By Will Gray
Winner of the first season of the Ultimate Fighter middleweight division, Diego Sanchez has become a name in MMA and a force to be taken seriously in the UFC. He was preparing for a showdown with former welterweight champion Matt Hughes at UFC 135 but suffered a hand injury and was forced to pull out. “The Dream” spoke to us about what he will do differently in fights, becoming re-focused at Jackson’s MMA, his desire to be a TUF coach standing opposite BJ Penn and more!
FHTV: The Kampmann fight had a huge impact as to how you want to fight fights now correct?
Sanchez: After the Kampmann fight and how busted up I got, I made a vow to myself and to my family to not get in that type of fist fight, blood bath that they would have to watch again. I went out there after a camp that was primarily focused on wrestling; I did not hit one heavy bag or one mitt leading up to that fight.
I was riding the success of the Thiago victory where I had gone back to my roots and was almost pure wrestling in training and in the fight. When I fought in March and was able to win, it really showed me the importance of being well rounded and fully prepared for wherever the fight goes, not just to be one dimensional.
FHTV: Saying that you are more focused now, after pulling off two wins which were after two losses – does this have to do with going back to your roots and Jackson’s MMA?
Sanchez: I have the best training camp in the world. Best trainers and people I train with daily. I can get in there and spar with Jon Jones and Brian Stann; I can wrestle with Tim Kennedy, Derek Brunson, and Willy Parks – great people who help me get good so I am confident. A lot of it is the fact is we are all fighters who have fights coming up so we are looking to make each other better.
FHTV: will you stay at welterweight or move back down to lightweight?
Sanchez: 170 is my home, where I belong and where I perform the best. Dropping down was something I wanted to try and did and I can say I did it, but now I am at my natural weight and feel great doing it. I have really stuck to the diet for this fight (UFC 135) and the cut will not be as bad as it was before for me. When I was fighting art 155, that cut was hard; I lost a lot of muscle so I am done there.
FHTV: You won TUF 1 as a middleweight; the show has produced great fighters, would you ever want to coach a season?
Sanchez: My thing right now is to coach that show. I know that a title shot for me is going to happen, one day it will but I would love to coach that show right now. I would like it to be against BJ (Penn); he is back at welterweight, let’s go do it and have a rematch, I think it would be great. I have a lot I can show these guys and Jesus Christ ahs blessed me with an ability that needs to be shared,
FHTV: It is respectable how vocal you are about your faith and beliefs when some people might not be, what do you have to say to that?
Sanchez: I would not be where I am without God. He has blessed me and brought me through so much, I am planning on writing a book one day but the story is not quite finished. My goals is to after I become world champion, is to become a humanitarian and help people, share my testimony and let them know God is there for them.
FHTV: As focused as you are, is there anything else you would like to add or say?
Sanchez: A big thank you to Mike Winklejohn. The best trainer in the world, most humble guy I know and our entire team and camp owes our knockouts and victories to him. He is one of the reasons I am where I am now. Also, my wife Bernadette, she helps me be the best I am, I am thankful for how she helps me keep things focused and she is a blessing to me.