After losing to Jon Jones, Chael Sonnen hinted that he was probably going to retire. He said that there's no point in fighting, if you can't work your way to a title fight. Unless he was actually planning on retiring, that was a dumb thing to say. He put himself in a no-win situation, because now he's either forced to do something he doesn't want to do (retire) or something he said he wasn't going to do (continue fighting without contending). He boxed himself into a corner.
Or did he?
Maybe there's actually a way Sonnen could capitalize on what he said, instead of backtracking from it. Right now, Sonnen's in this middle ground where he's not close to a title shot and he might not be close to retirement. So if he can't fight to prove he's a contender, why not fight to prove that he's not ready to retire? How he should do that is by putting his career on the line. He should announce that he will in fact retire...once he's beaten.
Sonnen has said he doesn't really have any interesting fights at Middleweight. That's true. But by putting his career on the line, it wouldn't be Chael Sonnen vs. Mark Munoz or Vitor Belfort; it would be Chael Sonnen vs. his career. It's perfect, because it provides a built-in angle to promote his fights. He doesn't have to be promoted as a contender, nor does he have to be relegated to being a gatekeeper. It's just about him trying to save his career.
The irony is that it's not only the best way to keep him relevant outside of the title picture, but it's also his best (and probably only) path back into it. Imagine the buzz it would create if he put together a winning streak. Every win would raise the stakes for his next fight; and it could do the seemingly impossible and make the prospect of Sonnen fighting for a title actually interesting (not to mention that it could actually set up the fight Sonnen proposed once upon a time: title vs. career). I think it would sell too, because it wouldn't be about Sonnen facing Silva (assuming Silva was still the champion). It would be about Sonnen facing the ultimate stakes a fighter ever could: he'd either reaching the highest point of his career or the end of it. No middle ground. It would truly be "go big or go home".
Unfortunately, Sonnen's already basically backtracked on his retirement by calling out Wanderlei Silva (just as Dave Doyle predicted). But if he doesn't want to fully undermine his post-fight comments, and would rather capitalize on them, all he has to do is put his career on the line.
The key to keeping Chael Sonnen's career relevant is for him to risk ending it.