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NAC hearing was full of gonzo fate-slinging fun

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Well, Vitor Belfort has been granted his license to fight again by the Nevada Athletic Commission, and the fog that has surrounded him for so long has finally begun to lift. He can fight again, provided he plays along with some enhanced rules, which he swears he will. He swears it. Phew.

Chael Sonnen? He was getting taken to the proverbial woodshed when he wasn’t being brought on as an advisor/ambassador to the NAC on Wednesday. The hydra of commissioners got a little lost in the expanse of possible punishments. This was prime time theater that played out exclusively on Fight Pass. Ultimately, after a series of passionate volleys from one chair to the next, the commissioners met in the middle. The already retired middleweight was suspended for two years for the trove of banned substances he tested positive for in June, the very same drugs that led to the sequence of fibs, retirement, banishment, reclusiveness and cool Metamoris promos. He was also fined.

Sonnen, who admitted guilt and shame in the first few minutes, went suffered the proceedings with a sense of dignity.

But first, Belfort.

Belfort read a statement. He fought back tears when he read the note, carefully tracing the sentences with his finger. The note did have moving components, and it moved the panel to hear it. Among the many promises Belfort made, key one among them was that he wouldn’t fight anywhere but Las Vegas in his return. That was a Vitor Belfort guarantee. And it was important, because there had been flirtations of him potentially challenging Chris Weidman for the middleweight title down in Brazil, an idea that would have sent a lot of rational people into conniptions. In 2013, it might be remembered, Belfort knocked out anybody who came to visit him there. Those bouts were heavily asterisked simply because he looked like Ajax and (it was believed) was going hard to the paint with the TRT.

But he promised Vegas. This big gate wasn’t going anywhere.

Really, Belfort presented himself humbly and (for the most part) on the level, even as he declared he wouldn’t fight before December -- a very tidy suggestion. Did he skirt the truth a little? Maaaybe. He said he was always open about his TRT use which doesn’t jibe with Google. Of course, all of that is quibbling. When his lawyer explained that when Belfort tested for elevated testosterone on a random test in February, it was a perfect storm of circumstance. Belfort usually took two shots of TRT a week while on his exemption; while traveling, though, he consolidated those two shots into one megadose, and he did that a day before the test. This was right before the NAC abolished the use of TRT.

It was all very messy.

Eh, forgive and forget. The commission said they were going to test the frank hell out of Belfort from here on out, but by then things were already pretty warm and cordial. Chairman Aguilar even called Belfort his new best friend as the license was granted, and within minutes of that conclusion the UFC announced Belfort-Weidman for UFC 181 in Las Vegas on Dec. 6 at Mandalay Bay.

Pop them corks, baby, because Belfort’s back!

For Sonnen, it was a different story. He went before the commission and admitted guilt, and said he was ashamed for the EPO, HGH, the masking agent clomiphene and anastrozole, all the substances found in him last month. Dr. Timothy Trainor explained the purposes of each drug in detail, and for a minute it felt like Sonnen was the athletic version of Keith Richards.

At some point, the conversation snuck into the circus tent, though. Only this time Sonnen wasn’t the ringleader.

After a feel out process on what should become of the gangster from "the mean streets of West Linn," commissioner Pat Lundvall asked if Sonnen would be willing to help the commission identify weaknesses in the system and work as an educator within it. As this mood gained steam, assistant Attorney General Christopher Eccles sort of reminded everyone, very soberly, of the severity of Sonnen’s deceit, calling his actions "brazen, outrageous cheating."


Not so fast, though. Commissioner Bill Brady said he liked Chael Sonnen, and wheeled things back towards…some form of mercy. Then new commissioner Anthony Marnell went no nonsense, and it was like somebody cracked a window and let the breeze roll through. He was ready to ban Sonnen for good, citing how easy it is to read the WADA list of banned substances, not buying Sonnen’s confusion in the area, pointing out the asinine nature of the things playing out in front of the entire Fight Pass viewership. He was got carried away, at one point even saying the word "frickin’."

Then he came back to earth, and everyone agreed Sonnen should be suspended for two years from fighting in Nevada or anywhere. That he should pay for the expensive tests that got him in this mess. And that he should join them in their efforts of cleaning up the sport. Sonnen’s sentence was to become part of the sting.

And so that was how the NAC handled these fates. Belfort’s back, and Sonnen’s out. Conor McGregor’s return to Ireland last weekend on Fight Pass was fun, but where else will you hear a government official tell Floyd Mayweather that he brings "good vicars" to Vegas? In Vegas, that’s where. Vegas is where the gonzo is. And Fight Pass did well to cover it.

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