One day after Chael Sonnen pleaded guilty to a federal money laundering charge, UFC President Dana White confirmed with TMZ.com that they have suspended the talented but troubled middleweight.
Around the time when Sonnen’s plea deal was announced, MMAJunkie reported that Sonnen was scheduled to fight Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 128 soon after his six-month suspension for a failed post-fight drug test from UFC 117 would expire. Now, though, it looks like those plans will be on hold.
White told TMZ that Sonnen’s contract has been “frozen” and made the following comments on the situation:
Chael Sonnen has gone through a lot in the last few months and we think it’s important for him to focus on getting his personal life together before focusing on his career in the UFC.
Although Sonnen could avoid prison time on the money laundering charge, with prosecutors recommending a $10,000 fine and two years probation as part of the plea deal, the UFC’s decision seems like a shrewd move.
With the controversy surrounding the UFC 117 drug test — which showed elevated levels of testosterone — on top of a felony charge, it gives Sonnen time to focus on other things (UFC 128 takes place just days before his sentencing hearing).
Perhaps more importantly, it also sends the message that fighters getting into trouble won’t get a free pass, putting the UFC in line with other image-conscious organizations like the NBA and NFL.