In training for his upcoming fight at UFC 114, Diego Sanchez returned to his roots in Albequerque, New Mexico for the type of intense training that brought him UFC fame. Sanchez was the winner of the first season of the Ultimate Fighter, and has had success in the UFC since his debut.
2009 was an up and down season for the American-born fighter. He dropped down to lightweight for the first time in February and won a decision over Joe Stevenson at UFC 95 in London, England. He then fought in the 2009 fight of the year against Clay Guida in the Ultimate Fighter Finale just four months later in Las Vegas, Nevada.
That December, Sanchez let the opportunity of a lifetime slip through his fingers. He earned himself a shot at the UFC Lightweight title against BJ Penn at UFC 107: Penn vs. Sanchez. That night in Memphis, Tennessee, Sanchez felt the blues as he lost via TKO in the fifth round due to a cut.
Sanchez says he is ready to go back to his welterweight days. The only reason he dropped weight in 2009 was because it was an easier route to a title shot.
“When I made the decision to go down to 155, it was primed by a title opportunity,” he said. “I knew it would take a lot of discipline and a lot of hard work to get down to 155, but I also knew that they were gonna give me good fights and I would be in title contention within one or two fights, and I did that.”
The fighter says he came close to achieving his goal in 2009, but now must stick with the plan that he and his trainers set for him.
“My goal for 2009 was to fight BJ Penn for the title, win the belt, and then go back to 170 because right now I’m in a naturally bulking stage. I feel like going into my 30’s, I’m naturally getting stronger and bigger.”
Since committing to returning to 170 pounds, Sanchez said he has enjoyed his diet much more.
“Since December, I have not eaten one piece of fish. (Laughs) I had fish and salad for three months in that training camp (for Penn). I’m eating steak now,” added Sanchez.
Sanchez believes this fight is his ticket back to the welterweight title running, and he must achieve a victory that leaves no doubt that he is back for good at 170. MMA Sportsbooks have set Sanchez as the favorite over Hathaway at -210.
His opponent, Hathaway, is a relatively new fighter in the octagon, and has impressed recently with a 3-0 record to start his career. If he was to beat Sanchez, it would be a major upset and blow to Sanchez’s career. Hathaway’s underdog line is set at -170.