After a retirement from competition approaching two years, Munster native Stephan Bonnar is returning to MMA.
Bonnar (15-8) has signed with Bellator MMA and is expected to debut for the promotion this fall. In addition to returning to fighting, Bonnar also is expected to to be involved in an analyst role for Bellator, whose weekly events air live on Spike TV.
In a statement, Bonnar, who is a member of the UFC's Hall of Fame, said he'll be gunning for another UFC Hall of Famer and recent Bellator acquisition: former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz.
"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. "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."
Bonnar last fought in October 2012, when he suffered a TKO loss to then UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, widely regarded as the best fighter in MMA history. The bout was a non-title fight. But after the fight in Brazil, Bonnar tested positive for steroids and was suspended by the UFC. It was Bonnar's second steroids infraction, and he quietly slipped into retirement.
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In July 2013, though, Bonnar was inducted into the UFC's Hall of Fame alongside Forrest Griffin, the fighter with whom he had a legendary fight with in the finale of Season 1 of "The Ultimate Fighter." The fight is thought to have changed the UFC's history from fringe sport to mainstream.
But now Bonnar will return to Spike TV, where that first fight with Griffin took place when the UFC's TV deal was with the cable network.
"Stephan is a guy that has been a huge part of this sport, and we are excited have him part of the roster," new Bellator President Scott Coker said. "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 … 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."
No first fight for Bonnar has been announced, but he is expected to compete in the promotion's upcoming 11th season, which starts next week on Spike TV for a dozen weekly Friday night shows.
In 2015, Bellator plans to abandon its weekly tournament-based format to focus on 12-16 cards a year with fights fans want to see. Now Bonnar may well be involved in some of those.