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Chael Sonnen vs. Andre Galvao grappling match in jeopardy

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Metamoris 4 is only four days away, and its main event is in jeopardy.

Suspended from the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) after testing positive for five banned substances in a pre-fight random drug test, Chael Sonnen is scheduled to compete in a grappling match against jiu-jitsu star Andre Galvao, and the NAC is threatening to sue the MMA veteran if he steps into the mat on Saturday night in Los Angeles.

The drama became news when Bleacher Report’s Jeremy Botter broke the news on Twitter, but Metamoris promoter Ralek Gracie declined to comment when MMAFighting.com reached out about the subject. Despite the fact that the NAC has no power over a grappling event based in a different state, Sonnen’s lawyers reached out to NAC chairman Francisco Aguilar for a solution.

Brazilian website Combate obtained a pair of letters sent from Sonnen’s lawyer Ross C. Goodman to Aguilar, in which Goodman explains that a grappling match does not break any rules.

"Absent any specific definition of ‘fighting,’ it is reasonable to presume that the NSAC intended only to limit Mr. Sonnen’s 2 year suspension to MMA, boxing and other forms of unarmed combat for which NSAC is vested with jurisdiction," he wrote. "Specifically, the NSAC is vested under NRS 467.070 with ‘management, control and jurisdiction over all contests or exhibitions of unarmed combat to be conducted.’ The term ‘unarmed combat’ is defined in NRS 467.0107 as ‘boxing or any form of competition in which a blow is usually struck which may reasonably be expected to inflict injury.’

"There is no dispute that the NSAC has no jurisdiction or authority to regulate, license or sanction jiu-jitsu and other forms of grappling. Moreover, jiu-jitsu does not fall within the Nevada definition of unarmed combat because it does not involve ‘blows’ of any kind. Likewise, it would be a violation of due process to expand the interpretation of ‘fighting’ broader than the statutory definition of unarmed combat. In our view, there could be no violation under NRS 467.885 as any interpretation to include jiu-jitsu or grappling would be outside of the NSAC’s jurisdiction and constitute an invalid order."

In his defense, Goodman notes that the grappling match "has been promoted and marketed almost one month before the July 23, 2014 hearing," and quotes Aguilar himself, during a video interview to Combate, where he clarifies that a wrestling or no-gi jiu-jitsu match is not subject to the commission, so Sonnen would be cleared to compete.

"In light of the short notice raised by your letter, we respectfully request that you reconsider the NSAC’s position relating to the expanded definition of ‘fighting’ which precludes Mr. Sonnen from fulfilling his contractual obligation with Metamoris 4," Goodman continued. "Any breach of this contract by Mr. Sonnen would certainly result in future litigation for loss of revenue sales."