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Chael Sonnen pleads guilty to money laundering

January 04, 2011 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

Chael SonnenAfter receiving a six month suspension for a PED failure, UFC fighter Chael Sonnen found himself back in court. Instead of fighting to get back into the UFC now Sonnen has been fighting to stay out of jail after pleading guilty to money laundering charges carrying a max 20 year jail sentence.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse for Chael Sonnen you were wrong. After it looked like Sonnen was going to be able to put his PED failure behind him he found himself back in a court of law. Unlike Sonnen’s last appearance in a legal environment this one went under the radar. Well now the cat is out of the bag and Chael Sonnen may have gone from top of the world to the very bottom in just a matter of a few months.

Dave Meltzer reports that the UFC fighter pleaded guilty to money laundering in a mortgage fraud case. Sonnen was a mortgage in addition to being an MMA fighter. According to Meltzer Sonnen admitted, “that a financial transaction he conducted was designed to conceal or disguise the ownership and control of the proceeds of wire fraud according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Oregon district.”

Newsday.com reports that Sonnen and prosecutors have agreed on a plea deal which will carry two years probation, a $10,000 fine, and a revocation of Sonnen’s license. While that all sounds like terrible news, it is the best possible outcome legally for Sonnen who could have gotten 20 years if he fought and lost the case.

ESPN.com reveals more details about the case. “Specifically, Sonnen allegedly arranged for a title company to pay $69,000 to a plumbing company for repairs to a Portland home, which Sonnen was involved in the sale. The release states that Sonnen knew that no repairs would be made to the home. Once the loan was funded, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, the plumbing company was directed by Sonnen to pay $65,000 to the homebuyer as a cash incentive for purchasing the home.”

The news comes just hours after Sonnen’s return to UFC action was announced. It was announced that Chael Sonnen vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama has been signed for UFC 128 in March at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. This would be Sonnen’s first fight since his epic fight against Anderson Silva at UFC 117 back in August in which Sonnen came within minutes of defeating the legendary fighter and winning the UFC middleweight title. Plans for a rematch were immediately announced and then scrapped after Sonnen tested positive for performance enhancing drugs and was suspended for one year by the California State Athletic Commission, a sentence which was later reduced to six months.

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I don’t know if it is some kind of a curse or what but Sonnen’s life has been on a drastic downslide the moment he left the octagon at UFC 117. The positive PED test and guilty plea wouldn’t benefit anyone but they are extremely damaging to the reputation of Sonnen. Known for his outrageous interviews, Sonnen preached morality leading into the UFC 117 showdown called Anderson Silva a “liar” and made national headlines for blasting Olympic hero Lance Armstrong for rumored drug use. Sonnen even went as far as to claim Armstrong got cancer from drug abuse, although Sonnen denies that he said it. Maybe it is karma or just bad timing for the former number one contender to the UFC middleweight title.

The irony here is that Sonnen was arguably the most popular fighter in the UFC immediately following his fight against Anderson Silva. Fans loved the idea that they had a fighter who spoke his mind and backed up every word of it. However if you thought he lost face getting popped for a bad PED test, I can’t imagine the ramifications of pleading guilty to mortgage fraud at a time when bad mortgage lenders are public enemy #1 due to the downturn in economy a couple of years back. I can’t imagine Sonnen having much good will these days among UFC fans after this admission.

I am real curious to see how the other fighters approach Sonnen from this point forward. There are a lot of Brazilian MMA fighters still very upset at Sonnen over comments he made about Brazil and fighters in Brazil leading up to his fight against Anderson Silva. While most fighters avoid airing the dirty laundry of their opponents, Sonnen has opened himself up for repeated ridicule. Unless a mandate comes down from the UFC I would expect to hear many fighters call out Sonnen on his own “lies” and indiscretions.

If there is one thing for certain it is that Chael Sonnen needs a win at UFC 128 more than at any other time in his career. Anything but a win or solid effort will kill this guy in the eyes of MMA fans. His political career is over, his mortgage career is over and his UFC career could be over if Sonnen doesn’t pull off the performance of a lifetime at UFC 117…without the help of any PEDs.

UPDATE: Dana White has canceled the Sonnen vs. Akyiama match and has suspended Sonnen for an undetermined amount of time.

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