By Taff Davies
Photos by Jon Tiffin
As MMA has grown in popularity, so has the fame of its fighters. Few of these fighters, however, has the ability to excite the fans like Diego Sanchez. From his high school wrestling days, when he won the New Mexico State Championship, to winning the first season of the Ultimate Fighter reality show, to his incredible battles in the UFC, Diego has been steadily gathering a legion of a followers. Known for his iron jaw and unconquerable fighting spirit, Diego has been battling his way to the top all his life.
With a professional MMA record of 23-2, Diego has been churning through a long list of opponents such as Kenny Florian, Nick Diaz, Karo Parisyan, Joe Riggs, Joe Stevenson, and most recently Glay Guida. In fact, many people regard the Sanchez-Guida fight, which Diego won on June 20th, 2009, as THE fight of 2009.
After 7 years of professional fighting, this modern-day gladiator has earned a shot at the UFC Lightweight Title, fighting fellow warrior BJ Penn on December 12th, 2009 in Memphis, Tennessee for UFC 107. For the last two years, Diego has been mentored by head coach Saulo Ribeiro. Saulo is a legend himself in the martial arts world, being the first man ever to win 6 World Titles in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Under Ribeiro’s tutelage, Diego has evolved his fight game to a completely new level, readying himself along the way to take his place among MMA’s greats.
Today, the duo train out The Arena, the San Diego MMA gym that is rapidly building a reputation as one of the finest gyms for MMA training in the United States. The Arena hosts a Professional MMA team which includes numerous top-tier fighters, but Sanchez is definitely The Man in The Arena, poised to win yet another victory as he marches down the path of battle.
We sat down with this future king of MMA to find out more about the man as he readies for battle.
RIS: Besides the excellent training you are receiving here, what other factors made you decide to make San Diego your new home?
DS: Of coarse, 1st and foremost the weather is just so beautiful here, and perfect for training. I don’t think there is anywhere else in America where, at the end of November, we’re still having summer weather. #1 factor is the weather, and also the cool vibe. The people are just amazing around here.
RIS: Do you have any “favorites” in San Diego?
DS: Restaurants – Cantina in P.B. Of coarse Chipotle, this is my all time favorite, and Tender Greens in Point Loma. Hangouts – My house, and just Pacific Beach, in general, the boardwalk, and the beaches, it’s great.
RIS: We heard through the grapevine that you are recently single. For our female readers, could you please describe the type of girl you enjoy practicing your rear naked choke on?
DS: Me being an athlete I have to have an athletic girl. I can’t have someone who is lazy and can’t get to the gym. If she just wants to sit on the couch and drink beer and get fat, I can’t do that. I like athletic girls. I think there are all types of beauty in all girls, but I seem to gravitate to blondes with blue eyes.
RIS: Is it hard with the hectic schedule you keep, with training, and all the craziness, to be in a relationship?
DS: Some guys can figure out how to balance their relationships and training life. For me it doesn’t work. Whenever I’m focused on my training, some girls…I don’t know. When you’re training for a fight you get grumpy, and mean, and angry. By the time you get home from a 2 day training session all you want to do is just rest, sleep, and relax. It’s very hard. For some guys having a relationship helps them to relax, but for me, I just like to stay away from girls during training.
RIS: Speaking of all the craziness, are there ever times where you feel like you need to get a break from all the fans, pre hype fight, training, etc? What do you do to escape?
DS: Sometimes it gets real crazy. Everyone’s different. For me it’s my Brazilian Ju-Jitsu and putting on the Gi. I love it; it’s like a recreation. I like to go in, and not make it like a training session, but more of a spiritual release.
RIS: Speaking of Ju-Jitsu, you’ve been training with Saulo Ribeiro for some time now, how has his influences help your game?
DS: It’s helped me to re-focus, and be more disciplined in Martial Arts. Live more of a Martial Arts aspect of life. Of course working with a ground game legend, it has increased my ground game.
RIS: We know there are some clashing views/styles/personalities in the UFC. Are there any fighters in the UFC that you personally wouldn’t mind running into in a dark alley?
DS: In my earlier days I would have loved to run into either Josh Koscheck or Nick Diaz. But, now in my older, wiser days, there is no one, I’m cool with everyone. We all get along now.
RIS: Who is your favorite UFC fighter of all time?
DS: There are two, Randy Couture and Wanderlei Silva.
RIS: Who do you think would win a cage fight? Oprah Winfrey or Tyra Banks?
DS: Oprah! By an ass-whooping.
RIS: Who would play you in a movie about your life?
DS: There is only one answer, Antonio Banderas.
RIS: Now let’s get serious. You’ve gone from Middleweight, down to Welterweight, and now 30 pounds lighter you have hit lightweight. Do you feel you have now found the class you belong in?
DS: For the moment, 155 lbs is my right weight class. I’m going to fight at 170. I’m guessing in probably 2 or 3 more fights, and I plan to make my return back to 170 in the future.
RIS: What kind of fight are you expecting with BJ Penn?
DS: I’m expecting an exciting fight. I’m expecting a war. That’s what both of us have been waiting for our whole career is war. That’s why we got into this business. The best BJ Penn, and the best Diego Sanchez. I expect to go in there and be dominant.
RIS: What weakness have you found in BJ’s game, and how are you planning your attack?
DS: The weakness in BJ’s game has always been his strength conditioning, but it’s obvious he’s been working very hard to improve his conditioning. I find it won’t be me attacking his weaknesses in this fight; it will be me focusing on my strengths to get the job done.
RIS: Prediction on the fight?
DS: Knockout by head or knee kick. In the first round.
RIS: Any shout outs?
DS: Exalt Motorsports in El Cajon, thanks for taking care of the Audi. The Sacramento Kings who have been with me since the beginning. Bad Boy my official Sponsor, San Diego Taxman who takes care of my taxes, and to all my fans and everyone who have supported me along the way.