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Chael Sonnen parts ways with UFC, signs with Bellator

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The bad guy is headed to Bellator.

In what can only be described as a shocking turn of events, Chael Sonnen has signed a multi-fight contract with Bellator MMA after the UFC recently granted him his release. Terms of the release or the new deal were not immediately available.

MMA Fighting confirmed the news with both UFC and Bellator officials after an initial report by The Associated Press.

Sonnen, 39, will enter Bellator with a 29-14-1 professional record, however, he has not fought since his Nov. 2013 loss to Rashad Evans. He recently served a two-year suspension handed by the Nevada Athletic Commission for failing multiple drug tests in 2014.

Sonnen took to Twitter shortly after the news broke:

"Chael is an incredible athlete that has competed at the very highest levels of the sport," Bellator MMA President Scott Coker stated, "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 he 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 match-ups together starting before the end of the year."

Sonnen told The MMA Hour in July that he was interested in fighting again and had officially entered the UFC's USADA drug testing pool.

"I definitely have that itch," Sonnen said. "I fantasize about it. But it's one step at a time. I'm not holding back from you. I'm not acting like my return is some kind of breaking news. I'd tell it to you right now. But I have to pass this first test, quite frankly. It's still out there. I've gotta pass it. If I pass that, I'll pass all of them. But I have to know that everything is out. Boom, step one down."

In the end, though, it didn't matter as Sonnen, one of the most popular and polarizing figures in recent MMA history, is headed to Bellator.

It's unclear when he'll debut for the promotion, but it could come before the year ends. A Nov. 19 fight against Tito Ortiz in San Jose has been discussed.