Diego Sanchez tells tale of how old karate sensei made him see the light
DALLAS — What do you think when you hear the name Diego Sanchez? Probably Fights of the Night, epic wars and blood. Maybe a picture will form in your head of Sanchez’s face, battered with a gnarly cut along his forehead or eyebrow.
Sanchez is a warrior. He’s one of the most entertaining fighters in the UFC. Defense? It’s nothing something he’s really known for.
But he promises that will all be changing that starting Saturday at UFC 171 against Myles Jury at American Airlines Center.
"I’m done being [just] good," Sanchez said Wednesday at the UFC 171 open workouts at Gilley’s Dallas. "I’m done being some brawler. I’m going to go in there and show greatness. Because greatness is inside of me. I’ve shown little peaks and little moments throughout my career. But I’m tired of that. I’m done with that."
We’ve heard things like this before. Sanchez usually promises a new-and-improved version of himself before a fight. We don’t always get to see it for whatever reason.
I’m done being some brawler. I’m going to go in there and show greatness.
This time, the 32-year-old said he found inspiration through an elderly sensei at a karate dojo in his native Albuquerque. Sanchez said he went to the gym randomly to speak to the kids and the head instructor there, Melcor Chavez, confronted him about his loss to Gilbert Melendez back in October at UFC 166.
Sanchez recalled: "He told me, he said, ‘You know why you lost that right?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, man. It could have gone either way.’ He said, ‘Your footwork sucked.’ And man, I had to bite my tongue and [not say], ‘What?! What did you just tell me?’"
But Sanchez said he sucked it up and agreed with Chavez — his footwork sucked. Since then, he has vowed to become a better, more technical striker.
"To be a champion in the UFC, you have to be an elite, high-level, effective, professional kickboxer," Sanchez said. "You have to be the best of the best on your feet."
Sanchez admitted that if he ends up in the pocket with Jury, in a fire fight, he’s willing to bite down on his mouthguard and throw bombs. But he’s not looking for this to be a Fight of the Year candidate like his decision loss to Melendez was. After that fight, Sanchez’s face was a mess. Blood was everywhere and it looked like he was sporting a second eyebrow that was actually a huge gash.
"If I have to do it again, I will," Sanchez said. "But is that the route that I’m gonna go? No. I’m gonna try to be effective. I’m gonna try to move when a punch comes my way."
Sanchez has also re-dedicated himself to yoga, which he put on display Wednesday for fans during an hour-long workout at Gilley’s. Self-awareness has never been one of Sanchez’s strong suits. Yet he really honestly does believe all the things he says.
The fan favorite said he has been studying tapes of Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier, their pace and the pressure they put on their opponents. Sanchez said he’s the top conditioned athlete in all of MMA and that Jury is going to be seeing a whole different version of him Saturday night at American Airlines Center.
"Pressure is the way a predator fights," Sanchez said. "And I am the predator and Myles Jury is the prey."