The Chael Sonnen saga has finally come to its embarrassing conclusion. On Monday night, the UFC and Fox Sports 1 parted ways with the controversial analyst, just days after the announcement that Sonnen had failed a second drug test (and third in his career) in a matter of weeks. Sonnen really didn’t have a valid excuse for this positive test – he tested positive for HGH and EPO.
This was the right move from Fox and the UFC, despite Sonnen’s skill as a broadcaster. There was no conceivable way he could stay employed – this black cloud would be following him everywhere. After the mini-firestorm that erupted after Sonnen failed his first test (and second overall) earlier this year, Fox wasn’t going to hitch their wagon to him if there was more controversy. And there was not only more controversy surrounding Sonnen, but there was an absolute mess of emotions, from anger, to disappointment, to pure disdain.
Controversial personalities bring in eyeballs (hi Skip and Stephen A!), but toxic personalities risk alienating audiences and damaging credibility. In the span of a little over a month, Sonnen went from a controversial personality to a toxic personality, and the risk of keeping him around far outweighed the reward. We obviously don’t know how fans would have reacted to Sonnen on television after that positive second test, but the scales were already tipping against him following the first test.
Reacting to current events in the life of an analyst is something that happens all the time. We’ve seen it countless times before, with guys like Jay Mariotti, Harold Reynolds, Sean Salisbury, Steve Phillips, and many others all getting terminated because of events in their personal lives. What Sonnen did wasn’t nearly as vile as some of the transgressions we’ve seen cost people their jobs in the past, but because he was still an active competitor at the time, it’s a completely different ballgame. If ace reporter Steve Stevenson takes HGH, no one cares because he’s not getting blood drawn to make sure he’s on an even playing field with the rest of his reporting brethren.
Sonnen has been branded a lying, hypocritical cheater following this fiasco, and you simply can’t keep someone like that around, even if he voluntarily gave up his fighting career. Sonnen didn’t retire because of an injury, or because his skills were diminishing – he retired because he failed a drug test. He retired because he was about to be handed a massive suspension that would have effectively ended his career. Sonnen’s fighting career ended in disgrace, and Fox and the UFC shouldn’t have felt obligated to stand by him as his broadcasting future turned more and more cloudy.