The Nevada State Athletic Commission is once again in the news for all the wrong reasons, and once again it is concerning now-retired UFC title contender Chael Sonnen.
Haven’t we heard this tune before?
Just last month, Sonnen was officially suspended for a period of two years by the NSAC after testing positive on two separate drug tests leading up to his fight with Vitor Belfort. As part of that suspension, Sonnen was barred from participating in any form of armed combat, inside or outside of the NSAC’s jurisdiction. In other words, no flying to Brazil to face arch-rival Wanderlei Silva there. No competing in a boxing match anywhere, either.
Which leads us to the Jiu-jitsu expo that is Metamoris. Found by Ralek Gracie, Metamoris is a straight BJJ competition. In other words, it is pure grappling, no striking allowed. Sonnen was announced as headlining this year’s show at least a month prior to his NSAC suspension, but no mention of it was made at his disciplinary hearing. However, on July 30, Francisco Aguilar, head of the commission, notified Sonnen via letter that participating in Metamoris would be in violation of his suspension, despite the event not being a combat sporting event, but more like wrestling (which is not overseen by the NSAC either). In fact, Jiu-jitsu has never fallen under the umbrella of the NSAC, something that Aguilar himself is no doubt aware of.
Per a copy of the letter provided to Bleacher Report, who did an excellent run-down on the situation, Aguilar writes:
I now see that you had already scheduled a fight in California on August 8, 2014. Be advised that the occurrence of any fight is a breach of the Commission’s Order and will subject you to further proceedings before the Commission.
If you were to believe for a moment that the NSAC was unaware of Sonnen’s upcoming Metamoris appearance, it would reek of amateurism, but it only gets worse. On July 23, the same day of Sonnen’s NSAC hearing, Aguilar went on-camera with Combate in an interview that specifically asked the commissioner about Sonnen’s Metamoris participation. In that interview, he stated that Sonnen would not be allowed to compete in anything covered by the NSAC, adding (in regards to Sonnen’s upcoming Metamoris match) that “I believe he’s in wrestling and wrestling is not subject”.
While it’s not wrestling, BJJ is not covered by the NSAC, and Aguilar either has a worse memory than a goldfish, or he is being completely disingenuous when claiming he was unaware of Sonnen’s Metamoris appearance.
This is yet another black eye for the NSAC, who, in essence, granted one drug test failing athlete a title shot (Belfort) while banning another one for two years (Sonnen) despite both being repeat offenders. And since Sonnen accepted his ban from the sport without excuse, owning up to his mistakes, one would think that vindictive behavior after the fact by the commission would be unnecessary – yet here we are. The fact of the matter is, the NSAC covers boxing, mixed martial arts, kick-boxing, and any other form of combat that includes striking – but not Jiu-jitsu or wrestling. Suddenly trying to expand their mandate on a whim is a disgrace, and shows that they are as badly run now as they were under Keith Kizer.
Worse, while Sonnen’s lawyer, Ross Goodman, has attempted to contact the commission, they’ve gone silent, refusing to respond to two separate inquiries. As Metamoris is just days away, this could amount to a stall tactic, as it’s likely at this point that they know they are in the wrong, given the video evidence with Aguilar coming to light.
UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture has potentially been tapped to replace Sonnen, should he be unable to compete in the event, but that’s besides the point – the largest sporting commission in North America needs to be better prepared and better understand its own mandate to prevent embarrassments like this from ever taking place. Whether you believe Sonnen should be allowed to compete anywhere, in any sport, ever again or not, there’s no question that the NSAC is overstepping its bounds and has fumbled the Sonnen situation badly.