This is a guest post by Ari LeVaux.
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The raw aggression and forward style of Diego Sanchez has made him a fan favorite with many fights under his belt. But, Sanchez told Bloody Elbow, there is a blueprint to beat him. And he's determined to change with the times, and stay ahead of the competition.
"To survive in this sport you have to constantly evolve. You have to constantly be remaking yourself, because if you don't they're going to figure you out. There's a way to beat me out there and it's to beat me on points. ‘I touch you, I touch you, I run, I run, I run away.' So I have to evolve my style. I have to have faster feet, faster footwork, and a more diversified striking style."
The quest for faster feet and a more nuanced striking game brought Sanchez to Wink's Gym, in Albuquerque's Northeast Heights, one afternoon, for some one-on-one time with Jackson-Winkeljohn striking coach Mike Winkeljohn.
But talking to Sanchez you get the sense that his evolution as a fighter, title aspirations, and even winning can be secondary concerns compared to the sublime bushido rush of being in a great war. Win or lose, those seem to be the peak moments for the confessed adrenaline junkie.
As he reflects on his resume of memorable battles, Sanchez is quick to praise his dance partners for their crucial roles. And when the dust settles after his June 7th UFC Fight Night bout with Ross Pearson, Sanchez clearly expects to speak warmly about the man that he will try to destroy, with every fiber of his being. That's because Sanchez feels a special kind of chemistry with Pearson.
"All of the great battles that I've been in in my career came down to chemistry. Me and Gilbert Melendez, me and Clay Guida. It came down to the chemistry of the two fighters. That's what makes something truly special. And I see that happening with Ross Pearson."
That the fight will go down in Albuquerque makes it all the sweeter for Sanchez. After eleven years in the big leagues, he's finally going to fight again at home. And while he has no plans to retire, Sanchez is real about the possibility that it might be the last time he fights here.
"This is an eleven year homecoming," Sanchez said. "Realistically this might be the last time that I get a chance to fight here at home in front of my hometown crowd. I'm looking at it like it's my last chance to fight in front of my family, in front of my hometown. I was the first one to take Albuquerque to the UFC. I was the first one to go be in the UFC from Albuquerque, and now I'm bringing the UFC to Albuquerque. It's kind of like a picture coming full-circle."
Diego Sanchez is an emotional man, and the prospect of a good fight against a worthy opponent in his hometown return lifted him to lyrical heights that could be called poetic, such as this statement, uttered moments later, which I've broken into verse:
More than a month away, Sanchez is already relishing the energy and building intensity of this bout with the sensitivity of a wine connoisseur sniffing his way into a glass of something good.
"He's coming to my hometown to kick my ass, and I'm gonna be right here standing and waiting for him, defending my turf, because this is my area. This is my zone. And it aint gonna be The Dream, come June 7. It's gonna be The Nightmare. And it's gonna be Ross Pearson's nightmare."
Does this mean The Dream is on the shelf?
"The Nightmare is coming back," Sanchez confirmed. "For Burque, for Albuquerque, back to my roots."
Whether The Nightmare 2.0 will introduce new dimensions to his movement and striking game remains to be seen. Pearson has shown an inclination to stay in the pocket himself, which might make it unlikely that The Nightmare will even need to get his running shoes on.
"Ross Pearson is a tough guy who's gonna come fight, and he's gonna come try and take me out. And that's when I'm at my best."
Let's just hope the UFC gets the memo about some extra security detail for its visit to Duke City, just in case the poetry of violence is halted in an unsatisfying manner.
Sanchez faces Ross Pearson at UFC Fight Night: Albuquerque on June 7.