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Three-time UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen ends retirement, signs with Bellator MMA

"American Gangster" is back!

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Chael Sonnen has ended his self-imposed mixed martial arts (MMA) retirement, but he won't be coming back to fight for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). In a surprising move, Sonnen -- who retired in July 2014 after failing multiple drug tests and being placed on a two-year suspension by Nevada State Athletic Commission -- has signed a multi-year, multi-fight deal with Bellator MMA.

The news was first reported by Associated Press. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. As for why he has changed his tune and come out of retirement, Sonnen told the AP, "I'm a heel. Heels lie."

"Chael is an incredible athlete that has competed at the very highest levels of the sport," Bellator MMA president Scott Coker said in a statement, "and I know that he is going to continue to do just that here at Bellator. When we were signing him, Chael was adamant that he wants to compete in three divisions here. He already has unfinished business with Wanderlei Silva, but also wants to fight guys like Tito Ortiz, Fedor Emelianenko and even Rory MacDonald at middleweight. These are all fights that I'd be very inclined to watch, so hopefully we can put some, if not all of these matchups together before the end of the year."

Sonnen, 39, is currently 29-14-1 and finished his run in UFC at UFC 167 with a technical knockout loss to Rashad Evans back in Nov. 2013. The Oregon native -- who became one of the most popular fighters in UFC for his trash talk and ability to sell and promote fights -- was a three-time title contender with the promotion, fighting for the Middleweight title twice and the Light Heavyweight strap once.

While serving his two-year suspension, Sonnen was adamant in several interviews that he had hung up the four ounce gloves for good. However, when he entered United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) drug testing pool after his suspension ended in July, a return to UFC seemed imminent. Now he's back, but will be fighting in the cage of UFC's biggest competitor next.

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