A week from this Saturday, Chael Sonnen is scheduled to face Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the main event of UFC Fight Night 26 in Boston. That’s the plan, anyway. The problem is, Sonnen still isn’t licensed to fight — and the reason for the delay goes beyond his controversial usage of testosterone replacement therapy.
As first reported by MMAJunkie, the Massachusetts State Boxing Commission will hold a closed-door meeting today to determine whether Sonnen should be licensed for the August 17th FOX Sports 1 event. The special session was organized after a complaint was filed by Unite Here, the union lobbying group with interests in food service and gaming. (Yes, those guys again.) As if trying to keep minors out of UFC events wasn’t chickenshit enough, Unite Here is now trying to block a UFC headliner’s performance based on “moral turpitude.” Here’s an excerpt from their complaint:
Chael Patrick Sonnen is scheduled to compete in a professional mixed martial art event put on by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (“UFC”) at the TD Garden on August 17, 2013. We anticipate that Sonnen will apply for a professional unarmed combat license in accordance with 523 CMR § 6.01. We urge that the license be denied because Mr. Sonnen has been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude.
The Commission has the authority to deny an application for a license “if it finds that the applicant has performed any act which would, if performed by a licensee, subject the licensee to discipline pursuant to 523 CMR 20.00 and 21.00.” 523 CMR § 6.13(1). “A license issued by the Commission may be suspended if the holder is arrested or convicted on a charge involving moral turpitude.” 523 CMR § 20.15.
On January 3, 2011, Mr. Sonnen was convicted of money laundering in violation of 18U.S.C. § 1956. See United States v. Chael Sonnen, Case No. 10-CR-00502 (D. Oregon). Money laundering is a crime of moral turpitude. Smalley v. Ashcroft, 354 F.3d 332, 339 (5th Cir.2003) (holding that money laundering is a crime involving moral turpitude)…the Court held that money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1956(a)(3)(B) is a crime of moral turpitude because it involves intentional concealment of the proceeds of unlawful activity (in that case illegal drug money). 354 F.3d at 339. Mr. Sonnenwas convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(B)(i), which also requires intentional concealment of the proceeds of unlawful activity…
Mr. Sonnen admitted that he knew about and attempted to conceal the illegal source of money he used in a mortgage transaction. The plea agreement states that Mr. Sonnen “plead guilty to the enclosed Information, which charges the crime of Money Laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956.” (Exh. __). The Information alleges:
On or about June 20, 2006, in the District of Oregon, CHAEL PATRICK SONNEN, defendant herein, did knowingly conduct and attempt to conduct a financial transaction affecting interstate commerce, to wit, he caused a check in the amount of $69,091.53 to be issued and negotiated from a bank account at U.S. Bank, which involved the proceeds of a specified unlawful activity, that is wire fraud. Defendant further knew that the financial transaction was designed in whole or in part to conceal or disguise the source and nature of the proceeds of wirefraud, to wit, defendant and others devised and intended to devise a material scheme and artifice to defraud Decision One Mortgage, and to obtain money and property from Decision One Mortgage by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises, and that while conducting and attempting to conduct such financial transaction, defendant knew that the property involved in the financial transaction represented the proceeds of the unlawful activity, wire fraud. All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(a)(1)(B)(i).(Exh. __).
Mr. Sonnen’s conviction for money laundering should disqualify him from receiving a professional unarmed combat license in Massachusetts.
Just to make it perfectly clear, Unite Here doesn’t give a damn that Chael Sonnen was convicted of being a liar and a thief, but they’re using his conviction as a political tool to put pressure on the Massachusetts State Boxing Commission. Why? Because the Fertitta brothers’ Station Casinos are non-union. And because of that, Unite Here and the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 have waged war against the UFC for years, trying to paint the fight promotion in the most unflattering light possible.
According to a press release forwarded to MMAJunkie, ”A dozen UNITE HERE activists will voice their objection to the issuance of a license to Mr. Sonnen at a public meeting Thursday of the State Athletic Commission, and will hand-deliver the complaint to Public Safety Secretary Andrea Cabral, who oversees the Athletic Commission. The union activists will deliver the same information to the Boston offices of Eaton Vance Management, an investment management firm that has invested in the debt of Zuffa, LLC, the Las Vegas-based parent of the UFC.”
Wait, it gets worse. As MMAJunkie’s Steven Marrocco added on twitter: “about 30 minutes ago, I also got a letter from Mass. NOW, which has also filed a complaint against Chael, adding to Unite Here. Lowlight: “Mr. Sonnen has repeatedly made shockingly derogatory statements about women, people of color, homosexuals, immigrants, and other minorities. He has tested positive for a banned substance, made public remarks promoting criminal violence, and has been convicted of money laundering.”
Well sure, that’s why we love him so much.
Clearly, Unite Here’s full-court press in Boston was carefully considered. With UFC Fight Night 26 marking the UFC’s debut on FOX Sports 1 — and being hosted in UFC president Dana White’s hometown — it’s a very special event that needs to go off smoothly. But so far, media attention has been more focused on the various manufactured controversies than any of the fights themselves. That’s a problem — and it’ll become a major problem if the card loses a headliner with less than 10 days to go before showtime.
We’ll update you when we know more about Sonnen’s licensing status. Stay tuned.