(One man’s “rock bottom” is another man’s awesome Saturday night. Pic: MMA Mania)
Diego Sanchez sort of unexpectedly dominated the action on Tuesday during the official media conference call for the Versus Network’s upcoming UFC Live broadcast. The newly nickname-free fighter talked openly about the hard times he suffered in the midst of back-to-back losses to BJ Penn and John Hathaway, said a return to lightweight is currently impossible (owing to a new weightlifting regimen courtesy of Olympic-wrestler-turned-Team-Jackson-middleweight Willie Parks) and explained why he recently decided to ditch his longtime moniker as “The Nightmare.” Turns out, it just wasn’t positive enough for him.
“I let the ‘Nightmare’ go,” Sanchez told reporters. “A nightmare is something that is negative and kind of evil. I don’t want to represent that. I want to represent positivity and I want to represent the good. I look back on my whole career (as) the ‘Nightmare’ (and) the nightmare was myself. I was my own nightmare. All the times I fell off track and got into drinking, got into smoking weed, the things that brought me down, the partying. That was my nightmare. I was my own nightmare. I’m grown up (now). I’m going to let that name go … I thought about changing it to ‘The Dream’ but I thought that would be a little bit out there, so I’m just going to stick with Diego Sanchez.”
Oddly, Sanchez also made vague mention of getting swindled out of $175,000 during that dark period he spent training away from Greg Jackson’s team. Details, such as they are, after the jump.
Sanchez made it sound like he was pretty much trying to train himself after leaving Jackson’s camp in New Mexico for San Diego back in 2007. He says he was drifting from separate grappling training sessions to kickboxing training sessions without any real full-time sparring partners to keep him on point. Then came the Penn fight at UFC 107 in 2009, when things really started to fall apart.
“I went through a real rough situation in San Diego and it got me into a lot of emotional depression,” Sanchez said “That weighed hard on me. The BJ Penn fight, it was really hard for me, the way I lost – getting cut up and getting hands put on me like that. That never happened to me (before) in my career …
“I hit rock bottom after the BJ Penn fight, I really did. I blew through all my money. I made some bad decisions. I fell in (with) this scam artist. (He) scammed me real bad. I was embezzled (for) over $175,000 … I just had to come back home. I needed my family’s love and I was just humbled, one hundred percent.”
Sanchez did not elaborate on the lost money and nobody asked him about it (at least not before we got bored and hung up after about 45 minutes). He did say he felt like he had “no business” being in the cage during his loss to Hathaway at UFC 114 and after that defeat, decided he needed to go back home. Just five weeks prior to his fight against Paulo Thiago at UFC 121, Sanchez moved back to New Mexico, where Jackson has been “reinventing” him ever since.
“I moved out of the city, I moved out to the mountains,” Sanchez said. “That was best thing I ever did. Being out there, I don’t even have cable at my house. I just get real spiritual, real close to God. I just make sure I get all my work done.”
Sanchez will fight Martin Kampmann on March 3 in what could turn out to be a defacto No. 1 contender match if the UFC makes good on plans to have champ Georges St. Pierre move to middleweight after his upcoming bout with Jake Shields.