial Arts Awards 2011 at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. (Nov. 30, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty

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.

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.

New York Sports