LAS VEGAS - MAY 28: UFC fighter Diego Sanchez weighs in for his fight against UFC fighter John Hathaway at UFC 114: Rampage versus Rashad at the Mandalay Bay Hotel on May 28, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)
UFC lightweight Diego Sanchez has been in some of the greatest fights in UFC history and has won multiple Fight of the Night honors. As a member of Jackson's MMA he shares the stable with the likes of Carlos Condit and Clay Guida, who Sanchez fought in an all-time classic back in 2009. But with all three currently training at Jackson's, "The Dream" is holding back no words for his teammates and their most recent fights. In an interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, Sanchez gave his thoughts on Condit's fight with Nick Diaz and the ever-infamous Clay Guida vs. Gray Maynard matchup earlier this June.
"I thought both of those fights sucked," Sanchez said of Diaz-Condit and Guida's loss to Gray Maynard. "My coaches might get mad at me for that, but that's my opinion and I'm allowed to have my opinion.
"I thought Nick Diaz won the fight with Carlos. When you're not engaging and you're not fighting, that takes away what this sport is. That's my opinion, that's why I want to fight someone like the Diaz boys who will come and step in front of you and fight you. I guess that's all opinion, but the fans, they have my back on this, and that's what fighting's all about. It's for the fans, and Dana White knows this. That's why he gets so pissed off when there's crappy fights like that. Us as fighters, we must step it up if we want to get taken care of and get paid right and grow this fight into the biggest sport in the world, above all other sports, we have to get in the cage and we have to leave it all in the cage every time."
More quotes after the jump.
Now that may seem like an indirect shot at Greg Jackson, who is often accused of turning his guys into "point-fighters" who do enough in the eyes of the judges to earn a decision and take the least amount of damage. That is not the case however, as Sanchez would go on to say the onus of a boring fight is on the fighter himself:
"It's on that fighter," Sanchez said. "In the end, they lock the door and the coaches aren't in there with you. In the end, if you're in the UFC, you are a professional, you paid your dues, and you know exactly what this job entails. You should go in there as a professional and do what you do. ... I'd rather go out swinging, fighting like a warrior, those last 30 seconds. I'm going to leave it all out in the cage and know that I'm trying to finish my opponent, even knowing that most of my time it ain't going to be a finish."
And to cover all the bases, Sanchez once again defended Jackson and striking coach Mike Winkeljohn, stating that there are many fighters such as himself who provide excitement for the fans:
"Don't give Greg and Coach Wink the hard rap," he said. "There's so many Jackson fighters like me, guys like Jon [Jones], there's so many guys who are just straight-up warriors, who leave everything in the cage."
It doesn't take much to figure out he's quite clearly isolating the Guida/Maynard and Condit/Diaz cases in his argument. While there's no way you can rationalize Guida/Maynard into something entertaining, I personally found the Condit fight to be highly intriguing and well-contested without it being an instant classic that fans were hoping for (and thought Condit won). Furthermore, Condit landing more strikes than volume-striker Diaz hardly suggests not engaging. His in-and-out movement flustered Diaz and he couldn't adjust properly, and Condit avoided Diaz's notoriously hard body shots much of the fight.
I understand Sanchez's "for the fans" sentiment, but it's quite possibly one of the many reasons he hasn't won a UFC title. His willingness to get into a crowd-pleasing brawl earns him bonus money and many wins, but it's not been effective enough for him to prove he's an elite lightweight or welterweight, and it often turns his face into a bloody mess (with mixed results). Sanchez has been able to reach the top-tier in both divisions only to be stymied by fighters who have the superior skillset exploit his wild style like BJ Penn and Jake Ellenberger. The same rule essentially applies to Leonard Garcia, Stephan Bonnar, Chris Lytle, and several other perceived "reckless" and "gutsy" scrappers who have never come close to being at the very top of their divisions.
There is obviously the business side to winning in entertaining fashion, but like in just about every sport, it comes down to winning at all costs. Condit may not have put on an outstanding show against Nick Diaz, but he won the fight without trading fire and risking disaster, and now he's fighting Georges St. Pierre in November.
As far as Sanchez's next fight, he's expected to return to lightweight and compete in early 2013.