Stephan Bonnar's fighting career isn't over just yet.
In a somewhat surprising move, Bonnar, a UFC Hall of Famer, has signed a multi-fight deal with Bellator MMA, according to promotion officials. Bonnar's Bellator debut has not been finalized just yet, however, a grudge match against Tito Ortiz has been discussed. Brian McMahon tweeted last week that Bonnar vs. Ortiz was set.
"I want everyone to know I'm coming out of retirement because it's time to free the MMA world of the virus that's known as Tito Ortiz," Bonnar said in a statement provided by Bellator. "We've been suffering through his boring fights for too many years, and it's about time that someone beats it out of him once and for all."
In addition to a fighting contract, sources close to the promotion told MMAFighting.com that there is also a chance Bonnar could do some broadcasting work for Bellator on Spike TV.
"Stephan is a guy that has been a huge part of this sport and we are excited have him part of the roster," Bellator President Scott Coker said in a statement provided by the organization. "He was one half of probably the greatest and one of the most important fights in MMA history, and it happened on Spike. When you look at our light heavyweight division, with names like Rampage, Tito, King Mo, Emanuel Newton and others, there are a lot of fights Stephan can be involved in. Big fights against big names. After talking to Stephan, I know that’s what he wants, and we want to provide that to our fans."
Bonnar retired from MMA in 2012 after losing to Anderson Silva via first-round TKO at UFC 153. After the fight, he tested positive for the anabolic steroid Drostanolone and was then suspended for one year by the UFC, who served as the governing body for that card in Brazil.
He was also suspended for nine months by the NAC following his UFC 62 loss to Forrest Griffin in 2006 after metabolites of the anabolic steroid Boldenone were found in his system.
After the second failed test, Bonnar said he was worried his relationship with the UFC brass, who had stood by him through his trials and tribulations due to the fact that his fight against Forrest Griffin at The Ultimate Fighter Finale 1 in 2005 helped rejuvenate the sport, was ruined for good.
"That was really important to me, to be part of the UFC in ways other than fighting," he said on The MMA Hour. "That’s been hardest thing for me. I worked so hard over the years doing all those things to kind of give myself a home in the UFC outside of the actual fighting part of it, and I feel I ruined that."
UFC president Dana White, perhaps Bonnar's strongest advocate over the years, defended Bonnar's place in MMA history to anyone who argued against it, especially when he decided to induct Bonnar into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2013.
"I don't think people realize, really, really realize, what [Griffin vs. Bonnar 1] meant to this sport and this company," White said at the time to Yahoo! Sports. "I look at it as, I'm inducting Forrest, and Stephan goes with him. It wasn't just Forrest. Both of those guys took us to this next level. He's being inducted for that one fight that took this thing to the next level."
In fact, Ortiz, a fellow UFC Hall of Famer, took exception to Bonnar's induction, which has led to a lot of trash talk between the two.
"Forrest deserves it," Ortiz told MMAJunkie.com last year. "He beat me, and he beat some other really good guys. He was a world champion. He had some great fights. I think he deserves it. As far as Stephan, I have nothing against the guy, but you've got to be a world champion, I think, to be in the Hall of Fame."
Bonnar obviously didn't appreciate those comments and began campaigning for a fight.
"I'm just gonna call it how it is," he said. I'm gonna help him out. We all know he's broke. We know Jenna took all his money. You know, Punishment Clothing—the only people I see wearing that nowadays are homeless people. His management company, you know—not making any money there. So I'm gonna help the poor guy get paid."
However, earlier this year Bonnar told BloodyElbow.com that he wouldn't consider fighting for anyone other than UFC.
"I wouldn't fight for another promotion," he said. "It's about loyalty. More than anything, I take pride in being a part of the UFC and I wouldn't want to screw that up."
The 37-year-old Bonnar (15-8) made his MMA debut in 2001. His UFC career began in 2005, on Spike TV, when he was a member of the historic first season of "The Ultimate Fighter." He rose to prominence on the cable channel when he lost a close decision to Griffin later that year, and now he will come out of retirement to continue his fighting career for the upstart Bellator MMA back on Spike TV.