Diego Sanchez disputes health concerns: “I’m not taking a lot of damage”

"It's just a flesh wound" 

Nick Laham/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The past few weeks of Diego Sanchez’s life has been filled with plenty of ups and downs, and that’s not a metaphorical play on words after his recent bout with food poisoning that haunted his innards ahead his fight against Myles Jury at UFC 171.

The rollercoaster was caused in part because of Sanchez’s choice to eat raw meat less than 24 hours away from a fight, and it only continued when the veteran UFC fighter chose to reveal this information on Twitter just a day after losing a unanimous decision to Jury in Dallas.

While some have accused Sanchez of making excuses for a poor showing in his fight, the former Ultimate Fighter season one winner promises he’s not trying to take anything away from Jury or his team on what should be a celebratory night.  More so, Sanchez was just disappointed in his own performance and wanted to explain why he didn’t look like himself in the fight.

"I wanted my fans and my sponsors to know the real truth because this was one of the best camps I ever had for that (Myles) Jury fight.  If you watch my open workout, you can see the speed and the quickness and the pep in my step and the punches.  You’ll see that’s not the fighter that went in there to fight," Sanchez told FOX Sports.  "I didn’t have the speed, I didn’t have no muscle energy, and I couldn’t hold down any food or water for the whole day. I threw up three times at the hotel and three times at the venue, and it’s just like I didn’t have no energy and no strength. I burnt all my energy in my warm up and I went out there and I just didn’t have it."

Prior to the fight with Jury in Dallas, Sanchez had heard the buzz in the air that he was becoming a cautionary tale in MMA — a fighter that uses his head to block more punches than he ducks, and the amount of damage he’s absorbed during his career will eventually lead to an early retirement.

I’m not taking a lot of damage, I’ve never felt foggy after a fight, I’ve never had a concussion in a fight and I’ve never been knocked out

— Diego Sanchez 

Sanchez won’t deny that 15 years worth of fights takes its toll on a fighter’s mind and body, but that has nothing to do with his capacity to take a punch or an accumulation of damage done to his brain over the course of his time with the UFC.

In reality, Sanchez points to the massive amount of cuts and bruises he’s usually left with when a fight is over as the reason why people assume he’s taking damage.  It’s a familiar look Sanchez carries following one of his epic battles inside the Octagon where he leaves the cage with cuts, scrapes and a mask of crimson red.

"To be honest, I don’t feel like I’ve been hit very hard," Sanchez said.  "I think when I was fighting at 70, I took a couple hard hits and of course BJ (Penn) hit me hard, but aside from that, I think it’s more cuts than anything.  I’m not taking a lot of damage, I’ve never felt foggy after a fight, I’ve never had a concussion in a fight and I’ve never been knocked out.

"As far as taking all the trauma, no, that’s not the issue.  It’s the cuts."

It’s part of the reason that Sanchez is considering having facial surgery following his next bout to shave down some of the scar tissue and underlying bones that tend to cause his face to look like he just finished head banging against a spool of barbed wire when his fights are over.  It’s a similar surgery that UFC welterweight Nick Diaz had a few years ago when he kept experiencing the same problem where one punch would open a cut that would bleed profusely throughout a fight.

"Eventually maybe after this fight, when I have a break in my schedule, I want to do that surgery that Nick Diaz got where they go in there and scrape the scar tissue and he seemed to have a lot of success with that.  I’m getting to that point in my career where that might be a better option for me.  Because taking the cuts that I am, I’m always battling the judges and it just hinders me," Sanchez said.

The surgery and any potential time off will happen after June 7 when Sanchez gets the chance to perform in front of his hometown crowd in Albuquerque, New Mexico against fellow Ultimate Fighter winner Ross Pearson.  While the New Mexico fight scene has grown exponentially over the last decade and names like Jon Jones and Georges St-Pierre became synonymous with the Greg Jackson fight team based out of the area, Sanchez was one of the original sons of Albuquerque.

Sanchez joined Greg Jackson and coach Mike Winkeljohn on the earliest infancy of their MMA fight team alongside names like Keith Jardine and Joey Villasenor. Now with the UFC coming to Albuquerque for the first time ever, it seems very befitting that Sanchez will be featured on the card.

"It’s extremely motivating and for me, I’m more excited about this than I would be fighting for the title, because more than likely this is probably going to be the last time I get to fight in front of my family and everybody," Sanchez said. "My entire family’s going to be there, and all the fans and all the city of Albuquerque.  This is a fight city and UFC’s never been here, so it’s going to be a big thing for our state and our city.  I’m an ambassador for the sport here in New Mexico, being the first one to make it to the UFC, winning the show and just being an ambassador for New Mexico and for Albuquerque."

Sanchez hasn’t experienced defeat all that often in his veteran career, but he’s recently tasted defeat in back-to-back bouts to Jury and Gilbert Melendez last October.  While he’s not ignoring those recent setbacks, Sanchez is so over the moon to fight in New Mexico that he knows deep down in his soul that there is no way Ross Pearson or any other opponent could snatch away this special moment from him.

Sanchez won’t guarantee victory, but he’s certain that Pearson would have to move heaven and Earth to hand him a defeat on June 7.

"In my career, I’ve never had three losses in a row and I’m not planning on starting this time," Sanchez said.  "I feel that I’m unbeatable here in New Mexico with my fans and my people and the energy.  I truly feel like I’m unbeatable over here."